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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The PLATFORM On Which They Stand

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan spent little time this week defending, referring to, or touting the platform produced by the Republican National Convention.  Let’s be fair, the same could be said of many candidates after they are nominated and the conventions are over.  However, even though it has been implied that the platform means very little, it is clear that this is a document that defines where a party stands; it defines the “brand.”  As it says in the first sentence of the Preamble, “The 2012 Republican Platform is a statement of who we are and what we believe as a Party….”

In this case, it defines where the extreme right-wing of the Party stands.  Unfortunately, it is that wing that is now taking over, if it has not already, the heart and soul of the Republican Party.  Indeed, if Romney/Ryan want the complete support of their base, they will pay attention to what this platform says.  And, in that vein, it makes sense that all of us should pay attention.  The puppets at the top of the ticket are going to pay close attention simply because these provisions are the “strings” that will be pulled to make them dance during the campaign, and during a potential Romney administration.

That’s why, today, I want to pull out for your consideration, some of the adverse policies and concepts that will be the basis of actions in a Republican administration and in a Republican Congress.  You, as a citizen, will carry the burden of these unless you understand that a Republican in the White House, or in the majority of either the House or the Senate, will be disastrous for the middle class and for the ability of a national government to govern, to act globally and to solve national problems.  In brief, here are my nominations for some of the worst.

1)    “The best jobs program is economic growth.  Rely on energetic and entrepreneurial Americans to rebuild the economy.  Prosperity is the product of self-discipline, work, savings, and investment by individual Americans.  Our vision is of a free people using their God-given talents, combined with self-reliance, ethical conduct, and the pursuit of opportunity: an opportunity society.  Excessive taxation and regulation impede economic development.  Small businesses are the backbone of  the U.S. economy.”

    Strange, isn’t it, that the reality of free enterprise is not quite as rosy.  Think of those financial firms that used risky investments to destroy the savings of investors, or of those bankers who approved mortgages that could not be handled by consumers, or the regulators who let corporations get away with illegal practices (remember BP and the Gulf Oil Spill).  So, here we are at a fundamental point of disagreement.

    “Free enterprise” is also about profit-making, competition, finding an edge, displaying strength and over-powering weakness in order to destroy the competition.  It is about paying fewer taxes, keeping labor underpaid, getting rid of unions.  It is about tax breaks and reducing all regulations and oversight by government to the detriment of consumers.  It is about taking every advantage one can (is that what entrepreneurs do?) to loosen controls, restrictions, laws that protect consumers so that entrepreneurs can squeeze every bit of profit possible out of customers, trade partners, other nations, other businesses.  Free enterprise is not bland; it is not for the weak of heart. 

Free Enterprise is built not just on individual initiative but on individual and group manipulation of resources, of government, of buyers and sellers, of the public.  Why else do businesses spend billions on ads or lobbyists or lawyers or bundlers?  They aren’t running your neighborhood’s corner lemonade stand!  Free enterprise is a serious and gritty business, built upon manipulation of the public. So, perhaps when you see or hear the euphemistic phrase “free enterprise” you should think: “unfettered profit-taking” 

    Republicans believe that economic growth is tied to cuts in taxes and the reining in of regulations.  Experience has proven that tax breaks for “Job Creators” (the rich) is not the key to prosperity.  Too many of the “job creators” use their wealth for investments that simply make them richer!  Economic growth must be tied to a broad middle class with good jobs, adequate wages, and money to spend.  Labor and middle management are keys to making corporations and businesses work.  Opportunity is not just for the well-educated, the well-connected or the affluent.  It is a drag on the economy to have large chunks of our population living in poverty, unemployment, homelessness, or just struggling to make ends meet.  A vision that does not include a hand-up to the challenged results in a society pulled down by those who have little or no opportunity. 

    The Republican view of free enterprise is, in a word, incomplete.  They exist in a world in which only other CEOs exist.  They leave out a huge cohort of society, and thus weaken our entire society.  They are not to be trusted with “free enterprise” for they have failed to define it by a clear demonstration of broad opportunities for all.  We are all entrepreneurs, job creators and keys to prosperity.

2)    “We reject the use of taxation to redistribute income”

    Does that mean that special tax breaks for rich corporations should be shelved immediately?  Apparently not.  It means they oppose the re-distribution of tax revenue from the successful  and thus the deserving (the rich) to fund government programs for the undeserving, the uneducated, the unwashed and the irresponsible. 

    It doesn’t speak at all to the redistribution of taxes taken from the middle class to: extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the  wealthiest among us, or to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains; or the end of the inheritance tax or the repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax on corporations.   It does not speak to the use of the tax code to give breaks to rich multi-national corporations; or to special breaks for corporations like the big oil companies who receive billions in subsidies through the tax code; or the break given hedge fund financiers to count their income as capital gains at a lesser tax rate.  It does not speak to the way too many loopholes in the tax code allow some to prosper at the expense of the many.

3)    “Our goal is a tax system that is simple, transparent, flatter and fair.”

    Guess who benefits most from a flatter tax (let’s say around 23%) for everyone?   Well, since it raises the tax rate for many earning around $40-50,000 and reduces the millionaires rate by about 12%, I guess there can be no question who makes out best.  It’s a front for once again taking from the middle class to give to the rich.

4)    “Three Programs - Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security - account for…levels of spending and debt…already harming job creation and growth (and creating) projections of future spending growth…nothing short of catastrophic….”

    It can’t be said often enough:  Social Security is not a drag on the economy or the federal budget.  It has it’s own Trust Fund that is adequate for years and could be more so if the government paid back what it borrowed from that Fund, and if the cap on wages from which FICA is paid were raised to about $250,000!

    Personal bank or “investment” accounts as alternatives to our present system hold little promise for the under 55 year-old generations.  This is a sham (similar to Part D of Medicare) to give private investment companies access to funds that are not presently under their purview.  What a boon such personal accounts would be to these financial companies. 

    Medicare and Medicaid are flawed, yes.  They do need reform, yes.  But not in the way that Congressman Ryan proposes, for his aim is not reform, but fundamental change in the way Medicare operates.  Inadequate Government subsidies or vouchers or rebates will simply not cover the cost of adequate health care plans for the elderly, the disabled and the poor.  Once again, the proposal of the Republicans is a sham aimed at nothing more than getting rid of Medicare eventually (even though they now say that traditional Medicare will be available as an option - but in a form that covers little and is poorly administered since it will not be a primary concern of the federal government). 

    The Democrats and President Obama have already passed legislation - the Affordable Health Care Act -- which proposes changes in these programs, and which establishes a new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation designed to begin testing new ways of service delivery, improved quality of care and reduced rate of cost growth. 

    I have written elsewhere on this Blog several times of the true alternative to Medicare and Medicaid and that is a single-payer health care system overseen by government but utilizing private vendors where practical. 

5)    “Cutting spending is not enough; it must be accompanied by major structural reforms…and long-term government downsizing…”

    Here we have the essence of the Republican approach to government - down-sizing.  Unfortunately, Republican administrations are not know for down-sizing, but for increasing government when they are in control. 

    Secondly, there is no guarantee that a smaller government will be any more efficient or effective, and thirdly, cutting government is a euphemism for getting rid of programs and regulators that are in the way of the other aims of this Party:  cutting entitlements, regulatory reform, and public unions.  Their criteria for making cuts are phony; they will not follow them; they never have.  Their real criterion, of course, is their major desire to move as much government as possible to the States, where, in spite of their lofty rhetoric, what will happen is reduced administration, less staff, fewer benefits, and the erasure of mandates from the federal government.  A decision by a family to move from one state to another in this atmosphere will be greatly affected by what services are available (left) to individuals and families. 

    What Republicans fail to tell us, of course, is that the Obama administration has already instituted reasoned down-sizing and evaluation of departments and agencies throughout the national government.  Unfortunately, the Republican Congress has rejected the President’s plea for legislation to give him greater ability to re-organize.  And, by their negative attitude toward cuts in DoD, Republicans have demonstrated their inability to cut out unnecessary programs and contracts when the rubber actually hits the road!

The Republican platform is an exercise in rhetorical speech and euphemisms.  It is impossible to know what they are actually thinking or contemplating unless one interprets or translates their terms into the reality of their actions and their past records.  They are utterly incapable of speaking clearly or straightforwardly about anything.  And why is that?  Because their aims are not the aims of the majority of the electorate.  Their policies are not desirable when actually translated into legislation that restricts, that bites, that cuts, that diminishes or destroys.  The outcomes they seek are rarely in line with the rhetoric they use.  So hangs a tale of why many voters are bamboozled into voting for this party of destruction and regression.

It is clearly time for translation of their misleading verbiage.  We shall try to do more next time.