Self-Cancelling Romney

Mitt Romney has covered his tracks so many times in this campaign that he’s left  no footprints in the sand whatsoever. Nobody knows how he will govern, what policies he will pursue, or even what he might say tomorrow. He may be the first entirely self-cancelling Presidential candidate. His demagoguery has turned into a case of self-erasure.

The self-cancellation goes beyond mere flip-flopping, hedging  or prevaricating, into the realm of Alice-In-Wonderland absurdity. For example, his “$5 billion tax cut” plan is said to be “revenue neutral,” but this benign-sounding “neutrality” relies on a complex two step: cut taxes 20 percent across the board (on top of renewing the 35% Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent), but then “neutralize” those tax cuts by eliminating certain (unspecified) deductions and loopholes. When pressed as to the details of these proposed deduction and loophole eliminations , Romney says “take any number you like–say 15%” (or “say 20%”). He really seems to just be making this stuff up as he goes along. Take any position you want.

What he hasn’t explained is why bother with any of this at all if it is “revenue neutral?” What will be gained in the process? Again, when pressed, he offers yet another shimmering chimera that melts away upon further inspection: good old “job-creation.” He of course never bothers to go much into cause and effect, nor explains why old-school Keynesian stimulus won’t be a much easier way to create jobs.

The same process of self-cancellation occurs in his ever-shifting foreign policy positions. Pivoting from bellicosity to peace and reconciliation makes him sound like he agrees with all of Obama’s foreign policies. Again, why bother to change if the change won’t amount to any real difference? Running as an “severe conservative” for two years, and then suddenly, seeing the campaign slip away, Romney abandoned the hard-edged right and started talking up the role of government, the importance of bi-partisanship, the need to compromise in foreign policy, etc.  But–as all abusive personalities realize, too late–menace trumps reconciliation emotionally. The threat lingers on, not mitigated by empty words of apology or placation.The Afghans, Russians, Syrians, Palestinians and Iranians will no doubt lose sleep starting Nov. 7 if Mitt is elected because they have no idea where he’ll come down on questions of hard-edged, confrontational American force vs. American “soft” persuasion. He’s either irrational, diabolic or confused, but which is it? His contradictory policy statements disappear into  a black hole of self-abnegation as he veers from reckless to feckless.

And then there’s everything else:
  • He was for ObamaCare before he was against it. But then he’s sort of for parts of it again.
  • He was all for voucherizing and privatizing (and thus effectively ending) Medicare, but now he’s sort of for keeping part of it, for now.
  • He was all for eliminating FEMA by turning it over to the states or privatizing it, but now he sees FEMA as a legitimate government function.
  • He was against Roe v. Wade but now says he has no plans to end it.
And so on, ad infinitum. There is seemingly no public issue of consequence that he doesn’t have two or three positions on. Mitt’s like one of those impossible natural wonders, like a gravity-defying house or a “cave of wonder.” He is a walking void, to be avoided.


“If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail”

The Romney-Ryan website’s foreign policy section, entitled “An American Century,”  is firmly rooted in the logic of classically Orwellian Cold War rhetoric:

Our country today faces a bewildering array of threats and opportunities. As president, Mitt Romney will safeguard America and secure our country’s interests and most cherished ideals. The unifying thread of his national security strategy is American strength. When America is strong, the world is safer. It is only American power—conceived in the broadest terms—that can provide the foundation for an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies.

A Romney foreign policy will proceed with clarity and resolve. Our friends and allies will not have doubts about where we stand and what we will do to safeguard our interests and theirs. Neither will our rivals, competitors, and adversaries. The best ally world peace has ever known is a strong America. The “last best hope of earth” was what Abraham Lincoln called our country. Mitt Romney believes in fulfilling the promise of Lincoln’s words and will defend America abroad in word and in deed.

The usual paradoxes apply: peace through strength, security through conflict, prosperity through power. It calls for a century-long vigilance (“resolve”) against weakness and apology; facing up to an unending cycle of threats from “rivals, competitors and adversaries,” necessitating a perpetual process of putting these rivals “on notice”.

The sketchiest assertions here are:

1) that America will dominate an entire century of world affairs and,

2) that “The best ally world peace has ever known is a strong America.”

“The best ally of world peace EVER KNOWN”


Who’s Better Off? Mitt Romney, For One

Romney’s Final 2011 return:

Adjusted gross income: $13,696,961

Total federal tax paid: $1,935,708

Effective federal tax rate: 14.1 percent

Romney’s Final 2010 return:

Adjusted gross income: $21,646,507

Total tax paid: $3,009,766

Effective rate: 13.9 percent

So Romney has made $34 million in just two years of the so-called “first socialist” (or redistributionist) President. While he won’t reveal any other taxes from previous years, let’s conservatively assume that he’s made at least a cool $60 million under Obama. So why does he want to change anything? Could he really be that avaricious?

Greed indeed seems to be the animating emotion of the Romney-Ryan-Rand ticket. Don’t forget that virtually all of Mitt’s income is from capital gains, interest and dividends. Is it any accident that the Ryan Plan would more or less eliminate these income streams from federal tax? Won’t Mitt become one of the 47% if Ryan has his way with the tax code? A recent Atlantic Magazine article estimates Romney’s post Romney-Ryan tax rate at .82 percent Let the Plutocrats’ Ball begin!

Mitt: Beware the “Are You Better Off?” Meme

In the first Presidential debate on October 3, Mitt Romney could well step into a political quicksand lurking just beneath the surface of his political taunt, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” If voters compare 10/3/12 with 10/3/08, Romney is sunk because the comparison is so revealing.

America’s economic house is hardly in order, but trend lines are promising: housing starts and new home sales at their highest levels in two years (and projected to climb 20% more by January, 2013), the DJIA is up about 50% since October, 2008, interest rates remain at record lows (and the Fed has vowed to keep them there until unemployment dips), corporate profits are at record highs, consumer confidence has more than doubled since President Obama’s inauguration, and more jobs have been added than lost every month now for almost three years.

Compare that to a panicked America on October 3, 2008. The financial world “was on the verge of an abyss,” as Paul Krugman put it in that day’s NY Times column. 603,000 jobs had been lost in September, 2008, compounding a 592,000 job drop in August, 2008. Sept. 29, 2008 had seen the Dow’s largest one-day point decline ever, 778 points. And then the bottom really dropped out: between Oct. 1, 2008 and October 10, 2008 the Dow suffered a gut-wrenching 2,400 point further drop, nearly 22% . Housing starts were at a 17 year low, and had fallen by two-thirds since January, 2006. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac were in federal conservatorship, Merrill Lynch and Washington Mutual were married shotgun-style to BOA, AIG had lost 95% of its stock value, Lehman had folded, and badly-rattled tough guy John McCain was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Americans quavered every time their boss walked by or another economic report loomed. No one wanted to hear or read the news–never a good sign.

As President Obama said in a mid-term self-evaluation, the President’s main job is to make Americans feel confident about the future. And there’s no doubt we’re more buoyant now than we were that horrid first week of October, 2008.