Aug 02, 2012
By Leonard Hoffman
In a relatively weak economy, one business that keeps going well is the liquor business. It seems that wealthy people like their scotch and Brandy, and those on hard times need something to see them through. This summer, backyard and yacht deck conversations will frequently turn to the election.
Some percentage of voters will stick strictly to party lines. But a good many swing voters will listen to competing messages and make a decision over the next few months that will indeed impact them if one party or the other gains significant central power for the next four years.
Republicans want this election to be on the state of your affairs compared to four years ago. There are two intelligent aspects to this strategy. First, the general electorate of America has increasingly been more and more amnesiac. If they accept this premise as their focal point then they might accept the statements about four years ago. The specific numbers of four years ago do not look so bad. At this time four years ago in metaphorical terms we were on an elevator at the third floor going down from six. The smaller number of voters — those who lost their jobs and have not recovered — are the only ones to really remember that by six months later they slammed into a basement and haven’t been able to get out. For the rest of us the general malaise is uncomfortable. It seems as though something should be doable to get things on a more comforting track. We’ve got a choice and who we are as a nation is at stake.
The distilled issues of the 2012 campaign were laid out by President Obama in a speech in Cleveland in June. The President cannot be reelected on the record of the last four years but that was clear over two years ago. The sluggishness of the world economy, devastated by the bursting financial bubble, and compounded by an ever expanding supply of worldwide labor is beyond the influence of the President’s administration. If the President had a Congress interested in America’s betterment instead of his political demise over the past three and a half years, our current state might be better but we have no way of knowing. Given these circumstances, the President must run on what the election should be about anyway. What are Obama’s and Romney’s competing views on the future?
Obama will try to hinge the election on the unhinged Republican-Ryan-Romney budget proposals. The concept of balance, as in balanced budgets and balanced solutions, is replaced by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and his followers with the concept of bold. We were told the Ryan budget is a bold approach which nuns, on a bus ride around the country, are decrying as an affront to the Catholic values that Ryan claims to represent. A Jewish synonym might be Chutzpah.
There is much to deconstruct about the Ryan plan to slash the social safety net while gifting more tax cuts to the richest folks in the country. Behind all this is the justification that “Socialist Obama” wants everyone to have equal outcomes. The nanny state is his goal and government programs are the vehicle. Of course it is a lie. The objectives our country evolved to and had been to give everyone equal opportunity. We were in a relatively balanced state until 1980 when Ronald Reagan introduced supply side economics and tripled our national debt, with his policies carrying into the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. By the time Clinton’s tax increases contributed to turning the deficits into surpluses, the debt had climbed to about $5 trillion. Then the Bush wars and tax cuts doubled it again to $10 trillion.
President Obama came to office in February 2009 with $1.2 trillion deficits fully baked in for fiscal year ended September 2009. It was not Obama that tripled the deficit, but a combination of a massive drop in tax receipts and increased unemployment payments. Famously, an Obama aid said we needed to stimulate the economy to keep unemployment below eight percent. She did not think, at the moment she spoke, that the elevator drop was only half over.
Asked who is responsible for our present state, voters by about 49 – 33 blame Bush, not Obama. If that ratio holds, if Latinos remain repulsed by Romney’s policies, and if voter suppression does not gain serious traction, Obama may win reelection. At that time we can start asking again how to attain equal opportunity. To those who claim to care about it, we have become the most unequal society in the industrialized world and the opportunity to move up, in economic class terms, has become the most unattainable. To those people I ask: “At What Age?”
Equal opportunity does not begin at age 21 or 18. It begins the latest at birth. In the U.S. there is already a widening mortality rate for births of poor people. Nutritional and attention deficits by age two may not be insurmountable but by five there are. In order to rebalance our society (and reclaim our humanity) we need to accept changes. Most people are ready for changes but a handful of the richest in our country are not.
The hedge fund manager feeding $350 a bottle wine to Paul Ryan, the Koch Brothers, Paul Singer, and Sheldon Adelson are among the oligarchs who are funding the Romney superpacs. These are investments in a politician, who would lower their taxes further, deregulate polluting industries, eliminate the estate tax and privatize social security. Medicare is also on the chopping block but deserves much more attention.
Obama’s election troubles stem from his non confrontational demeanor. When inaugurated he could have invoked the legacy of FDR, who saved us from both communism and fascism from within, by stirring the population to invest in itself. Instead, to attempt bipartisanship, he invoked Reagan’s legacy of working with both sides – Democrats would love to have some folks to work with. Somehow, he expected the oligarchs to pat him on the back and recognize that there are people living in the country they own.
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