In 1968, the US military bombed the Vietnamese town of Ben Tre, on the grounds that it was infested with Viet Cong. Peter Arnett, then a war correspondent in Vietnam, quoted an unnamed (and still not conclusively identified) senior US military officer in Vietnam, as justifying the bombing thusly:
"'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it".
This quote, which has been a staple of the discourse ever since, was damaging and revealing; it laid bare, in full detail, the imperialist mindset. It may have been necessary, or at least advantageous, for US military goals--dead Viet Cong don't shoot back, and mixing in with civilian populations is a staple technique of guerrilla warfare--but was it beneficial for the residents of the town to have their homes bombed to rubble, their friends and families maimed and killed, and their lives destroyed, just to get rid of Charlie in their midst? Even if one were to stipulate that the VC were ruthless killers who openly terrorized the population and coerced simple villagers into aiding them (which was often true, though the US and South Vietnamese were often every bit as brutal)--this is preferable to being bombed to smithereens, in any rational accounting that considers the interests of the villagers.
(Many lessons of Vietnam apply well to Afghanistan, but I digress).
But this, folks, is how Mitt Romney--and the plutocrats who enable him--view the middle class in the United States.
The US middle class must be destroyed--to save it.
While the US middle class has nothing in it like the Viet Cong--it's mainly people minding their own business and trying to live out their lives in peace--to the financial imperialists that view money and power just as jealously as Cold War superpowers viewed client states, the notion that workers (here defined anyone who isn't an owner, investor, or senior executive in some business enterprise) ought to have a stake in the businesses whose productivity they enable (and whose products they consume) is every bit as unacceptable as the notion that guerillas can take potshots at uniformed military while disguised as civilians. The middle class are moochers and parasites (in the worst Randian tradition), claiming benefits that they have not "earned" in an unregulated free market, and need to be purged wholesale of the idea that they are entitled to anything beyond their next paycheck. If that.
In short, we make too much money. We place too many demands on poor beleagured capital. We have it too good. Our Gini coefficient is too low. We're only worth what "the market" will bear, and with the rise of China and other developing nations, who can supply decent infrastructure and skilled labor at dirt-cheap wages, the market will bear the US middle class no more, says the Romney crowd.
Forty-hour workweek? Intolerable tyranny. Minimum wage? A ridiculous impediment to employment. Social Security and Medicare? Socialism. OHSA and other laws/agencies enforcing workplace safety? Outright theft from the "job creators". Romney and Republicans talk about an "ownership society", but what they mean is "if you don't own your own business, you don't deserve shit". They talk about freedom and liberty and nostrums like "right to work" or "right to contract"--which is like abolishing the police and saying that the people have thus been given a "right to defend themselves".
Mitt Romney's fundamental position is this--he won't come out and say it of course, but that's what it is, and we all know it--is that the US is losing the race to the bottom. And Mitt Romney's plan is to turn that around, and win that race; to prove that America can once again be a haven for moneymen to invest their cash (whether earned, inherited, or stolen), largely free from political risk.
And if nothing else in his career, Mitt Romney has demonstrated great skill at racing to the bottom. It's how Bain Capital makes its money--buying companies with more principled management, and plundering them. All in the name of progress and efficiency.
In order for jobs to return to this country, according to Romney's ilk, the wages and working conditions here need to be on par with what big business can get overseas. Thus the real jobs plan of Romney and his ilk is simple and succinct: Lay the middle class low. Smash the safety net, rip up the regulations, and lacerate the labor laws. Bust the unions, starve the beast, and Hoover up as much money for the 1% as possible. Change--permanently, if it can be arranged--the fundamental relationship between labor and management.
(Oh, and let the debt-funded
stimulus money fly, because Deficits Don't Matter When A Republican Is In Office, so GOPers can claim that this actually works--and have something to complain about next time a Democrat is in power).
Eventually, the jobs will come back, once the middle class has learned its lesson and its place. But they won't, for the most part, be the jobs that left--they will pay far less, the working conditions will be severe, and we will be firmly in a second Gilded Age. (Some say we are there already; though overall conditions now aren't anywhere near as bad as conditions then. But that is the direction they are trending).
In arguing for the antitrust law that bears his name, Senator John Sherman (an Ohio Republican, back when the GOP were the good guys, more or less) famously intoned: "We would not submit to an emperor. Why should we submit to an autocrat of trade?" A good question. But for the past half century, there is a growing chorus that claims that not only should we submit to autocrats of trade, but that we must do so as a matter of right--and that refusal to do so constitutes theft, socialism, or some other terrible thing. There is a belief, sadly accepted by many in positions of power and influence, that we have a moral duty to give the tycoons and plutocrats and rentiers their due--that they have earned their place (wealth being an indicator of excellence and merit, and poverty an indicator of degeneracy and sloth) and are entitled to profit from it, no matter how others suffer; and that to question this is unspeakable and treacherous blasphemy.
This, folks, more than anything, is what needs to change. Obama could be better here, certainly, but Romney would be disastrous. Given that Romney is an out-sourcer extraordinaire, and that this is well-known to much of the electorate, he wouuld almost certainly claim a mandate to do for the entire country what he has done to Sensata and the many other companies destroyed by Bain Capital and similar enterprises, were he elected. Romney's said it plain and clear: we've too many firefighters and teachers and goodness knows what else, because these things cost money and the rich won't suffer themselves to be taxed to pay for it. He doesn't say the last part in public, of course, but whenever a politician says "we're broke" in reference to government, particularly the US government (which is a sovereign currency issuer), that's usually what he/she means. Many of the rest of us cannot afford it, and Romney's counting on 50% + 1 of American voters (and/or 270 Electors) to buy the schtick that the solution to the problem of the starving of the beast is to finish the job. Romney's counting on a slim majority to accept the belief that the cure to the problems caused by the immense transfer of wealth to the upper class, is to destroy what is left of our public workforce, to lay them low too. Ninety percent of objections to government programs are, in my opinion, objections to the progressive tax regime that funds them; as opposed to real objections about government in principle. (Some libertarians may be excepted from this, but the GOP and the plutocracy is perfectly happy to control the reins of the state; they just don't like the other side doing it). And Romney's hoping that enough people will either a) not notice a word he's said before October 3, b) be part of the upper classes who would profit from this arrangement, or c) voting for him based on social issues that he'll likely shelve if elected (or out of simple blind racism), to get him there.
Now, the town of Ben Tre has been rebuilt. (Albeit by the victors in the Vietnam War, which wasn't us). And maybe, just maybe, the middle class might be rebuilt too under Romney's ideology. But the current state of Ben Tre today is little comfort to those who were killed, or lost loved ones, courtesy of the US military. And Romney's plan to rebuild the middle class will likewise leave many ruined lives in its wake.