The Mittster

by wjw on September 19, 2012

When Mitt Romney announced his candidacy, I figured, “Well, at least he’s a pragmatist.”  He appeared not to believe in anything other than what was necessary to win elections, and if winning the nomination meant disavowing his accomplishments as Governor of Massacnhusetts, he was perfectly okay with doing that.  He ran to the right of Rick Perry in 2012, he ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994.  Both stances were viewed as necessary at the time, I’m sure.

While I prefer candidates to share at least a few of my ideals, I usually have few problems with pragmatists, because they can generally be counted on to do a reasonable if not inspiring job.  George H.W. Bush was a pragmatist: he did a fine job of negotiating the end of the Cold War; he flattened Saddam in a way that didn’t produce a quagmire; and he raised taxes when he needed to (and thereby lost his re-election bid).

Pragmatists usually lack the ability to inspire.  Ronald Reagan, an inspirational president, was able to raise taxes dozens of times without losing popularity, but Bush couldn’t do it even once.  Pragmatist presidents are often one-term presidents: Van Buren, Taft, Truman, Ford, Bush I.

But Romney seems to be taking an inability to inspire to vast new levels.  His trip to Europe was a bust.  He said that corporations were people.  His trip to the Middle East pandered to an extreme wing of Israeli opinion while demonstrating his ignorance of the fact that Jews have their sabbath on Saturday.  He told the world that he thought that median American family income was eight times larger than it actually is, and proudly proclaimed his belief that we need fewer firefighters and policemen.  His attempt to spin the deaths of American diplomats in Libya was not only in bad taste, but factually incorrect.

And he won’t let us look at his tax returns (except for one year, partly).  This despite his father George having given a full dozen years of tax returns when he ran for President in 1968 (and showing, incidentally, that he paid tax at a rate of 37%).

What is Mitt afraid of, exactly?  We already know he has Swiss bank accounts.  We already know he pays taxes at a lower rate than most of us.  Is he afraid that we might find out that the Chinese and/or Saudis and/or Goldman Sachs have been dumping large sums into his accounts?

(See, my imagination is already coming up with explanations that are likely far worse than the real thing.)

The tax issue may or may not matter, but along with all the other gaffes it drives the whole campaign off-message.

Even if the whole message is “I’m not Obama,” that matters.  Because now Obama can say, “Guess what?  I’m not Romney!”

Look, every candidate is going to make gaffes.  Obama’s made his share.  But Romney’s are so frequent that they’re dominating the news.

And now, oboy, we’ve got the Secret Romney Tapes, showing Romney talking at ease to a group of fellow rich people. And now we know how rich people talk, and what rich people think, when they believe no one’s watching.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That, that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what … These are people who pay no income tax.”

Now my first reaction was to think: “Wow, the government’s going to pay me if I vote for Obama?  Where do I sign!”

And my second thought was that Romney was just pissed off because Obama had gone and bribed the poor with welfare before he, Romney, could bribe the rich with tax cuts.

And then I thought, Well, naw, he doesn’t mean it.  He’s just pandering to his audience, the way politicians do.

And then I thought: You know what?  That doesn’t matter.

Romney may or may not believe the nonsense that falls out of his mouth, but the fact is he’s willing to say it, and say it right in front of a bunch of his peers.

Romney insulted a whole lot of people in that simple paragraph, me included.  There have been years when I’ve paid no income tax, because I had little or no income in those years.

But y’know what?  In the years when I had only a few bucks, I didn’t go to the government and demand housing, food, and health care.  I paid for those out of my own pocket.  I’ve paid off maybe a dozen mortgages over the years.  I know dozens of people who have been in my situation, and none of them have been complacent, and all of them have worked hard,and some of them may have gone on relief, but they all got off it as soon as they could, and you know why?  Being on relief sucks!

And you know what else sucks?  Being disabled!  Being old and completely dependent on social security!  Working a full-time job but not being able to feed your children!  Going to Iraq to serve your country, being blown up, living in a wheelchair and having to crap into a colostomy bag, and then hearing a wannabe President of the United States call you a deadbeat!

Here’s a breakdown of the 47%  who pay no federal income tax.  Most of them pay taxes in the form of payroll taxes or sales taxes Medicare taxes or gas levies or whatever.  A lot of them are elderly and retired.  (And you know what?  0.6% earn more than 100,000 a year— I’m guessin’ tax breaks for the wealthy may be involved?)  And just about all of them have paid income taxes in years in which they had a decent income.

Might Romnay have considered that maybe a lot of these folks aren’t paying taxes because we’re in the worst recession since the Thirties?  No, it’s because they’re layabouts and Welfare Queens.

And who’s the real welfare queen?  The poor single mom trying to raise her kids, or the rich venture capitalist who gets so many tax breaks he pays nothing at all?

(And by the way, just as a personal note—  I pay Social Security taxes at a much higher rate than most of you— at a much higher rate than Mitt Romney, who pays none at all— because I’m self-employed!  So take that, you smug, complacent rich fucks!)

But when you get right down to it, how can Romney run as a regular guy?  He can’t.  He talks about how he’s a self-made man, but it doesn’t occur to him that his success may have had to do with his father’s paying for his prep school, his two Harvard degrees, his first house . . .

Romney should just run as a patrician.  It worked for both Roosevelts, after all.  Just have him say, “I’m smarter than you, I’m richer than you, I’m better-looking than you, I have better genes than you, I’m more deserving than you, my wife is prettier than yours, and I don’t live in a trailer.  I live in an exclusive world inhabited only by privileged people, and that’s because it’s a better world than the pathetic excuse for reality that you live in.  Vote for me, and you may benefit from the gloss and glamor that I will bring to this tawdry republic.”

At this point, what does he have to lose?


Pat Mathews September 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Ah, but populist patricians have been glamorous since the days of Clodius Pulcher. Conservative patricians have to be as sophisticated as William Buckley, Jr. in order to be inspiring at all.

Sean Craven September 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Holy smokes, this is a wonderful concept. Romney is, in fact, the Republican’s best bet for winning the hearts and minds of America. In exactly that sense, and just as factually, Romney’s great strength is his glamour.

Every day is backwards day.

Ralf The Dog. September 20, 2012 at 12:45 am

I find him inspiring. Every time I see him on the news or read his words, I am inspired to donate more money to the Democratic Party and PAC for a Change.

If by some unimaginable tragedy, he becomes elected, I am sure many writers for standup comedians will be inspired for four years.

DensityDuck September 20, 2012 at 4:59 am

Again we see that “people pay no income tax” is factually wrong when it’s poor people but awful, just terrible when it’s rich people.

I really get the sense that some people are glad to have the campaign on, so they can reaffirm themselves that The Other Side Is Awful. I mean, Obama’s a mediocre President at best and more a piece of shit than not, but hey at least he’s not a Republican right?

Dave Bishop September 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

I think that DensityDuck has a good point. In both the US and the UK there is, in reality, very little choice; all the party’s available to vote for are primarily fervent supporters of neo-liberal, free-market economics. If you happen to be on the Left or are an environmentalist there’s no choice.

In the UK there is really only a choice between Labour and Conservative. The Conservatives (the ‘Tories’) are the party of Big Business and the establishment. Labour have a noble, left-wing heritage but since Blair’s government in the 1990s they have been to the right of centre. Labour supporters largely kept their mouths shut when two Labour administrations were pursuing a neo-liberal agenda, but now there’s a Tory administration in power (propped up by their Liberal Democrat coalition partners) Labour supporters have suddenly re-discovered their social consciences and can’t stop telling us how awful the Tories are – even though a Labour government would be making the same sorts of cuts to social services etc. if they were in power.

The Duck Monkey September 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I, personally, am highly pleased with Romney.

He, Santorum and all the other insane, malign conserfascists prove that the GOP will not stop stonewalling the opposition and thus render your barbarian lands ungovernable. And while the Overton window shifts ever more towards Pol Pot and your ruling class fights over what form of right-wing extremism to follow, your entire economy will crash and burn, plunging your wretched hellhole into your final, bloody civil war with enough guns and ammo to kill every single one of you five times.

And then, then we will go in and gobble up the meager rest of you savages. The Yankee barbarian will end up either dead or enslaved, so that the inhuman American evil will forever be vanquished.

You will never again spread countless wars over the world for profit.

Your will die so the world can live.

Luke Silburn September 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Contra DensityDuck, I don’t see anything in the OP which says that ‘people pay no income tax’ is factually wrong – the argument I see WJW making is that ‘pays no tax = panem et circenses’, as Romney implies, is (i) a serious oversimplification (sufficiently so that the point Romney was making pretty much falls apart when you dig into the detail) and (ii) borderline insulting to a significant fraction of the electorate.

Having said that, I don’t think this video leaking out sinks the Romney campaign – it’s one more straw on the gaffe-camel’s back of course, but if the poor beast gives out then it will be the cumulative weight of gaffes that does it rather than any single one.

If I were to pick a single campaign killing moment (so far at least), then last week’s press conference in response to the embassy attacks would be it. The way everyone on the GOP side of the punditocracy ran for cover spoke volumes I think.


mastadge September 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Dave, when you assert that “[i]n both the US and the UK there is, in reality, very little choice; all the party’s available to vote for are primarily fervent supporters of neo-liberal, free-market economics,” you’re ignoring the fact that there’s more to policy than the economy. Yes, neither large party has an economic or environmental policy that works for me — but one of the candidates (and the people he stands for) has a far less heinous social agenda than the other. If the only issue on the table was the economy, the difference would be harder to see, but there’s one party that’s very clearly in a different century regarding women’s rights and bodily autonomy, and a very very different page than I am regarding the rights of people across the sexual spectrum. Yes, there is an extent to which our institutions are set up such that social policy reflects economic policy, but I’d rather have a president who’s at least willing to take baby steps in the right direction rather than confident strides in the wrong one.

wjw September 21, 2012 at 2:50 am

When I see something from the Duck Monkey, I can only think to myself, “My, how my little boy has grown up!”

I’m inclined to agree with Density Duck. When I see poor people not paying taxes, I say to myself, “Hey, they’re poor people— can’t squeeze blood from a stone.” When I see rich people not paying taxes, I think: “Hey, corruption!”

I think I’m also pretty much right on the money.

What I find funny is how much rich people =whine= about paying taxes. I’m middle class these days, and I just paid my estimated taxes, and I voice no complaints. But rich folks who pay at a lower rate than I do never cease to snivel and whine and pity themselves.

I guess the rich =have= to be good at self-pity, because no one else is going to pity them.

Dave Bishop September 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

I agree with you, Mastadge; there certainly is more to policy than the economy – but try telling that to the politicians! I suspect that as the neo-liberal agenda continues to fail, policies, in areas other than the economy, will continue to drift to the right.

DensityDuck September 22, 2012 at 8:32 am

“When I see poor people not paying taxes, I say to myself, “Hey, they’re poor people— can’t squeeze blood from a stone.” ”

I thought it was important to pay your fair share. That’s what people always say when they talk about bumping up the top end of the tax bracket. And yet when it comes to poor people it’s somehow not important that they pay their fair share, not important that they have some skin in the game, not important that they contribute to the society which they benefit from merely by living in it, not important that they pay for the police and fire protections that let them live.

Talking about taxes is grade-school stuff anyway. If people honestly wanted to do something about rich money, they’d need to start confiscating stock options and bank accounts and land. Warren Buffet could decide to retire tomorrow, and if he spent a million dollars a year he could keep going for forty-five centuries and he wouldn’t pay a dime in income tax. And I very much doubt that anyone would look at Warren Buffet and say “oh poor man, he has no job and has to live off his savings”.

Mastadge September 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The poor do pay their fair share and more to contribute to the society they benefit from. Many may pay fewer or no federal taxes, but poorer communities routinely tax themselves at a far higher rate on the local level than more affluent communities, especially since that’s where a big chunk of school funding comes from. Unfortunately a huge amount of urban property — museums, universities, g’ment buildings, parks, etc — don’t pay into the property taxes that go toward schools, and so even though poorer urban communities often tax themselves at a much higher rate than adjacent richer communities, their schools are still often much more poorly funded. The police and fire departments you mention also come out of state, city and local taxes, not the federal income taxes that keep getting talked about. When people complain about how the poor don’t pay taxes, I wonder just what percent of their income has gone to taxes in comparison to those they’re complaining about.

Ralf The Dog. September 23, 2012 at 5:14 am

“I thought it was important to pay your fair share. That’s what people always say when they talk about bumping up the top end of the tax bracket. And yet when it comes to poor people it’s somehow not important that they pay their fair share, not important that they have some skin in the game, not important that they contribute to the society which they benefit from merely by living in it, not important that they pay for the police and fire protections that let them live.”

The fair share of the economically disadvantaged is, doing their best to have a place to sleep, not starve to death and send their kids to school. Taxes should be based on disposable income. When all of your income goes to food, shelter and transportation for keeping a job, you have no disposable income. If the economically disadvantaged ever have a bit of spare cash, I would prefer it be used to make their life better and move out of that bracket or at a minimum, spend a bit having some fun so their lives are less of a living hell.

Forcing a minimum wage worker, trying to feed their family, to pay income tax, just so I can get a bit of a break on my capitol gains would be the ultimate jerk move.

d brown September 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm

 Mitt Romney is just the front man for something that has been running for forever. Conservatism had a far different meaning than it has taken on today here. It conveyed a sense of practicality and a respect for reason then, rather than than the irrational belligerence and a disdain for facts now. The power of money buys power. The Republicans mess up so bad people vote for Democrats to fix it. The power of money starts working and people start thinking the people who are fixing the mess they found somehow made it. Then the Republicans get the power back and mess up so bad…. The fact is that “The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.” – G.K. Chesterton . Orwell said something like the only purpose of power is power. “The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, because the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad.

The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them more easy victims of a big lie than a small one, because they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.
Such a form of lying would never enter their heads. They would never credit others with the possibility of such great impudence as the complete reversal of facts. Even explanations would long leave them in doubt and hesitation, and any trifling reason would dispose them to accept a thing as true.
Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most imprudent of lies, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well, and therefore they stop at nothing to achieve this end.”
~ Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

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