And then it was Ann Romney’s turn to join the charade. Comely, blonde, reeking of money, quality dental work, and fresh from one of several Romney built multi-million dollar homes, she wasted no time expressing her kinship with everyday Americans - “I know a lot of you guys.”
Shame is an old-fashioned virtue. It requires a conscience and some semblance of a heart and soul. It is the feeling generated by an examination of one’s errant thoughts and actions. It is authentic and morally cleansing in those who are authentic. And that, of course, is why it is totally missing in the shamelessly dishonest Romney campaign.
Early on we got a flavor for this campaign in an ad that attributed words spoken by President Obama to President Obama. The President was quoting Republican John McCain, but the ad failed to mention that. The words, and more importantly the context and intent of those words, were totally misrepresented. The ad was a deception. It was also a model of things to come. At Tuesday night’s Republican Convention, the delegates repeated another lie. They took up the chant “we built it.” That phrase was part of an Obama speech about private enterprise and its relation to and dependence on publicly supported and financed infrastructure. The President said “you didn’t build that” referring to the roads, airports, sewer systems, and bridges that enable business to function and thrive. But bereft of an original, and God forbid, true take on the issue the Romney campaign, instead, expropriated the Obama phrase and injected it into yet another deceptive ad. One that made it sound like the President was telling entrepreneurs that they did not “build” their own enterprises - quite a different meaning and quite untrue, but who cares? Certainly not Republican conventioneers who appeared delighted to be mouthing a catchy if totally inaccurate slogan.
And then it was Ann Romney’s turn to join the charade. Comely, blonde, reeking of money, quality dental work, and fresh from one of several Romney built multi-million dollar homes, she wasted no time expressing her kinship with everyday Americans – “I know a lot of you guys.” On and on she went, citing single dads, working moms “who would like to work just a little less,” “hard times,” and “brothers and sisters whose work is never done.” According to Ann, alleviating any of their worry and concern is “out of the question in this economy.” Ann’s concern for working Americans was about as convincing, and every bit as political, as Mitt’s faux concern for the illegal immigrants who had worked on his Massachusetts estate – “…you can't have any illegals working on our property. I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals.” What a gal. What a guy.
Now, Ann Romney is entitled to talk about working folks and economic hard times all she wants, but it would be nice if in her analysis there was at least some connection to working and economic reality, especially as it pertains to Republican legislative values. Last time I checked, the Romneys and their Republican supporters are pretty damn anti-union. They seem never to have met a right to work (i.e. low wage/low benefit) state they didn’t like or a union member who was not in some way either related to or subject to the whims of a dreaded union boss. They seem pretty damn unaware, in their concern for unpaid medical bills, low wages, and long working hours, of the beneficial role played by unions in bargaining for and improving the plight of workers in each of these areas. Who knew? Certainly Mitt Romney, who, in his multitude of hostile corporate takeovers always found a bottom-line restoring reason to cut wages, benefits, pensions, and or workers while preserving and guaranteeing enormous fees for his crew of hard-working “vulture capitalists,” a term made familiar to us by nearly every Republican candidate for President other than Mitt himself. Wasn’t it Newt Gingrich, that paragon of thrift, who utilized that terminology thus establishing himself as the original “divider” of Americans over the issues of big money, unfair business practices, and the absence of virtue in Mitt Romney’s business dealings? Thanks Newt, for the “cred.”
Maybe there are facts unknown to us, but privy to Ann and Mitt, that somehow deflate my argument and support their point of view about our economy. Maybe they’ve read data from the St. Louis Fed that indicates that corporate profits are at an all time high in America while wages are at an all time low relative to GDP. Maybe they’ve read what Republican Bruce Bartlett (former economic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Ron Paul) has to say about federal revenues and effective corporate taxes being at their lowest levels in 60 years. They might be familiar with Bureau of Labor statistics that clearly show a steady rise in American worker productivity accompanied by stagnant wage growth since 1975. Or the conclusion of an MIT Industrial Performance paper which indicates that 80% of all income gains in the period from 1980-2005 were claimed by the top 1% of federal income tax filers. And then there is my personal favorite, a piece of data, not for the faint of heart (no wonder Republicans don’t mention it), that captures the essence of where America’s economy is and has been headed in terms of that struggling middle-class that Ann feels so at one with – the 400 richest Americans as calculated by Forbes Magazine own more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans. Now there’s an economic truth that America can believe in!
I wonder if either of the Romneys has ever pondered those numbers or come to terms with the laissez-faire, free market policies that have produced such a distorted economic outcome. Then again I doubt they are very much disturbed by the explosion in CEO salaries relative to average worker salaries, which hover currently at 230-1 compared to 25-1 just a few decades ago, another unhealthy indicator of economies “gone wild” unless one’s idea of a properly functioning economy is one that leads to plutocracy. Republicans will talk day and night about jobs - despite having the worst private sector job growth in modern times under George Bush and despite having achieved that honor in conjunction with the “job-creating” tax cuts demanded by Bush in 2001 and 2003 – but you’ll never hear them talking about the wage-benefit profile of these new jobs. Republicans hark back to America’s past, “let’s keep doing the things that made this nation great,” but that harkening does not include the restoration of a strong, well-compensated, middle-class earning wages that will enable “the pursuit of happiness” or the establishment of a secure future. Sorry if this sounds divisive, but American CEOs and the corporate elite, as evidenced by income and profit data, will continue their unprecedented climb to wealth because money will be made no matter who actually works for their corporations. I dare somebody to examine the percentage of American workers employed by the top 25 American corporations today compared to the top 25 corporations in 1960. Does saying “I’m pro-corporation” mean the same thing today as it did back then? If not, why then do Republicans continue with that particular drumbeat? What does that tell us about their priorities?
Given these economic realities, maybe the etch-a-sketch candidate and his wife can clean up their image in time for the election and dispel with their anti-worker bias, though that notion conceived earlier in Mitt’s career might have wiped away almost all of his hard-earned, corporate raider fortune. They could start with a good-faith gesture supporting President Obama’s tax increase on income above $250,000. I know the Romneys don’t believe that people earning over $250,000 are rich, but if that’s the case what does that make people earning the median annual family income of roughly $50,000, which is only 1/5th that amount? If $250K isn’t rich in America, then how would the Romneys describe the $50K crowd? Are they poor Ann?
We all suffered the infernal and eternal Republican Presidential debates (an incredible low-point in the great and ongoing American political conversation) with nary a mention of the Party’s most recent Presidential and Party leader – George W. Bush (the name that must not be spoken!). The name that was spoken, nearly 225 times, was Ronald Reagan, the guy from 25 years ago who dyed his hair and tripled the national debt while raising federal taxes 11 times – another set of truths that does not fit the fictitious Republican narrative, which relies on institutionalized untruth to achieve its murky goals. By all means America, this November let us return to the black hole of American life known as the Bush-Cheney years, and restore to national power the Party of unprecedented political, economic, foreign policy and job-creating malfeasance. Let us forget their recent truths, embrace their current lies and as Rick Santorum might say, “Forgive them Lord for they know exactly what they do.” Close enough was always good enough for Rick.