The IRS “Scandal” Was A Set-Up

I have been writing about the so-called IRS “scandal.” It turns out the whole thing was a set-up from the start. Republicans told the Inspector General to make it look like only conservative groups received scrutiny from the IRS, but all groups received the normal scrutiny. And no one was “targeted” for “extra scrutiny.”

In the post The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives I noted that the original IG report only focused on the use of names like “Tea Party” and did not say if “progressive”-sounding names were checked.

According to the report, the swamped IRS group involved in this came up with ways – “criteria” – to identify groups that really needed to be checked further because it was possible they might be engaged in the kind of political activity that would exclude them from getting the special tax status. … Some groups were chosen to receive the required scrutiny because they had “political-sounding” names. Some of the “political-sounding names” included the words “tea party.” Others included “We the People” and “Take Back the Country.” (The inspector general’s report does not disclose if or which other “political sounding names” were also used as criteria.)

And now we know that groups with “liberal-sounding names” were also checked. NY Times, Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet,

The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny.

Again, the whole scandal was because the name “Tea Party” was one of the names used to identify potential political groups, meaning they should not get special tax status. “The inspector general’s report does not disclose if or which other “political sounding names” were also used as criteria.” But what really happened was that all groups applying for special tax status are supposed to be checked. The IRS was swamped with applicants after Citizens United, and underfunded, so they had to let some groups off from the usual scrutiny, and came up with shortcuts to look for potential political groups that should not receive the special tax status. That’s the whole “scandal” — not that some groups received “extra” scrutiny or were “targeted” but that some groups didn’t receive normal scrutiny while political-sounding groups got the normal scrutiny.

Here is why the inspector general’s report did not disclose whether other groups were scrutinized (never say “targeted.”):

The Hill: IG: Audit of IRS actions limited to Tea Party groups at GOP request

The Treasury inspector general whose report helped drive the IRS targeting controversy says it limited its examination to conservative groups because of a request from House Republicans.

A spokesman for Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, said they were asked – by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) – “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”

Got that? Republicans told the IG to limit it to conservaitve sounding names, and then when the IG report only mentioned conservative-sounding names, they blasted out this “scandal” to the media.

It was a set-up from the start. And the media completely fell for it. If you hear anyone say that “the IRS targeted conservatives” please let them know this is not what happened — not at all.

See also:

The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

The Latest Lie: “IRS Targeting Was Broader Than Thought”

—–

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

So IRS DIDN’T “Target Conservative Groups” After All

Yep, we were “O’Keefed” again. It turns out that the IRS really was just doing its job — scrutinizing all kinds of groups applying for special tax status, not “targeting conservatives” as has been widely reported. Of course anti-government scandal-mongers are trying to make this sound bad, saying this means the “targeting” was “broader” than first thought. That’s like saying people are “targeted” to pay their taxes on April 15. Anyway the “scandal’s” purpose was achieved: the IRS is going to give corporate-funded political groups a pass now and let them “self-certify” that they aren’t breaking the rules.

Scandal Frenzy

Back in May the media was in a scandal frenzy, echoing a right-wing lie that the IRS was “targeting conservative groups” that applied for special tax status. The NY Times even claimed that “audits” were going on, as part of the “Internal Revenue Service’s effort to target conservative non-profit groups for scrutiny.”

But anyone who actually spent the time to read the official report on this “scandal” would have learned that was just not what happened. The IRS is supposed to scrutinize all groups applying for special tax status to make sure they are not violating tax rules by engaging in political activity. Because of Citizens United and typical underfunding the IRS couldn’t check every group so they tried to find shortcuts to pick potential political groups. ne of those shortcuts involved looking for political sounding names of organizations. That is the entire “scandal” – they let some groups out of the usual scrutiny, but still looked for groups that might be engaged in politics.

The Original Report Said No Scandal, Too

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report titled Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review made it clear that there was no “targeting.” In the report was a chart showing that ony 1/3 of the scrutinized groups were conservative, saying

“According to the Director, Rulings and Agreements, the fact that the team of specialists worked applications that did not involve the Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 groups demonstrated that the IRS was not politically biased in its identification of applications for processing by the team of specialists.”

It was right there in the report.

In my May post on this, The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives, I pointed out,

The inspector general’s report does not disclose if or which other “political sounding names” were also used as criteria.

Conservatives NOT Targeted

It took two months, but now we know for a fact that “liberal” names were also used.

NY Times, Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet,

The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny.

New Lie: “Scandal” Was “Wider” and “Broader”

So … no “targeting” and no scandal. And no “broadening” of the scandal, as the corporate media is now trying to claim.

From an AP report on the disclosure that conservative groups were not targeted:

The Internal Revenue Service’s screening of groups seeking tax-exempt status was broader and lasted longer than has been previously disclosed, the new head of the agency acknowledged Monday.

Interestingly, the AP report insists this was part of “the IRS targeting of conservative groups”:

The lists were dated between August 2010 and April 2013 — the month before the IRS targeting of conservative groups was revealed.

They just can’t let go of “IRS targeted conservatives,” it’s like their brains are wired to say that.

Corporate Conservatives Get Their Way Anyway

But the truth doesn’t matter. The fact that there was no “targeting of conservative groups” doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t get their way. Even though the whole “ACORN scandal” turned out to just be a lie, Congress defunded ACORN anyway. Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod were both fired after right-wing media launched smear and lie campaigns. And this time the administration immediately caved to the right and fired the head of the IRS. This of course amplified the right’s “targeted conservatives” accusations and whipped the media into a full-blown scandal frenzy.

And the clincher: the IRS has issued new rules, offering corporate-funded political groups a “fast track” to getting their special tax status.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy explains, in IRS Offers Fast-Track for Advocacy Groups Awaiting Tax Exemptions. All they have to do is self-certify that they won’t break the rules, and Bob’s your uncle.

Organizations that have applied to the IRS for status as social-welfare groups but have faced inordinate delays because of the political scrutiny that engulfed the tax agency in controversy now have recourse: They can win tax-exempt status within two weeks if they pledge not to devote more than 40 percent of their time and money to partisan activities.

The IRS announced the streamlined process on Monday as part of its 83-page report, shown below, on how the agency is overhauling its process for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status. By setting the 40-percent marker, the organization for the first time was explicit about how much advocacy is acceptable for a group that has 501(c)(4) status.

So they win.

—–

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

Remember the video of the guy in the “pimp costume” who got advice from ACORN employees on how to run his prostitution ring? Turns out the whole story was just a lie, a doctored-video smear job on an important organization. The guy never wore a “pimp costume” and the real, undoctored videos showed that ACORN employees did nothing wrong. But a lie travels around the world before the corporate media bothers to check the facts. The “news” media blasted the story everywhere, and Congress was so outraged they forced ACORN to close its doors. And here we are again.

The corporate media is blasting out the story that the IRS “targeted conservative groups.” Some in the media say there was “IRS harassment of conservative groups.” Some of the media are going so far as claiming that conservative groups were “audited.”

This story that is being repeated and treated as “true” is just not what happened at all. It is one more right-wing victimization fable, repeated endlessly until the public has no choice except to believe it.

Conservative Groups Were Not “Targeted,” “Singled Out” Or Anything Else

You are hearing that conservative groups were “targeted.” What you are not hearing is that progressive groups were also “targeted.” So were groups that are not progressive or conservative.

All that happened here is that groups applying to the IRS for special tax status were checked to see if they were engaged in political activity. They were checked, not targeted. Only one-third of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Once again: Only one-third of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Continue reading

Phony IRS “Scandal” — We’ve Been O’Keefe’d Again

See also: The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

Guess what. We’ve been O’Keefe’d again. It turns out that the “IRS Targeted Conservatives” story is just one more made up, phony, right-wing victimization fantasy lie.

James O’Keefe is the guy who made a video supposedly showing him in a “pimp costume” getting advice from ACORN employees on ow to run a prostitution ring. Except the video was doctored, he never wore a “pimp costume” and ACORN employees never did any such thing. But the story sounded good … so it went wide and ACORN was defunded by Congress.

And here we go again. It turns out the IRS was NOT singling out “Tea Party” groups for audits. The IRS was scrutinizing ALL groups applying for c4 status by asking additional questions. No audits. And only SOME (1/3) of those groups were conservatives — OTHERS were liberal, etc. Doesn’t matter, the right put out a victimization story making it sound like only conservatives were targeted for political reasons. (And Christians are a persecuted minority, Whites are discriminated against, etc.) The “mainstream” news media picked up and spread the lie, and here we are.

Again: Only 1/3 of the organizations that received extra scrutiny were conservative. The rest are not identified, but liberal and progressive organizations are reporting that their applications received the same scrutiny as conservatives. (And by the way almost 70% of the applications that were flagged WERE engaged in campaign activity that would disqualify them from c4 status.)

See:

Bloomberg News: IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row

Daily Kos: Liberal groups received same IRS letter that ignited Tea Party outrage

Washington Monthly: Two Rather Important Details About the IRS “Scandal”

From the Inspector General’s report on what happened, page 8:

Figure 4 shows that approximately one-third of the applications identified for processing by the team of specialists included Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names, while the remainder did not. According to the Director, Rulings and Agreements, the fact that the team of specialists worked applications that did not involve the Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 groups demonstrated that the IRS was not politically biased in its identification of applications for processing by the team of specialists.

Look at how MANY of us fell for one more “pimp costume” story.

James O’Keefe never wore a “pimp costume” into an ACORN office, and conservative groups were not singled out for scrutiny by the IRS. But because of the right’s ability to spread these smears both are now firmly “true” in the public mind. Partly because the rest of us fell for it and helped amplify it.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

See also: The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

Republicans All Gone Nuts – II and WOW

A Republican who is claiming that the government was behind the Boston bombings says there is proof — that victim in the photo we all saw, who lost both legs, was “not in pain.”

Story at HuffPo: Stella Tremblay, New Hampshire Legislator, Says Jeff Bauman ‘Was Not In Pain’ After Bombing,

Tremblay also praised a YouTube video featuring a man who says he’s retired Army Lt. Col. Roy Potter, claiming the federal government was behind the attack. Tremblay said Potter looks honest when he asserts the bombing motive was to divert attention from a pending indictment of President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush for war crimes, along with a drop in the price of gold and government dysfunction.

Potter says on the video that the federal government had planned to pin the marathon bombing on a “right wing extremist helped by al Qaeda,” but dropped the plan after being discovered.

Lets get these people away from power, please.

Republicans Accuse Labor Nominee Of Fighting For Civil Rights

Where does the Republican Party put its energy? On anything that furthers the interests of the wealthiest. Tax cuts and kicking government are right at the top of that list*. Also near the top comes blocking minimum wage increases, blocking workplace safety rules and keeping lots of people unemployed so they are desperate to take any nasty, dirty, low-paying job, etc. But next to tax cuts and keeping government from operating Republicans fight to keep unions from being able to organize because the power of working people acting together collectively begins to challenge the power of concentrated wealth that corporations represent. To this end Republicans hate and fight the Labor Department and now the new nominee for Secretary of Labor.

In The News

Republican “oppo” researchers issued a 63-page report on Thomas Perez, who President Obama has nominated to fill the vacancy for Secretary of Labor. Perez currently serves as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The report accuses Perez of being corrupt because he fought to keep civil rights law intact by trading a case involving St. Paul landlords who were renting substandard homes in low-income areas for a case accusing St. Paul of not doing enough to help minorities win contracts.

The story is circulating today, WaPo version, GOP issues critical report of labor secretary nominee Perez,

The GOP lawmakers accuse Perez of misusing his power last year to persuade the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a housing discrimination case before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Justice Department agreed not to intervene in two whistleblower cases against St. Paul that could have won up to $200 million for taxpayers.

… Top Democrats on the House Oversight Committee issued a report on the investigation Sunday, writing that Perez “acted professionally to advance the interests of civil rights and effectively combat the scourge of housing discrimination.” The Justice Department also defended Perez, saying litigation decisions made by the department “were in the best interests of the United States and were consistent with the department’s legal, ethical and professional responsibility obligations.”

The GOP report cites documents that suggest Perez’s decision frustrated and confused career lawyers at Justice who initially wanted to join the whistleblower cases against St. Paul. These lawyers described the department’s change of heart as “weirdness,” “ridiculous” and a case of “cover your head pingpong.”

Complicated… Perez’s deal kept the Justice Dept. out of one court case in exchange for keeping another from making it to the Supreme Court which would use it to overturn important civil rights laws 5-4.

What Republicans Say Perez Did That Was Bad

Continue reading

The Benghazi Cover-Up

There has been a ‘massive cover-up’ on Benghazi.

What are they covering up? We don’t know because it has been covered up.

How do we know it has been covered up? Because there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone, anywhere, did anything wrong! Obviously that means there has been a massive cover-up!!!!!

So obviously this is bigger than Watergate. This is bigger than all of the Clinton murders. This is bigger than 9/11.

Disarm The Hostage Bomb — Stop Governing Based On Threats, Intimidation And Lies

A nation whose constitution begins with the words “We, the People” should not be governed through threats and intimidation and lies. It is time to defuse the hostage-taking bomb. Do not negotiate with hostage-takers — and that includes shutdown threats. The “fiscal cliff’ was the result of the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies…

Continue reading

Don’t Feed The Debt Ceiling Trolls

Bloggers have learned some hard lessons about engaging with right-wing nutcases who leave nasty comments: “Don’t feed the trolls.” Starve them of the attention they seek. Ignore them and move on. This advice also applies to the right-wing nutcases threatening to bring down our economy by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling limit. They won’t get any traction on this unless Democrats engage with them. So ignore them, isolate them and scorn them but do not engage with them. Their billionaire & Wall Street funders will stop them and the pubic will see them for what they are, but only if we all just leave them alone. They aren’t really going to hold their breath until we all die.

And if they actually did take down the economy (they won’t), the country will be better off in the long run because it means the end of the radical right as a force in our politics.

So let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

Continue reading

Benghazi

I’ve been trying to figure out what the Republicans are going on about with Benghazi. They have themselves all in one of their frenzies. But no one can figure out why.
It started out with Romney saying Obama “sympathized with the attackers.” But now they’re going on about how there is a cover-up that is worse than Watergate. (But they always say that…)
So like most of us, I haven’t been able to figure out just what was supposed to have been covered up. But now I think I get it.
Here is what I think is going on: They are trying to say Obama covered up that there was an attack because the election was coming. They believe that all news of attacks helps Republicans and hurts Democrats! So they think if the pubic had known there had been an attack (which everyone of course did know) then they all would have decided to vote for Republicans. And that’s why they say Obama “covered up” that there had been an attack.
That’s why Romney did that weird thing in the debate about how Obama never said there had been an attack, and it turned out he had said it immediately.
Remember, when Bush was President, how they would make it seem like there was a terrorist around every corner? Two dark-skinned guys on a boat with a camera and the whole right-wing media machine would go nuts about “terrorists planning an attack.” They would make up stories about terrorist attacks at convenient times, and raise the alert level from red to dark-red, etc. Remember how they would use terrorism to silence everyone, and get more votes?
Republicans believe that news of an attack helps them, and hurts Democrats. That is what you have to understand, to understand this whole Benghazi thing. When you try to understand just what Obama is supposed to have covered up, that’s it.
They are screaming because Obama didn’t go all “noun verb 9/11.” They believe they own that.
Of course, everyone knew there had been an attack. But never mind that.

Early Bain-Ization – How A Few Got Rich Illegally Suppressing Unions

A look at one of Bain Capital’s first deals shows a get-rich-quick-at-everyone-else’s-expense pattern forming: borrow heavily, gut assets, cut wages, cut safety, crush unions, restructure for tax avoidance and sell with a sweetheart, insider deal. That pattern foreshadowed what happened to our jobs, communities, industries, economy and country since the early 1980s. An already-wealthy few got fantastically rich(er) and the rest of us paid the price.

A Financial Times Investigation

In FT investigation: Romney’s take-off the Financial Times (FT) investigated the $5 million buyout of Key Airlines, a “formative” deal from Mitt Romney’s company Bain Capital’s early years.
At the time Mitt Romney was at the consultant firm Bain & Company, and heard that Key Airlines was looking to be bought. Key Airlines had a $10 million per year government contract to shuttle pilots and support workers between Las Vegas and “Area 52,” where they were working on the then-secret F-117A stealth fighter. Romney formed Bain Capital in part to buy the airline. T. Coleman Andrews III, a former White House official recruited to Bain by Romney led the buyout for Bain and chaired its board of directors.
The Financial Times investigation showed how the purchase of Key Airlines helped establish the company’s method of doing business. They bought the company by borrowing all the money needed, 100% debt-financed, meaning Romney and Bain put up no money — and very little risk — of their own. They “restructured” the company; according to FT, “Bain also reshaped Key Airlines, turning it from a profitable, taxpaying company with a $13m balance sheet and its own aircraft, into an operating company with a $2m balance sheet and a holding company from which it sold assets separately.”
When the pilots tried to start a union, the company unlawfully suppressed the effort with what a federal judge called “blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations.”

No-Risk Leveraged Purchase

One of the ways private-equity companies make money is by borrowing using the purchased company’s assets as collateral, and passing some or all of the borrowed money to themselves. Romney and Bain purchased Key Airlines by securing a $5 million loan with $2.5 million worth of aircraft owned by the company, and a $2 million guarantee of their own. In other words, they borrowed money to buy the company by promising the lender they would put up the company’s assets as collateral. (The company had a $10 million per year government contract.)
The bank lent the money with part of it personally guaranteed after satisfying themselves that the investors were worth enough money. In other words, they could finance a debt-only deal because they were already rich.

Restructuring To Avoid Taxes

When purchased, Key Airlines was making money and paying taxes. By borrowing, the company incurred debt servicing costs, which are deductible against taxes. The company also restructured in ways that cut taxes. According to FT, “Bain also reshaped Key Airlines, turning it from a profitable, taxpaying company with a $13m balance sheet and its own aircraft, into an operating company with a $2m balance sheet and a holding company from which it sold assets separately.”

Crushing The Union

Private equity companies cut costs. If you are not rich and have to work for a living, you are one of those “costs” that has to be cut. Your pay or your job are in the way of someone making a whole lot of money. Another “cost” to cut is the work environment. Worker safety can cost money, so it is one more thing that is in the way of someone making a whole lot of money. Providing a good, reliable product is another “cost” that is in the way of someone making a whole lot of money, and in an airline that “cost” is safe, well-maintained airplanes.
In 1985 a majority of Key’s pilots tried to form a union. According to FT, “the pilots cited safety concerns; management said that the pilots were unhappy because of their low pay.”
Bain was getting ready to sell the airline, and the worst thing that could happen to them would be a union, which could demand fair pay, worker safety and better maintenance and air safety procedures. Crushing the union — keeping pay low, and being able to ignore pleas for safer conditions for workers and passengers — would mean the Bain investors would make a lot of money. So they crushed the union.
According to FT,

There followed an unlawful attempt by Mr Andrews and Key management, in the words of District Court judge Roger Foley, “to stamp out any cockpit crew members’ union before it could come into being”.
In January 1986, Mr Andrews and Olen Rae Goodwin, interim president of the union, met in the Key Airlines trailer at Nellis. The court ruled that Mr Andrews had then “threatened [Mr] Goodwin’s job and he threatened to leave Key, and that the management team would also leave. He threatened to sell Key”.

A court later found that Key’s management had illegally suppressed the union, and awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.
Labor bosses: When asked about this recently Romney had this to say,

“President Obama continues to put the interests of labour bosses ahead of the interests of Americans looking for work. By contrast, Governor Romney has grown companies and created jobs, in the private sector and as governor of Massachusetts, and will get America working again,” said Michele Davis, a spokeswoman.

Please click through to the original Financial Times story for more.
“Blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations”: Another FT story, Romney link to union suppression ruling explains further,

“The anti-union activities in this case are not merely unfair labour practices as Key argues, but blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labour Act,” Roger Foley, federal judge for the District of Nevada, wrote in 1992, in a case brought by two Key pilots.

That’s how a federal judge worded it. (Note how a case that started in 85 takes till 92 to get a ruling.) This is what the airline had done:

According to the court ruling, Key held coercive meetings with pilots; said management would leave and the company lose contracts; and told pilots that salaries, bonuses and benefits could be frozen. Federal labour law forbids an airline “to interfere in any way with the organisation of its employees”.

Sold For A Lot

The once-profitable company was struggling, losing money, had only $2 million in assets — down from $13 million when Bain bought it — and had just avoided (illegally suppressed) unionization. But Bain was able to sell part of it to Presidential Airways– a company in which Bain was also an investor, with Andrews on its Board — for $18 million. They sold other parts of the company for further profit. The Bain partners got rich(er).
According to FT

In the final analysis, it is hard to say whether Bain Capital was good or bad for Key Airlines.
The operating company had higher sales, was more focused, more efficient and employed more people by the time that Bain sold out.
On the other hand, it was also more fragile, with only one line of business, net losses and a weak balance sheet.

So a look at Bain Capital’s early, “formative” years tell us a lot about what has happened to our country, and our jobs, and our economy. This was the beginning of a pattern of Bain-ization that swept through the economy. Good jobs were replaced with low-wage, insecure jobs. They used various schemes to avoid taxes. They suppressed unions. They gutted the assets of good companies. They cut costs (us) and cut costs (safety) and cut costs (product quality) and cut costs (customer support) and cut corners and cut We, the People out of the equation.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

What Is The Calculation Behind Romney’s Campaign Of Lies?

The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?

The Growing List Of Lies

This week’s lie is the “Obama gutted welfare reform” nonsense. See Bill Scher’s must-read response, Romney’s Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism. The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this: Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform. The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.
The next-most recent lie was the “Obama is trying to keep military families from voting” lie. This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-military” narrative.
Before that was the “You didn’t build that” lie, where the Romney campaign doctored audio to make it sound as though President Obama said something he didn’t say. (And got away with it.) This lie, repeated over and over, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-business” narrative.
This one on welfare reinforces the “Democrats take your money and give it to black people” narrative. “We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work,” said Romney, promising to make them work good and hard.
Rachel Maddow’s blog has been keeping track of the Romney lies, and it is a loooooong list.

How It Is Done

Here is how it works. Each lie is developed in the right’s machine, using something currently in the news to reinforce an ongoing narrative about “liberals.” The lie percolates up through a well-worn process where the germ of the story is planted in smaller outlets, and variations of it are tried out until one seems to resonate. Next, larger right-wing media operations pick up the developed “story” and drive it further. It gets amplified on the radio, FOX News and the right’s newspapers. Finally the corporate media takes it out to more and more people, covering themselves with the claim they are just “reporting” on a “story” that is “already out there.”
One way or another the lie is repeated and repeated and repeated (and repeated) in various forms through various channels that reach various target groups, until it becomes a “truth.” Once it has become a “truth” the Romney campaign uses this “truth” to claim Democrats and President Obama are harming the country.
The Solyndra story is a good example. The right developed a lie about “cronyism,” claiming that a Democratic donor is “tied to” solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra because a foundation with his name on it was an investor in the company. Because a foundation was the investor there was no possibility for the donor to benefit. But that doesn’t matter, they used this “tie” to spread a lie the Obama administration was steering money into someone’s pocket, and they repeated it and repeated it and repeated it.
After months of repetition of this lie, the Romney campaign understood that the lie has become a “truth,” and is using that “truth” themselves in campaign ads and Romney’s stump speech! Romney talks about “cronyism” in the Obama administration, understanding that much of the public now believes this is established fact.

The Calculation

The Romney campaign is limiting media access to the candidate and offering little in the way of substantive policy proposals. They are instead using press releases, advertisements, message-trained surrogates, cooperative media like FOX, Drudge, talk radio, allied newspapers and the right’s blogosphere, while coordinating with massively-funded outside groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and others.
This is a key thing to get, the Romney campaign believes that they can win this election using lies and propaganda as “truths” to drive their campaign story. They are making the calculation that the right’s media machine has become sufficiently powerful for their version of reality to reach enough of the public, and that it is sticking in their minds as “truths!”
They are also making the calculation — so far validated by the media response — that there will be little if any pushback from “mainstream” media. They trust that the media will look the other way, report lies as “one side says X, the other says Y,” tell the public “both sides do it,” and say this is just par for the course.
But if there is media resistance, they are calculating that the right’s own media power can override any pushback that might come. They might also believe they can turn media resistance to their advantage. Decades have been spent convincing their followers to see potentially objective information sources as “the liberal media,” enemy of conservatism, and any pushback for lying could just increase support for their campaign.
So the Romney campaign, like the recent Bush administration, are conscious that they do not need to work with facts. Instead they believe they can “create truth” through the manipulation of perception. This is hardly new in Repubican circles. The phrase “reality-based community” came out of the previous Republican administration’s calculations of what the public will and won’t learn about. This famous quote from Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Ron Suskind, explains,

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

What Does The Public “Know?”

If you are reading this you are likely very well-informed. You pay attention to the mainstream news, as well as read various progressive sources. But much of the public is not very well-informed, and faces the problem of not knowing what sources to trust. Subjected to a constant battering of corporate/conservative propaganda and disinformation, they are busy, and not ready or able to do the extensive research needed to make informed decisions.
Progressives and “liberals” try to solve this problem by trying to help people get informed. Conservatives, however, try to use it to their advantage, spreading self-serving misinformation.
The well-funded propagandists study and understand the shorthand methods people use to determine what to believe. This is the reason for the ongoing attacks on the credibility of what would normally be seen as trustworthy sources, like PBS, NPR and what the rest of what has been disparaged for decades as “the liberal media.” This is also the reason for the establishment of so many corporate-funded conservative “institutes” and other academic and authoritative-sounding organizations that issue “studies” and “reports” that always echo the corporate-conservative positions.
The “mainstream” corporate media has also undergone a change over recent decades. Many outlets now see themselves as businesses with a product that has to appeal to “the market” to make money. They no longer see their mission to be informing the public so citizens have the information that is needed to function in a democracy, but instead as “maximizing shareholder return,” by “driving traffic” and whatever else it takes to sell advertising. And many people working as “journalists” understand that advancing their own careers means not making waves by being perceived as “leftist” or “anti-business.”

The Test

Steve Benen calls this a “test for the political world,” writing,

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney’s lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about taxes.
The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.
The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

This is a test for the political world, as well as a challenge to the viability of our democratic system. We can expect this to continue and accelerate until election day, driven by hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires and their huge corporations. The question is, will enough of our misinformed public be tricked by the lies? If this succeeds, what kind of country will we become? What will be left?
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary