Even with four months to go until Election Day, Mitt Romney's shameless lying has already become one of the defining storylines of the 2012 campaign. Theories abound as to why Romney has emerged as a reverse George Washington, a man who cannot tell the truth. Jonathan Chait turned to Freud, explaining there's a clinical term for Mitt's compulsive aversion to the truth known as "fundamental attribution error." Rick Perlstein suggested Romney's pathological dissembling could be viewed in Shakespearean terms, with Mitt playing an undoubting Hamlet determined to avenge his father's defeat most foul in 1968. Meanwhile, Paul Krugman and Mark Kleiman applied deconstructionist theory to Romney's "post-truth campaign" and "post-modern way with the facts." And in "A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney", "The Romney Uncertainty Principle" and "Schrödinger's Romney," analysts turned to particle physics to explain why on almost any issue, Mitt Romney's position changes when observed.
But how Mitt Romney is able to get away with his effortless dishonesty has remained one of politics' enduring mysteries—until now. Steve Benen, whose series "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity" has already reached volume XXIV, posited:
"Romney gets away with it because he and his team realize contemporary political journalism isn't equipped to deal with a candidate who lies this much, about so many topics, so often."Put another way, Mitt Romney's falsehoods occur faster than can be observed, measured, reported and, most importantly, understood by the media charged with investigating them. The result is that voters, or at least some of them, are attracted to rather than repelled by the Republican nominee. And it's that elusive force and the distortion field it produces which give Romney's presidential campaign its critical mass and threaten to turn back the hands of time.
Call it Mitt's Boson.
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Like the CERN Large Hadron Collider, for months Romney has been producing a seemingly limitless number of collisions with the truth. But his falsehoods aren't merely generated faster than the speed of the news cycle, but come in all sizes as well. After all, the son of American Motors magnate and Michigan Governor George Romney, Mitt fondly recalled being with his father for Detroit's Golden Jubilee, a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the American automobile which occurred on June 1, 1946, "fully nine months before Romney was born." Years later, Mitt would similarly "remember" seeing his dad march with Martin Luther King, Jr.
While time (and the capacity of the internet) prohibit listing them all here, Romney's frauds are of the greatest magnitude on health care and the economy, the two issues Republicans claim are most important in the 2012 election.
This week, Romney denied the individual mandate in his signature Massachusetts health care law constituted a tax, despite having repeatedly described the fees for noncompliance as "free-rider surcharges," "tax penalties," "tax incentives" and sometimes just as "penalties." (For its part, the state of Massachusetts uses the term "tax penalty.") The former Bay State governor has also pretended that he never called his 2006 Massachusetts reform "a model for getting everybody insured. "
"Am I proud of what we did for our state? Yes. But what the president has done is way beyond what we envisioned. We were trying to take of the 8 percent of the population that didn't have insurance. The President is not just worried about the people without insurance. Obamacare is about taking over 100 percent of the people's insurance in this country."Romney's repetition of the lie doesn't make it any more true.
The Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in the spring of 2010 targets the 17 percent of people (over 50 million people) who are uninsured. As Politifact explained in deeming Romney's fraud another "Pants on Fire" lie:
According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans without health insurance nationally was slightly under 17 percent in 2009, the year Obama began pushing for the bill. According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the number was about the same in 2010, when the measure was signed into law. Other estimates have pegged the national number at about 15 percent.As Henry Aaron, a senior fellow with the centrist-to-liberal Brookings Institution right noted, comparing 8 percent to 17 percent "would have been apples to apples" when it comes to the impact of the individual mandate at the center of both the Massachusetts and national plans.
But Romney's chicanery (which Politifact branded "a felony case of comparing apples and oranges") hardly ends there:
Both laws leave in place the major existing insurance systems -- employer-provided insurance, Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor. They reduce the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and by offering tax breaks to help people with moderate incomes buy insurance, using voluntary "exchanges" that individuals and small businesses can use to purchase private-sector health insurance. Under both laws, individuals are required to have insurance or pay a penalty, a mechanism called the "individual mandate." And companies that don't offer insurance to employees must pay fines, with exceptions for small business and a few other cases.MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, who helped design both Romneycare and the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama, dismissed Mitt's cynical effort to put distance between the two laws:
"The problem is there is no way to say that," Gruber said. "Because they're the same f--king bill. He just can't have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it's the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he's just lying. The only big difference is he didn't have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it."On the economy, Mitt Romney's lying is similarly laughable. And the duplicity of the "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" author hardly ends with his jaw-dropping declaration that "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's comeback."
After he formally announced his candidacy a year ago by declaring when President Obama "took office, the economy was in recession, and he made it worse, and he made it last longer," fact checkers quickly demolished Romney's obvious falsehood. But despite his subsequent denial just days later that "I didn't say that things are worse," Governor Romney has never stopped regurgitating some version of his "Obama made the economy worse" lie.
Then in advance of the President's major address on the economy last month in Cleveland, Mitt Romney unveiled a new formulation of his fraud:
"The reason it has taken so long for this recovery to gain traction and to put people back to work is in large measure because of the policy choices the President made. He is not responsible for whatever improvement we might be seeing, instead he is responsible for the fact that it's taken so long to see this recovery and the recovery is so tepid."Unfortunately for Romney, the facts and the overwhelming consensus of economists—including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and John McCain's 2008 brain trust—flatly contradict Mitt's mythmaking.
The data are straightforward. Barack Obama entered office in 2009 as the Bush recession was in full swing. GDP had plummeted by a shocking 8.9 percent the previous quarter. In January alone, 820,000 jobs were lost; all told, 2.2 million evaporated in the three months before Obama's stimulus was passed in February. (That might explain why even three years after he left office, Americans still blame George W. Bush for the economic calamity he bequeathed to Barack Obama.) Now, even with the difficult recovery, the U.S. has produced 28 months of private sector job gains and a return to economic growth. And despite Romney's charge that President Obama's are "the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of polices in modern American history," the Dow Jones has jumped by over 50 percent since January 20, 2009 and corporate profits are at record highs even as firms' tax burden continues to drop.
Nevertheless, in June Governor Romney told a Missouri audience that the President "slowed the recovery and harmed our economy," a result Romney insisted constituted "a moral failure of tragic proportions." Sadly for him, just 24 hours earlier, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office blew Romney's bogus claim out of the water.
As the Washington Post reported, the House Budget Committee heard testimony from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf to answer simple question: Did the $787 billion Obama stimulus work? Unfortunately for Republican propagandists, Elmendorf clearly refuted Mitt Romney's claim that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was "the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history."
Under questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.Of course, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's Mitt Romney's target market.
In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.
"Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee. "That," he added, "is a distinct minority."
Besides the elusive Higgs Boson, particle physics and cosmology also provide other helpful analogies for understanding Mitt Romney. Romney's gymnastic flip-flops on abortion, immigration, climate change, health care, Ronald Reagan ("I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush; I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush" became "My life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right") and even flip-flopping itself ("I think you'll find that I've been as consistent as human beings can be" after having declared "if you're looking for someone who's never changed any positions on any policies, then I'm not your guy") show that Mitt, like Schrödinger's Cat, can occupy two positions at once. Or looked at another way, perhaps there's another "multiverse" in which Mitt Romney is still pro-choice and claims "my views are progressive." And when he's in doubt about what to say about his personal finances, immigration, the DREAM Act, paycheck fairness, the Lily Ledbetter Act, the Violence Against Women Act, his scrubbed Massachusetts records, details on which tax deductions and loopholes he would cut and so much else, Mitt Romney becomes a black hole, a void into which reporters' inquiries disappear, never to be answered.
He has admitted as much. As Mitt explained to the Weekly Standard, a lesson he learned from his 1994 defeat by Teddy Kennedy was to answer questions about, say, what federal agencies he'd eliminate, by answering, "I'm not going to give you a list right now." In December, the Wall Street Journal concluded that Romney's evasiveness was a feature, not a bug:
Amid such generalities, it's hard not to conclude that the candidate is trying to avoid offering any details that might become a political target. And he all but admits as much. "I happen to also recognize," he says, "that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn't been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you're gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election."In Mitt Romney's world, those beings are called "demagogues." But in the rest of this universe, they are known as "voters." And thanks to the dark force of Mitt's Boson, enough of them may yet be attracted to Romney to put him in the White House.
Note: As a non-scientist, I would like to apologize in advance for the tortured analogies and likely misrepresentations of quantum mechanics, particle physics and cosmology this piece doubtless contains. (Perhaps in another multiverse I know what I’m talking about.) For a helpful discussion of Higgs Boson, Higss Field and related matters, see DarkSyde’s diary, “Why is it Called the God Particle?”