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Final notes on the election

Published by marco on

Equal rights or saving the children. You can’t have both.

The following quote floated through the Internets, bubbling along on the social-network streams. It was written in support of voting for the candidate that supports gay rights, for one who supports equal rights for all Americans.

“I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, “My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.” It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you “disagree” with your candidate on these issues.”
Doug Wright

A friend of mine posted this to his Facebook page and told his more tenuous friends that, should they disagree, he would unfriend them immediately. One of his possibly more distant female friends responded: “So go ahead and use the [un-friend] button because your friendship isn’t going to feed my children.”

Boom! Headshot! Can’t argue with that logic, eh, faggot? Think your right to be gay trumps my child’s right to eat? It. does. not. Q.E.D.[1]

I’ve heard this logic before. It is employed by people who have no fixed morals or principles. It follows, then, that they are not aware when they cross lines that place them squarely in the same camp as the more unsavory members of society. They will do anything to protect their own, justifying it because “won’t someone please think of the children?”

It can be argued that there is nothing inherently wrong with this attitude. It is, most likely, an unavoidable part of being human. However, when combined with an utter lack of knowledge about how the world works and what the issues really are, it is incredibly dangerous. Combined with superstition, her attitude approves all manner of horrific policies. The lady in question expressed all sorts of hopeful fiddle-faddle about a Romney presidency that had no roots in reality. Her hopes are that president Romney will help her feed her children better.

It’s almost as if, as soon as some way of protecting children is mentioned, it must be acted upon—just to be sure, just to be safe from recrimination should the aforementioned children be harmed. Bush Jr. said that “we had to attack them there [Iraq] so that they wouldn’t attack us here [the States]” and, for many people, it became true. The moms of the world ran through the mental calculation and, instead of dispensing with the wholesale superstition that underlay his argument, they supported an invasion of Iraq where hundreds of thousands of other children died—just to keep their own children safe. Is there a limit to this superstition? It seems the answer is no.

On Facebook, I responded to both sides with:

Facebook response

@Romney supporters: you think the policies of a Romney presidency will ease your financial pain in ways that those of an Obama presidency have not. You would be disappointed. The Romney campaign’s espoused economic strategies differ far less from those of the Obama campaign than you think, other than that they are generally more extreme. The effects would likely be detrimental to you and yours. The debt will not go down and neither will gas or food prices (unless the government intervenes in markets even more than now, which isn’t what you’re voting for, is it?)

@Obama supporters: the statement about complicity cited above is very on-point and can be applied to other abhorrent Republican attitudes toward women, right-to-choose and rape. However, that logic cuts both ways and puts Obama voters on the hook for extra-judicial killings, a continued expressed support for torture, eavesdropping on Americans, suspension of Habeas Corpus, the NDAA, the Patriot Act and a steady erosion of the Bill of Rights. The Bush administration started many of these policies, but you cannot ignore the fact that the Obama administration has wholeheartedly supported and even expanded them. The Romney campaign also supports them, but you’re not voting for him.

The conclusion I draw is that a vote for Romney or Obama puts you on the hook for the many horrible things listed above, but you can avoid being horrible to homosexuals and women on top of all of that by voting for Obama. Of course, you could also vote for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson and extricate yourself still more.

It’s not just gay or women’s issues that are at stake, either. The article Capitol Hill’s Rabid, Ravaging Republicans by Ralph Nader (CounterPunch) lists many more examples:

“The Republicans en-mass (sic) voted to repeal protections to stop health insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of gender. […] In a frenzy, House Republicans have voted to repeal the “Affordable Care Act” 33 times. Be assured their hatred for Obamacare is not because they want full Medicare for all. It is because they want to voucherize Medicare and hand patients over to the avaricious Aetnas and the Pfizers who return the favor with campaign cash. […] Vote to weaken the Clean Air Act, drinking water safety standards, cut funding for these cancer preventing, health protecting programs while pushing for more military weapons and bloated Pentagon budgets. […] For the poor, let them eat less. Hunger in America is real. But not real enough for the Republicans to stop wanting to cut these food programs. (Emphasis added.)”

Saving the economy

In the end, it’s almost always a war on the poor. A Romney presidency would accelerate that war in a way that even Obama hasn’t dared to do. That is, if we are to believe what Romney publishes about his own agenda. The article Pointing Toward Prosperity? by Paul Krugman (NY Times) provides a bit more detail, some illumination, on Romney’s economic plan:

“Mr. Romney’s “plan” is a sham. It’s a list of things he claims will happen, with no description of the policies he would follow to make those things happen. “We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget,” he declares, but he refuses to specify which tax loopholes he would close to offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts.

“Actually, if describing what you want to see happen without providing any specific policies to get us there constitutes a “plan,” I can easily come up with a one-point plan that trumps Mr. Romney any day. Here it is: Every American will have a good job with good wages. Also, a blissfully happy marriage. And a pony.

“So Mr. Romney is faking it. His real plan seems to be to foster economic recovery through magic, inspiring business confidence through his personal awesomeness.”

As discussed in earlier posts, Krugman’s snarky comment about “personal awesomeness” comes very close to describing why Romney is running for president. He really and truly seems to believe that America will be much better off with him at the helm, based on all of his experience. He’s never failed before, so how could he fail now? It is this mythology about himself that deludes poor Mitt into thinking that he doesn’t have to explain himself or his plans—because what does it matter? He’s the right choice for America, no matter what, so what do Americans need details for?

Even as a staunch democrat, Krugman can’t muster up much enthusiasm for Obama’s plan. Krugman says that it’s far too modest and “[…] disappointing, to be sure. But a slow job is better than a snow job. Mr. Obama may not be as bold as we’d like, but he isn’t actively misleading voters the way Mr. Romney is. (Emphasis added.)”

There are good reasons to disagree with Krugman’s zinger of an assessment, emphasized above. The article The Moral Case for Silence by Norman Pollack (CounterPunch) sees a more sinister side to Obama’s economic plan.

“Obama, more than his predecessors, is the quintessential spokesperson for a mature capitalism in which government, as custodian of the public interest, is under assault from the forces of privatization, now gathering as a tidal wave which he is blithely surfing. The leader of government presides over its transformation into an annex of Wall Street. Really, a transmogrification, both of government and society, knit together in callous disregard for both economic and ethical constraints on greed, extremes in the distribution of wealth, and the widespread privation created by a political economy of market idolatry and financial chicanery.”

A vote for Obama may be a vote against Romney, but it’s not a vote for any real change in the economic system of America—or the world. If Romney is elected, the imposition of that system will be crasser and quicker; with Obama it will be slower and less painful. But the end result may be more-or-less the same. The argument is that Romney’s crassness may awake the revolution needed to avert further “widespread privation” whereas the soma of Obama’s presentation and approach will go undetected until it is too late, when an oligarchic state is a fait accompli.

 Lucky Ducky: All's Fair in Class & WarThe article Hurricane Sandy and the Myth of the Big Government-vs.-Small-Government Debate by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) explains how insidiously the “market idolaters” mentioned above twist their ideology to always neatly match their ends. When it benefits them, big government, subsidies, socialization et alia are good; when it benefits others, these things are the antithesis of America, a communist plot to benefit moochers.

Taibbi explains:

“Here in the tri-state area, and especially in the lower Manhattan region I’m staring at out my window right now, you’ll get much of the same – lots of whining now about deficit spending and the parasitical 47%, but also conspicuous silence a few years ago, when in one fell swoop, taxpayers had to spend about twice the amount of the annual federal budget just to save bonus seasons on Wall Street for the few thousand of our local assholes who nearly blew up the world economy.

“Programs like QE [Quantitative Easing] are always defended as being necessary to stimulate the economy in general, and who knows, maybe they are – but it’s conspicuous that a crowd of people who normally hate “government spending” are suddenly overflowing with praise for the Fed’s wisdom and logical explanations for why this massive pseudo-state intervention is necessary. (Emphasis added.)”

As Noam Chomsky puts it: the plan is privatization of profits and socialization of risk. All of the professed ideology and free-market mumbo-jumbo is just the marketing campaign used to sell the plan to the suckers that are going to pay for it.

Social security is not broken

Social security is another issue that the rich constantly hammer at, deploring the moochers that dare to think that they can actually use a pension plan that they’ve paid for. We haven’t heard very much about it during the campaign lately, though. Why? Because Mitt and Barack essentially agree. The article Why Big Bucks Donors Don’t Want President Obama to Champion Social Security by Dean Baker (AlterNet) explains that this is simply a pragmatic matter of funding.

Baker notes that,

“President Obama has consistently refused to rise to the defense of social security. In fact, in the first debate, he explicitly took the issue off the table, telling the American people that there is not much difference between his position [5] on social security and Romney’s.”

Whereas most of the second and third debates featured Mitt stumbling all over himself to agree with Obama, this capitulation of Obama’s in the first debate stands out. Baker goes on to explain why an ostensibly progressive president—hell, even a conservative one—should be proud to support social security.

“On its face, this is difficult to understand. In addition to being good politics, there are also solid policy grounds for defending social security. The social security system is perhaps the greatest success story of any program in US history. By providing a core retirement income, it has lifted tens of millions of retirees and their families out of poverty. It also provides disability insurance to almost the entire workforce. The amount of fraud in the system is minimal, and the administrative costs are less than [6] one 20th as large as the costs of private-sector insurers.”

It sounds like puppies, unicorns, sunshine and rainbows—all mixed into an ice-cream flavor that never melts. What’s the problem? It should be a no-brainer that Americans would defend this program to the death, voting heavily in favor of anyone who would support it. Alas, neither Obama nor Romney spends much time among average voters. Instead, they spend a lot of time with well-heeled donors, who are far more important to a modern American presidential campaign.

“But there is another set of economic considerations affecting the politics of social security. These considerations involve the economics of the political campaigns and the candidates running for office. The story here is a simple one: while social security may enjoy overwhelming support across the political spectrum, it does not poll nearly as well among the wealthy people – who finance political campaigns and own major news outlets. The predominant philosophy among this group is that a dollar in a workers’ pocket is a dollar that could be in a rich person’s pocket – and these people see social security putting lots of dollars in the pockets of people who are not rich.”

Blackmailing America into voting Romney

If nothing else, the Republicans have at least played the long game quite well. They laid down a backup plan four years ago and are just now springing it on the American public. The article Republicans Filibuster Everything, Romney Blames Obama for Not Working With Congress by Bob Cesca (Huffington Post) provides some background, but the sentiment in the title says it all. As Romney hammered away during the debates at Obama’s inability to get any legislation passed with Republican approval, it was clear that this was going to be their gambit in the end-game, should Romney’s charm fail to overwhelm Americans sufficiently.

“[…] the Republicans proceeded to rack up the highest number of filibusters in American history. […] Not even a handful of “sensible” Republicans had the guts to break ranks and vote with the Democrats. Meanwhile, on the House side, the Republican majority has voted in near-lockstep against almost everything.”

Lest we forget: these people are ostensibly there as representatives of real Americans, their constituents. But their actions seem to be much more in line with a lockstep ideology that would rather get nothing done at all—leaving their constituents in the lurch as well—than to let anything at all happen that might benefit Obama, regardless of whether it would benefit their constituents. This scorched-earth approach to politics is a good deal more extreme than at any other time in the past.

The reason for all of this? That, too, is explicit—and was roundly approved at the time:

“Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously told the National Journal, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not economic growth, jobs, healthcare or military strength. A failed Obama presidency was the primary – and I would argue the only goal of the last two Republican congresses. (Emphasis added.)”

And the Republicans have stated again and again that winning is more important than getting anything done, if it’s the wrong guy who gets it done. It’s an utterly insane—and utterly criminal—way to run a country, but it meets with hearty approval by at least half of the population, who are happy to torpedo their own lives—and those of their families—just to get Obama out of office.

With four years of groundwork laid, it was time for Romney to spring the trap:

“The Romney campaign is […] projecting Republican obstructionism onto the president and accusing him of refusing to work with Congress, even though the president and the Democrats have dished out heaping piles of legislation that Republicans could reasonably get behind. […] But if you take Romney’s word for it, the president is a lazy, do-nothing chief executive who’s been stonewalling the Republicans. (Emphasis added.)”

The essay The Blackmail Caucus by Paul Krugman (NY Times) points out that, divested of all adornment, the argument being made boils down to the following statement.

“Vote for Mr. Romney […] because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.”

It is, in fairness, a good point. It is likely that the Republicans, should they lose tomorrow, will double down and make the last four years of economic woe seem like a trip to Disneyland. Who knows what they’re capable of? They’ve already demonstrated a sociopathy that should, at the very least, be respected for its destructive potential.

So what’s the answer? Vote Romney of course, and let him actually get something done. The Democrats have not shown the same willingness to burn the ground that Republicans have, so it is very likely that he will get something done. But is getting anything at all done worth it if those are the wrong things? Is it not better to stand still than to take steps backward? And where is our pride, anyway? Are we really going to succumb to a threat that is more at home in the Godfather than in a democratic society? As Krugman put it, “are we ready to become a country in which “Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it” becomes a winning political argument?”

[1] Crushing sarcasm alert for those unfamiliar with the form.