Monday, October 22, 2012

Willard Mitt Romney-- Is There Anything There? Anything At All?


When President Obama looked into the camera during the last debate and told the viewers that Romney doesn't have a 5-point plan, just a 1-point plan (to represent the interests of the 1%), it was one of the truest-- and most effective-- things he said all night. With all the flips and all the flops, serving his own class has always been the North Star of the S.S. Willard. Over the weekend a Wall Street watcher for Forbes, Robert Lenzner was fascinated with the Democratic Party website that exposes the sham that is the Romney tax plan. Lenzner puts it into words for Forbes readers, many of whom, I'm guessing, don't want it put into words.
First the $5 trillion in tax cuts which reduces the income tax on the wealthy by 20% ($2.5 trillion), eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax ($700 billion), repeals the high-income payroll tax ($300 billion) and hands out a juicy $1 trillion tax cut for corporations. They’re like people you know. Nice clean math. Nice big figures with a lot of zeroes. Then, comes the problem, the headache, or maybe its the head fake. No identification of a single loophole that will be closed. No concrete exposition about raising the capital gains tax on rich people. Our friends at the Democratic Party headquarters have estimated the savings for “ending all tax benefits for the wealthy” at $1.7 trillion; eliminating ALL corporate tax benefits to offset the corporate tax cut- $1.1 trillion and then another $1 trillion of middle class tax benefits to pay for the middle class cut=- another $1 trillion.

Imagine the chaos, the bitterness, the social unrest that would occur. But, then realize these measures only get back $4 trillion. There’s another $1 trillion to go.

Even studies by that staunch Republican economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen “concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000.
Robert Reich, who many progressives hope will be Obama's choice as the next Treasury Secretary instead of another hopeless Wall Street hack, has gone through the numbers 'til he turned blue in the face. Saturday he took an entirely different tack-- pointing out how the Lamestream Media has created a fiction about Romney being a competent businessman and someone who is details oriented. Of course, he is neither. This, he points out is just another NY Times puff piece, "aglow with Romney’s supposed managerial prowess. Coming just a bit more than three weeks before Election Day, it attempts to confirm Romney’s central selling point-- that he can run the government better than Obama." But Romney has been far from a detail man in his campaigns for office. There have been no details about his economic plan, his budget plan, his plan for what to replace Obamacare with, his plan to replace Dodd-Frank, or even details about the taxes he’s paid.
When he was governor of Massachusetts, the citizens of the Commonwealth had no idea what he was doing (I can attest because I was there, and as much in the dark as most people). He kept the details of his governing to himself and his staff. And he spent most of his last two years in office laying the groundwork for his run for the presidency.

Romney has always savored details when it helps him make money. But when it comes to running or holding office he’s been a standout for avoiding all details and keeping the public in the dark.

Over the weekend a lot of editorial writers made their picks. Several big right-leaning papers, which often avoid endorsing Democrats, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Tampa Bay Times, the Denver Post and the Winston-Salem Journal came out for Obama. But the little Concord Monitor isn't a big national presence and isn't a right-leaning newspaper. The title of heir endorsement of Obama was written the way mine might be: Romney Should Not Be The Next President.
If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides-- spending cuts and lower taxes-- plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.

Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped.

Romney's main business experience is as a management consultant, a field in which smart, fast-moving specialists often advise corporations on how to reinvent themselves. His memoir is called Turnaround-- the story of his successful rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City-- but the most stunning turnaround he has engineered is his own political career.

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core.

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he boasted that he would be a stronger advocate of gay rights than his opponent, Ted Kennedy. These days, he makes a point of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption.

There was a time that he said he wanted to make contraception more available-- and a time that he vetoed a bill to sell it over-the-counter.

The old Romney assured voters he was pro-choice on abortion. "You will not see me wavering on that," he said in 1994, and he cited the tragedy of a relative's botched illegal abortion as the reason to keep abortions safe and legal. These days, he describes himself as pro-life.

There was a time that he supported stem-cell research and cited his own wife's multiple sclerosis in explaining his thinking; such research, he reasoned, could help families like his. These days, he largely opposes it. As a candidate for governor, Romney dismissed an anti-tax pledge as a gimmick. In this race, he was the first to sign.

People can change, and intransigence is not necessarily a virtue. But Romney has yet to explain this particular set of turnarounds in a way that convinces voters they are based on anything other than his own ambition.

In the 2008 campaign for president, there are numerous issues on which Romney has no record, and so voters must take him at his word. On these issues, those words are often chilling. While other candidates of both parties speak of restoring America's moral leadership in the world, Romney has said he'd like to "double" the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where inmates have been held for years without formal charge or access to the courts. He dodges the issue of torture-- unable to say, simply, that waterboarding is torture and America won't do it.

When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no.

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