By Patricia Lee Sharpe.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Not only am I laughing out loud, I’m rolling around on my nice but not outrageously expensive carpet from Pakistan and laughing.
Back in May Mitt Romney was on a begging session among his fellow rich guys in a supposedly safe place, a b(m)illionaires safe house, so to speak, away from the rest of us—yeah, away from us losers, us victims of our own fecklessness, who don’t understand that tax breaks and subsidies for the rich are rewards for achievement while tax breaks and subsidies for the poor and the middle class represent a waste of taxpayers’ money on the lazy and mediocre.
Sorry, got carried away.
The Unsafe Safe House
Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep the riffraff (and/or their sympathizers) out of every banquet or champagne-fueled reception for the rich. In this case, Romney’s remarks got videotaped, some parts have been revealed and now he and his campaign people are neck deep in damage control. Seems that the Republican candidate is uncomfortable with the sound of the sound bites from the plutocratic party.
A Bite That Bites
He should be. This is the biggie: Romney asserted that the 47% of the U.S. population who support the opposition aka Obama have a dependency complex. (I know. This sounds ambiguous. Blame Romney, not me.) That’s nearly half of the U.S. population, folks. Insulted. And I’m one of the slug-a-bugs, it seems. Month after month, year after year, I paid into Medicare and Social Security and now—Horrors!—I’m cashing in on that investment.
Sound bite two suggests that all those lazy louts who support Obama should go out and get a high paying job so they, too, can pay taxes instead of depending on subsidies. Yeah! You can imagine what would happen if I came in the door seeking a job commensurate with my skills and undiminished ability. They’d look at my birth date and laugh. As for those with more recent birth dates, how many people applying for unemployment benefits wouldn’t jump at a job that would support a family–pay the rent, pay the medical bills, buy healthy food, keep the kids in shoes that fit, get them to school in clothes that don’t make their luckier school fellows bully them, buy books….you get the drift. Where are those jobs? Not the fast food jobs. The real jobs. With health benefits so people don’t have to depend on those nefarious government handouts.
According to Romney, even those of us with relatively good jobs weren't and aren’t really paying all that much in taxes, while the much maligned rich are paying through the nose. That all depends on how you do the math, of course. A middle class person, whose taxes come to 25-30% of current income, does indeed pay less in toto than a richer individual. However, when such middle class people pay five figure taxes, the contribution to the common good cuts to the bone of, say, being able to pay college tuitions, whereas when a billionaire's tax bite hits seven figures (or more), all he suffers is the irritation of an ever so slight modification of the budget for fine wines, the number of first class air tickets per annum, the type of luxury car he gives his kids or the annoyance of scrimping on the servant talley to keep up a fifth home in an expensive condo in a sexy world class city. In short, we in the tax-paying middle class have not only been helping the poor (which is fine) but subsidizing the rich—and for decades. And the only thing that seems to trickle down to those of us in the 99% from Romney's perch in the plutocratic stratosphere is scorn—the kind that dripped from this recently revealed Romney failure to find the "elegant" expression. It’s amazing! He should thank us. He should be very grateful that most Americans, acting against their own best interests and increasingly out of touch with the reality of less upward mobility in America, still identify up not down.
Romney Blames the Victims
Back to the jobs issue, which Romney pretends to care about and sees as the justification for keeping the rich rich. Yes, indeed. Lots of jobs have been created by American-based business over the past decades. The trouble is they haven’t been at home. They’ve been in China, India, Thailand, the Dominican Republic—you name it. No wonder Romney wasn't inclined to save an American company manufacturing cars in the U.S. and thus providing jobs for Americans.
Whoops! Sorry. I forgot about the other jobs that have been created by American multi- millionaires. Think of the huge need for maids and gardeners to look after those multiple homes—to say nothing of dock owners, etc., to cater for the multiple yachts. And aviation people to keep the private jets flying at 36,000 feet over the America that Romney's pals would prefer not to see or understand.
Well, I sympathize with Mr. Put-upon Romney over this sound bite thing. I’m firmly with all fair-minded people who object to quotes being taken so brutally out of context that they seem to mean the opposite of what was meant by the naive speaker or writer who uttered or wrote them. This, of course, is not quite the case with the Romney sound bite, which is a fairly accurate stand-in for his political views. Sometimes it's worse to be accurately represented than to be misrepresented.
But here’s where my sympathy really stops. How on earth can Romney complain of being victimized by the sound bite monster when he’s worked overtime to profit by a much nastier version of the same trick?
The Bite the Republicans Gloried Over
Here’s how. Barack Obama made some remarks that were mined for sound bites not too long before the Republican convention. Trying to expose the fallacy of extreme individualism, Obama said something like this: business people don’t build their businesses all by themselves in isolation from the larger society. What he meant was that the most clever, hardworking entrepreneurs need government-built infrastructure, they need good roads and safe skies, they need bacteria-free food to feed their kids and unpolluted water to drink, they need police and fire protection, they need schools to produce able workers, they need a reliable judicial system to protect contracts—all coming from taxpayer funds. Reliable, honest government, regulating sensibly, allows business to succeed in America as it does not in most other places in the world. And so, surely, business people should be just a little thankful to the rest of us for creating the context for their prosperity. Their parents probably helped, too, with emotional support at the very least.
The Republicans pounced on that delicious sound bite. They have tried to make it appear that Obama and his Democrats have no respect whatsoever for the system that did indeed produce prosperity for decades after World War II—until Wall Street, deregulated thanks to collusion between Republicans and the Clinton administration, brought the country to its knees.
In short, the recent Republican convention was built almost wholly on exploiting, in every possible way, this tempting sound bite to discredit Obama and the Democrats.
So please, Mitt, no more complaints about the sound bite monster.
Jobs, not Sneers
And, meanwhile, about those jobs, Mitt. How abound bringing the millions you’ve stashed so mysteriously and conveniently out of sight in the Caymans and Switzerland right home, right now. Show us by example that millionaires are responsible Americans who deserve their tax breaks, that you and the others want to build a healthy U.S. at least as much as you want to enrich yourselves. Do it now. Create more tax payers. Put the money to work. Generate jobs, not just (untaxed) interest income.
Even David Brooks, employed by the New York Times as its premier conservative columnist, couldn’t swallow the Romney line on this one. He asserts that Romney doesn’t understand America—or Americans, who work, by all reliable accounts, harder than any other people on the face of the globe, given the opportunity to do so. Read his column from top to bottom.
But Brooks is indeed a Republican. He tries to protect the Conservative cause by admitting that Romney is running an incompetent campaign. Worse, even as Brooks concedes that a full 47% of the U.S. population isn’t in dependency mode, he fails to mention the obscene subsidies that make the rich ever richer, subsidies that Romney and his backers never deplore. Oil and gas subsidies. Subsidies for rich farmers. That 15% income tax limit for people who make their money on money. And so on.
On the other hand, you can’t call the energy gang losers, can you? Bankers aren’t losers, either. They are gainers. They are winners. The system is rigged to benefit them—and with the Supreme Court's Citizens' United decision helping them to buy elections, they are in a position to stay that way. On top. Gloating. Sneering.
Pass the Hankie, Please
Poor Mitt Romney. He thought he was talking only to the well-oiled in-crowd, the people who were very hopefully interviewing him for the leadership slot, the people who are doing their best to buy him the presidency, the people who expect he will act to protect them, the people who have nothing but contempt for those who haven't made it into the millionaires club—and the word got out.