Editorial: Razzle dazzle of the GOP
As the Republican National Convention winds down in storm-soaked Tampa, the Democrats will gear up for their rebuttal the following week in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is an improbably close election for all the wrong reasons: Republicans smell victory in the historic fact that no standing president has been reelected with the unemployment rate hovering near 8 percent and the economy in the drink for most of President Obama’s first term; Democrats are right to counter that the root causes of the economic doldrums were the policies of Republican President George W. Bush — policies that the Romney-Ryan ticket would not only replicate, but exasperate by doubling-down on tax breaks for the wealthy, while cutting even more benefits (thus reducing their spendable income) to the other 95 percent of Americans.
Like any good magic show, the Republican convention is meant to fool the audience with a razzle-dazzle that distracts from the real action going on behind the scene. The heart-felt speech by Ann Romney was right on cue with her effort to try to convince women across America they could all “trust Mitt” because he’s really a decent fellow way down underneath. And even if his party and his running mate Paul Ryan have primitive thoughts about women’s rights, Mitt wouldn’t dare let the party compromise the hard-fought rights women have won over the past 50 years. Forget also about his job and a career that busted up American companies and shipped hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas, here’s a guy with true compassion for the little guy, she says with a smile, blonde hair flowing and a shiny red dress glimmering in the lights.
That’s followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s fire-and-brimstone speech delivered with a booming voice in which he proclaimed, “I know this simple truth, and I’m not afraid to say it… our ideas are right for America, and their ideas have failed America.”
Which ideas would those be, Mr. Christie? The two tax cuts passed early in President George W. Bush’s reign that favored the wealthy and led to the immediate reversal of fortunes in the nation’s budget – from a healthy surplus under President Clinton to massive deficits during Bush’s eight years in office? Or would those ideas be taking our military focus off Afghanistan to invade Iraq, sending our military expenses soaring but making no provisions to pay for those expenses other than by piling it on to the national debt for future generations and future presidents to deal with? Would those ideas be approving a Medicare expansion bill that vastly increased federal cost while providing much of the benefit to pharmaceutical companies, courtesy of the Republican Party? Would those ideas be to cut federal aid to college student loans, disregard the science of climate change, reduce job training programs, loosen the federal regulations around the banking and finance industries and let the free market run wild as it did on the lead-up to the fiscal meltdown in 2007? Is that the simple truth Mr. Christie speaks of with no fear of retribution or guilt?
He is unafraid because he is also unabashed in his party’s belief that the only way this nation works is if the rich get richer and lead the other 95 percent forward. It’s the old trickle-down economic theory laden with red, white and blue ribbons. The spiel works for too many because people love dazzle, and they want to believe what they hear. It is also particularly hard for Americans to believe that a president, or a party, would deliberately pursue policies that would undermine their personal well-being, reduce their wealth and cut current benefits that prevent hundreds of thousands of Americans from falling into poverty.
But President Bush and Republican leaders did just that, and did it with a smile.
Romney would do the same, only worse. This time, the Romney tax cuts would go on top of the Bush cuts, not because he would want to put his own stamp on things, but because this Republican Congress is even more conservative and ideologically irresponsible than the Congress of 2001. Spending on defense, which is already out of control, would also increase under the Romney-Ryan ticket, not because it makes sense, but because it plays to the nationalistic fervor among the far right. Whether needed or not, supporting our troops with more money is more akin to patriotism than balancing any budget. Worse, too, because to achieve the reductions in spending they say they want, a Romney-Ryan administration would have to drastically reduce the safety net that protects individuals and contributes to the greater good of our communities and states.
The reason the Republican Party will not be mentioning George W. Bush at this convention, let alone give him a prominent speaking role, is because even Republicans understand he wrecked the nation’s economy after eight years of inattentive recklessness. No amount of magic can erase that.
But what is dawning on the American electorate is that it wasn’t the man, it was his policies — and the Republicans policies have remained the same under the Romney-Ryan ticket. The Republican Convention does its job by providing distractions from the reality, and the party may well fool the public for a moment, but the sharper tools in the shed know it’s not really magic, but trickery — and it’s not trickery they want in a president.
President Obama was dealt a bad hand when he inherited the economy in the beginning of the worst recession this nation has seen in 75 years. A recalcitrant Republican House compounded the problem by stymieing more aggressive economic stimulus that economists the nation over have now said were, in retrospect, needed to get the economy moving again. It’s the Republican policies and ideas that have failed America. That’s historic fact, no matter how much Mr. Christie and others would like to make those years simply disappear.
What President Obama must do in North Carolina next week, along with exciting his base and inspiring independents, is simple math. At some point, he should — in the style of Ross Perot — take pencil to paper and draw simple graphs showing the economic collapse and its recovery; show jobs losses during 2007-08-09, versus job gains now; show the rising wealth gap and a pie chart of who owns the nation’s wealth; show how it would be made worse by the Romney-Ryan ticket. Then talk about what needs to happen to make America’s vast middle-class more prosperous and why doing so is good for business.
It’s eighth-grade math that isn’t all that hard to understand when you take away the dazzle and distractions Republicans use to seemingly pull a rabbit out of their top hat.
Angelo S. Lynn
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