Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mitt Romney's real agenda

I thought this video clip was a good way to start. Unlike Mitt Romney, J.K. Rowling wasn't born rich. That makes a difference.

Of course, some of the newly rich would still "scarper to the West Indies," would still hide their money in the Cayman Islands. Rowling is quite admirable in remembering what her country has done for her.

Well, Mitt Romney's country has done a lot for him and his family, too. But Romney was born into a wealthy, politically-connected family. Whatever struggles his ancestors might have had, he's experienced none of them. He might donate millions to the Mormon church, but aristocrats have always donated to their religion.

So where am I going with this? I know a lot of people who just assumed that Mitt Romney was lying during the Republican primary when he sucked up to the far-right wing. Well, sure, he switched positions entirely just to suck up to today's crazy Republican base. That's obvious enough.

But heck, that's what it took, right? Look at who he was running against - Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich. Think of the kind of people who would seriously consider one of them as President of the United States! (And most of them were leading in the polls at one time or another.)

Yeah, today's GOP base, filled with those old Dixiecrats - and people who think similarly - thanks to the Republican Party's notorious 'Southern strategy,' is batshit crazy. So is it any wonder that Romney had to pretend to be crazy, too? Surely, once the general election started, he'd shake that Etch A Sketch one more time.

But there are problems with that kind of thinking. For one thing, do you really want to elect a president who's that cynical, that manipulative, that willing to say and do whatever it takes, just to gain power?

OK, maybe that doesn't bother you. After all, Republicans have been very, very successful for decades with that amount of cynicism, from their 'Southern strategy' to abandoning their own health care plan the minute Democrats decided to go along with it, too. Voters certainly haven't seemed to object to such things.

But can Romney shake that Etch A Sketch again? I'd say that's completely impossible for him now, especially - and ironically - because his campaign did make that famous Etch A Sketch comment. It's not just that the loony Republican base would have fits (which they would), but that it would fit too well into the established narrative of Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper.

Politically, that would be devastating. So I don't think he could do that, even if he wanted to. And I don't think that he wants to. After all, if he does get elected, he'll have to work with his own party in Congress. And that party is filled with Tea Party extremists.

Now, Democrats will work with him no matter what. Just look at how many Democrats went along with everything George W. Bush wanted. But a president can't function at all without support from his own party. And just getting elected - once - is surely not the pinnacle of Mitt Romney's ambition.

Besides, he's already made that choice. He's made the same choice John McCain made in 2008, when McCain picked Sarah Palin as a running mate. Romney has picked a right-wing extremist as his vice-presidential pick, too. There's just no going back from that. He's made his choice.

And so, although it's taken me a long time to get here, that brings me to this article in Rolling Stone magazine (thanks to Jim Harris for the link):
It was tempting to dismiss Mitt Romney's hard-right turn during the GOP primaries as calculated pandering. In the general election – as one of his top advisers famously suggested – Romney would simply shake the old Etch A Sketch and recast himself as the centrist who governed Massachusetts. But with the selection of vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the shape-shifting Romney has locked into focus – cementing himself as the frontman for the far-right partisans responsible for Washington's gridlock.

There is no longer any ambiguity about the path that Romney would pursue as president, because it's the same trajectory charted by Ryan, the architect of the House GOP's reactionary agenda since the party's takeover in 2010. "Picking Ryan as vice president outlines the future of the next four or eight years of a Romney administration," GOP power broker Grover Norquist exulted in August. "Ryan has outlined a plan that has support in the Republican House and Senate. You have a real sense of where Romney's going." In fact, Norquist told party activists back in February, the true direction of the GOP is being mapped out by congressional hardliners. All the Republicans need to realize their vision, he said, is a president "with enough working digits to handle a pen."

The GOP legislation awaiting Romney's signature isn't simply a return to the era of George W. Bush. From abortion rights and gun laws to tax giveaways and energy policy, it's far worse. Measures that have already sailed through the Republican House would roll back clean-air protections, gut both Medicare and Medicaid, lavish trillions in tax cuts on billionaires while raising taxes on the poor, and slash everything from college aid to veteran benefits. In fact, the tenets of Ryan Republicanism are so extreme that they even offend the pioneers of trickle-down economics. "Ryan takes out the ax and goes after programs for the poor – which is the last thing you ought to cut," says David Stockman, who served as Ronald Reagan's budget director. "It's ideology run amok."

And Romney has now adopted every letter of the Ryan agenda. Take it from Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the campaign: "If the Ryan budget had come to his desk as president," Gillespie said of Romney, "he would have signed it, of course."

One way or another, we won't be getting Mitt Romney, the moderate Republican who pushed through 'Obamacare' as governor of Massachusetts. There's a limit to how much an Etch A Sketch can do. Romney has made his choice, and it's with the far-right.

Rolling Stone continues with plenty of examples of their extremist ideology (and how they put politics above everything else). Here, for example, is what we've already seen on jobs:
Republicans in Congress have repeatedly put ideology before creating jobs. For more than a year, they've refused to put President Obama's jobs bill up for a vote, even though projections show it would create nearly 2 million jobs without adding a penny to the deficit. The reason? The $447 billion bill would be entirely paid for through a surtax on millionaires.

In addition, the Republicans' signature initiative last year – the debt-ceiling standoff – was a jobs-killer, applying the brakes to the economic recovery. From February through April 2011, the economy had been adding 200,000 jobs a month. But during the uncertainty created by the congressional impasse, job creation was cut in half for every month the standoff continued. And according to the Economic Policy Institute, the immediate spending cuts required by the debt-ceiling compromise are likely to shrink the economy by $43 billion this year, killing nearly 323,000 jobs.

What Ryan markets as his "Path to Prosperity" would make things even worse: The draconian cuts in his latest budget, according to the EPI, would put an additional drag on the economy, destroying another 4.1 million jobs by 2014.

Admittedly, with a Republican in the White House, they'll no longer be trying to harm America's economic recovery. But I'm not sure how much difference that will make. Look at all the harm they did by accident during the Bush administration.

Of course, that wasn't entirely by accident, either, I guess. Remember, Grover Norquist supporters were trying to bankrupt America as a way to force a smaller government on us, once that could then be "drowned in a bathtub," as he put it. (Frankly, that's always seemed a bit like treason to me, although it's certainly protected by the First Amendment.)

Besides, I don't think it makes sense to just assume that politicians aren't really as crazy as they seem. Indeed, they might actually be even crazier than they try to appear. Where would we be then?

As I say, that's just one example of many in this article. The Republican agenda is horribly extreme in all sorts of ways. Somewhere (sorry, I can't find the link), I was reading about Democratic consultants doing focus-testing on ads, who found that Independent voters simply wouldn't believe the truth about actual Republican policies.

Some ads polled poorly because Independents just wouldn't believe that Republicans in Congress had been that extreme, despite hearing verbatim the language in the bills they had passed. And they simply refused to believe that any major party candidate would support such things, even when Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have clearly indicated that they do.

The truth was just so strange, so incredible, they wouldn't believe it. Both parties are about the same, right? There's not any real difference between them, is there? Sadly, a lot of Americans are this ignorant. Most people don't pay that much attention to politics. And of those who do, many of them get their information from Fox 'News' - in other words, nothing but Republican propaganda.

Anyway, that article ends with an important point:
The last time a Republican presidential candidate touted an agenda to cut spending, lower taxes, boost defense and balance the budget was Ronald Reagan in 1980. Like Romney and Ryan, Reagan didn't have an actual plan for his spending cuts – they were an accounting fantasy, openly joked about as the "magic asterisk." In the end, as promised, Reagan's tax cuts went through, and the Pentagon's budget soared. But the spending cuts never materialized – so Reagan wound up tripling the debt.

If it didn't work for Reagan, says his former budget director, it would be foolish to assume Romney and Ryan can do better. "The Republican record on spending control is so abysmally bad," Stockman says, "that at this point they don't have a leg to stand on." Indeed, the last GOP administration turned $5 trillion in projected surplus into $5 trillion of new debt.

No one doubts Ryan's determination to slash the social safety net: Of the $5.3 trillion in cuts he has proposed, nearly two-thirds come from programs for the poor. But when it comes time to eviscerate the rest of the federal budget, Stockman says – funding for things like drug enforcement and public schools – Congress will "never cut those programs that deeply." In short, the rich will get their tax cuts. The poor will be left destitute. But America will be driven even deeper into debt.

That, at heart, is the twisted beauty of the plan being championed by Ryan and Romney: The higher Republicans manage to drive up the debt, the more ammunition they have in their fight to slash federal spending for the needy. And the more time they waste trumpeting their "fiscal discipline," the more the nation's infrastructure will continue to crumble around them. Squandering two full workweeks of the congressional calendar on votes to repeal Obamacare has cost taxpayers $48 million. That's nearly the same amount of money now needed to repair cracks in the Capitol itself – spending the House GOP has refused to authorize, out of anti-governmental spite.

As I say, that's an important point. Mitt Romney says that he'll slash spending (and eliminate tax loopholes, too). But he refuses to say what he'll cut, because a lot of the spending - and most tax loopholes - are politically popular.

Well, they'll be just as popular after the election. And time after time, we've seen these vague promises from Republicans that don't pan out. Indeed, it has been to their political advantage to increase the deficit - as they've done since Reagan - because that makes their message about cutting spending even more popular. If they actually did it, though, that would be unpopular.

And when you consider that Grover Norquist supporters have been trying to bankrupt America, in order to force smaller government on us, what makes you think that the Republicans will do anything they promise, especially if it's not politically popular?

Oh, they'll very definitely cut taxes on the rich, just as they did during the Bush administration. That's the one thing you can count on. But they won't cut spending where it's popular among their supporters (and most of it is popular, when you look at where America actually spends your tax dollars). And they're not likely to eliminate popular tax deductions - i.e. pretty much all of them - either.

After all, if they were willing to do that, they'd admit it now. They're not willing to be specific, because that would be unpopular. But it will always be unpopular. And there will always be another election coming up.


Jeff said...

I read somewhere recently that 53% of our tax revenue goes to the military. Romney can always cut into that part of the budget (sarcasm alert).

I don't know if one could call Norquist's action treason, but at the very least it could be best described as treachery. Yes, I know, I'm engaging in semantics.

WCG said...

Well, Jeff, when you declare that you want to destroy America's government (drown it in a bathtub), how is that not declaring that you're an enemy of our country, bent on our destruction?

Of course, I know it's just hyperbole. I'm not being entirely serious. But can you imagine how Fox 'News' and the other Republicans would scream if a Democrat said anything even close to that?

And the kinds of people who do say such things are frequently right-wing militiamen who commit more acts of terrorism in America than al-Qaeda. That kind of extremism isn't something we should just shrug off.