At EconoMonitor economist L. Randall Wray singles out a quote (he calls it shocking) from one of the people sitting around the dinner table at Romney's fundraiser. This anonymous (to us) diner is complaining about crony capitalism to what one might say is the king of crony capitalism. I am amazed at the degree of cognitive dissonance required to make such a comment in such a situation and, like Wray, surprised this is coming out of the mouth of a Goldwater Republican. If as Leon Festinger (who coined the term) says of dissonant behavior that we seek naturally to find consonance, are we witnessing an instance of cognitive dissonance so great that it signifies some sort of tipping point?
Audience member: I think one of the aspects about hope and change that worked well for Obama four years ago was he promised to bring us more honest, transparent governance in Washington. I've been around politics—the first campaign I worked for was Barry Goldwater in 1964. I've gotta be the oldest Republican in [unintelligible]. But from what I've seen, particularly in the last seven months because of my own personal involvement in an issue, is the government in Washington right now is just permeated by cronyism, outright corruption. Our regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect the public are protecting the people that they're supposed to be regulating. And I think people are fed up with that. Doesn't matter if you're in the tea party of Occupy Wall Street, people see that the government is working for the powerful interests and the people who well-connected politically and not the common person. Which threatens that whole idea that we have this great opportunity—which we should have and have had, historically—in the US for anybody, from whatever background, to become successful. One way that that becomes compromised is when the government is no longer seen as being an honest agent. And where our tax dollars are not really being put to work for us but for the people who are plugged-in politically. You know, you had cases like Solyndra and [unintelligible] that I've talked about and gotten involved in. You have Eric Holder who is probably the most corrupt attorney general that we had ever in American history. And I think it's something that if spun the right way in simple terms can actually resonate with the American people. Obama did not keep his promises. Nancy Pelosi was supposed to give us an honest Congress and has given us just the opposite as speaker. And I think that's a campaign issue that can work well. I'm optimistic that you'll be elected president. And my recommendation would be clean house, immediately. The SEC, the CFEC are disaster areas.Professor Wray reminds us that it was Goldwater, considered far right in the Republican Party at the time, who began the call for less government. Indeed Barry Goldwater's campaign was all about slashing government and he begins an ad with the admonition:
"Don't look now kid but somebody has his hand in your pocket. It is the hand of big government..."
So I find it worth noting that anyone at a $50,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner would think to bring up the matter of crony capitalism at all. The diner plunked down a lot of dough to dine in a mansion, be waited on by servants, and be in the company of a man, Mitt Romney, who games the system and brags about it. A person whose mighty wealth has been gained in part by tax dodges, off shore accounts and huge bonuses from corporate raiding. Romney even alludes to his own unsavory behavior in part of his answer to this fellow, but it is in the manner of being characterized that way by Democrats, not in the manner of actually being that way. One wonders how the diner sees his purchase of time with this candidate in light of his own comments about being plugged in politically. His remarks relate to government dollars being given to the politically connected, but does he understand that those in government giving out the tax dollars to their friends are the same people who spoke or sat at dinners like this?
My husband travels often to the midwest where he talks with rural Illinois Republicans. He says there is a kind of Republican kneejerk identification of Democrats with urban graft-takers and lazy lay-abouts. It is this lens through which the speaker may have been able to see the cronyism in Obama's administration and not perhaps in Bush's. He definitely directs his complaints at the Democrats and confines them to the last seven years. Nonetheless, he seems to have moved a distance from Goldwater and what he once must have thought was the proper role of government regulation. Prof. Wray says of the diner's remarks.
And now? Now, after all the shenanigans on Wall Street, aided and abetted by Cronies in Washington, this Goldwater conservative is having second thoughts. He’s shocked, shocked!, that unregulated capitalism has led to thievery...Wray says in conclusion:
But here’s the thing. All this stinks so much that even Goldwater would be calling for more government.Romney doesn't respond to the meat of his campaign donor's question. He doesn't touch the idea of crony capitalism or the need for Wall Street regulation. He fires a salvo at the SEC and CFEC unions and then says this (from the Mother Jones transcript):
Romney:...Those people I told you, the 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring onto our side, they all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. So, and by the way, when you say to them, "Do you think Barack Obama is a failure?" they overwhelmingly say no. They like him. But when you say, "Are you disappointed in his policies that haven't worked?" they say yes. And because they voted for him, they don't want to be told that they were wrong, that he's a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he's corrupt.It's exactly what those Republicans in Illinois and probably our Goldwater Republican think about Romney. They don't want to see him as corrupt; they want to see him as a nice guy. The problem isn't just with the lens through which they see the Democrats but also with the lens through which they see themselves and theirs.
And what kind of blinders do you have to wear since neither Romney nor Ryan hide who they are? In the words of Prof. Wray;
[Romney's] a Wall Street poster child for the beast. You don’t hear him attacking Wall Street’s fraudsters. You don’t see him pushing proposals for regulating and re-supervising our nation’s banksters. No. You see him calling for more downsizing of government and regulation and supervision in order to keep the frauds running.One wonders if this Goldwater Republican is conscious of any dissonance caused by the conflict existing between his views on regulation and the plainly stated policies of the Romney/Ryan team. Maybe because he stands to profit enormously himself from a Romney win, he can justify the contradictions or maybe he will seek yet more evidence to support his belief Obama would do worse. There must have been some unease felt with Romney's lack of an answer. I wonder how far in the future is our diner's epiphany that his own Party is up to its eyeballs in crime?