“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” –John Kenneth Galbraith
Romney is known for his cringe-worthy Freudian slips. When he introduced Paul Ryan as “the next president of the United States,” his silly omission of the word “vice” actually illuminated an uncomfortable truth. Mitt’s first national level decision was to abdicate control of his agenda to the most radical member of a House caucus historically unprecedented for its radicalism. There were many different kinds of choices Romney could have made. He could have announced someone this morning who would bolster his support among female or minority voters, or in a geographic region; someone who would provide Senatorial or executive experience, or desperately needed foreign policy experience. Instead he chose a rabid ideologue. He is so worried that he doesn’t connect with conservative voters, instead of just throwing some red meat to the base, he decided to buy the whole butcher shop. Well, now he owns it. Or it owns him.
The decision blatantly acknowledges the fact that Romney is a blank page. He is a cipher. He has simultaneously argued against that label and encouraged it. Joan Walsh writes on Salon that
“He doesn’t like to talk about any of ‘the three Ms,’ as Joe Scarborough tweeted Thursday: Massachusetts, Mormonism or money.”
Mitt squirms with such insecurity about his record of passing Romneycare in Massachusetts, serving as a bishop in the Mormon hierarchy, and making hundreds of millions of dollars while laying off thousands of American workers that Walsh says,
“…the energy required to suppress the truth on those three fronts is part of what forces Romney to behave like a robot and speak in bizarre faux-platitudes.”
So “Nowhere Man” decided to draw an image of ideology onto his etch-a-sketch campaign.
Earlier this week, Romney had hinted at the choice, saying he would pick a running mate with
“a vision for the country that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country.”
Usually, the presidential candidate himself is the one with the vision. Romney is conducting his campaign as if he were merely a wealthy donor, intrigued by politics and with money to throw around, who is backing an ideological rising star for office. He is a movie producer picking a director for a Tea Party blockbuster, rather than a Batman grooming his Robin or even a director casting roles. He’s not team-building, he’s not even delegating, he’s abdicating.
The problem with Ryan is that his “vision” for America is akin to the visions of Hieronymous Bosch. Ryan considers Ayn Rand to be his most important inspiration. Ayn Rand wrote about “The Virtue of Selfishness.” For her, greed was the greatest moral good and generosity was the greatest evil. Ryan requires his staff to read her works.
This philosophy led him to author “The Ryan Plan.” I encourage you to read Jon Perr’s comprehensive analysis of the plan at Crooks and Liars. Perr’s overview of the plan is:
- Massive Tax Cuts for the Rich
- Ending Medicare as We Know It
- Shredding the Safety Net
- Increased Defense Spending
- What Loopholes Get Closed? That’s a Secret!
- Trillions in New Debt
- Slower Economic Growth, More Job Losses
The plan is radical. It is a naked attempt to end almost every major social program instituted by the New Deal, which helped the country dig out of the Great Depression and has been instrumental in preventing another depression ever since. It would terminate or gut virtually every government expenditure, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The only exception is the military, which would be drastically expanded at a time when the US already spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined.
The Ryan plan is a massive transfer of wealth. On one hand the plan would eviscerate numerous social programs that are fundamental parts of American life and would dump the American people onto the mercies of corporate education, corporate medicine, corporate social security, etc., etc. On the other hand, the plan would lower the taxes on corporations and their owners by double-digit percentages. Ultimately, well over a trillion dollars would be transferred from the poor and middle class to the pockets of the very richest, the same people who crashed the economy in 2008. The Bush economic collapse and the resulting bailouts already transferred this kind of money up to the top. Romney and Ryan think that signing the American taxpayer’s signature on a blank check to society’s owners was so fun they want to do it again by axing high-end taxes and loosing the wolves on students, retirees, homeowners, the sick, the underemployed, the unemployed, the uninsured…
The plan is so extreme that poll respondents refused to believe its details when informed of them. Robert Draper wrote at the New York Times,
“For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed ‘ending Medicare as we know it’ — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
Voters may have a hard time believing that the Republicans would stage such a revolution. It’s difficult to fathom that someone in Congress who ostensibly represents the people would want to change our government’s purpose from preserving the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to protecting government of the money, by the money, for the money. It’s challenging to accept that such a person could be launched to national influence. But it is real. And it is a very real threat to all of us who make less than $250,000 a year.
Tax policies since Reagan, and particularly Bush’s economic policies, have allowed the financial owners to run riot on our economy, loot the middle class, and get away with it completely. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows those same billionaires to turn our elected officials into their personal puppets. Republicans are also becoming unafraid of the voters, because of the GOP’s push to mandate IDs at the polls nationwide, which could disenfranchise voters on the scale of a banana republic. These three dynamics have made it possible for Republicans to run on a platform of reverse Robin Hood: stealing from the poor to give to the rich. It has made it possible that they could actually win the election then stand aside as Wall Street effectively colonizes our once democratic government. It has made real plutocracy frighteningly possible. Mitt is their man to orchestrate the leveraged buyout of the White House and Ryan is the one to make it sound ethical.
As the polls are showing, the public is beginning to scratch its head at the Romney candidacy. Mitt may not be able to talk about anything, but he can outsource the talking to the kid with the icy eyes who loves to talk about how he wants to give all our money to the people who already have all our money.
Romney is a product of old wealth and indicative of the revolving door. He seems unable to understand that people might question whether his money entitles him to power. Ryan is an ideologue and a cynical opportunist of the worst kind. He stands on dimly lit Congressional corners hustling to turn corporate tricks. So the Republican ticket is a tax-dodger and a tax-cutter. The Republican platform promises to be a bizarre spectacle of a man arguing he should be president because he’s rich and a man arguing he should be his vice because he wants to give money to the rich. One hand washes the other rather nicely, but it’s unclear how anyone but the two of them would benefit from this arrangement. It reminds me of a skit back in the ‘90s on In Living Color called “Make Me Rich.” In the skit, a slimy salesman tries to convince people that they can be part of his success by sending him money. “Don’t let my opportunity pass you by!” he concludes.
The pundits will be chewing on the pros and cons of this pick for a while. But if, like Romney, you happen to have luxury cars at your mansions, luxury yachts in your marinas, luxury horses in your stables, stock options in corporate loan-sharks, investments in savings-gobbling mega-banks, and millions of Franklins secreted away in foreign bank accounts, then this is a match made in heaven!