by Don Washington on 2012/10/06
After the now infamous 47% speech, which didn’t even come up during the debate, it seems that Mitt Romney has been given a pass on his less than empathic worldview. But it’s not the callousness that bothered me or the rest of the Tutorial staff. He’s a conservative Republican, that’s a synonym for callousness. No, what bothers everyone around here about Mitt is that he honestly appears to have no idea how the economy works… or he is truly a more monstrous and cynical sociopath than anyone has given him credit for. To be fair, however, he doesn’t have be evil or ignorant… he could be a subtle and destructive blend of both.
You might think, like Mittens, that the private economy and government are two separate things that have a hostile relationship not unlike that between a vampire and holy water. In this view the private economy creates wealth and the government taxes that wealth and spends it on things. This acts as a drag on the “productive” economy as it competes for resources within that economy and limits growth and creativity with regulations of all sorts. In this idiot’s view of the world the government is a vampire that feeds on the profits of the private economy and gives that money to people who may not deserve it and on projects that are often wasteful at best and corrupt at worst. It also, very rarely, spends money on important things we all need and that society wants. When it does this and it is not a military thing that is almost an accident. When Mittens says he knows that there are 47% of the people in the country who feel entitled to say… food or healthcare, don’t pay income tax and are dependent on the government he demonstrates that he holds the above view.
So is he willfully ignorant or just a mendacious prick-rat-bastard? Let’s review what anyone who does what he’s done for a living for certain already knows about how government and the private economy work together. Mr. Romney certainly knows that the most successful, profit-generating corporations in America have armies of lobbyists, lawyers and financial specialists that are tasked to find and/or create as many government subsidies, deductions, exemptions, contracts and programs that they can to the tune of billions of dollars. Since Mitt knows this to be true he must have certain… if not carnal knowledge of three undeniable realities.
First, the tax burden on corporations, as a share of what they contribute to the federal/societal income has been shrunk like cashmere sweater on cotton-heat dry. How bad have things gotten? Well for every dollar ordinary humans pay corporations pay a quarter and once Obama drives down their tax rates to 25% that number is going to start resembling a dime for a dollar. This didn’t happen overnight damn it. It took thirty years of hard work and determination to give corporations this kind of power and their advantages over the rest of us and Mittens knows this.
Second, corporations take far more money out of the federal coffers than any collection of citizens and work very hard to put in as little as possible. How little do they pay in? Well it is not uncommon for the ones making the largest profits to not pay anything and get rebates on the taxes they did not pay ranging into the billions. Third, corporations invest a great deal of time, power and money in creating new ways to extract more money from the government. For example, at a time of economic distress both parties are eagerly talking about lowering the corporate tax rate while calling on you to share some damn sacrifice to the point where they are willing to raise their own taxes a tiny and temporary bit.
A little question here, let's say I make a 100 million dollars and it get taxed at 90%... how much will my lifestyle change? Not hardly at all I think. Now, how much less money will I be able to pour into altering public policy, buying elections and snapping up other parts of the economy if I only have a "spare" 10 million as opposed to 100 million? The answer is a whole hell of a lot less money. Austerity, Grand Bargain... whatever it's called is a truly bad idea. Any extra cash it ever raises is eventually loop-holed away in the future for the rich and the CORPORATIONS START with a giant tax break to help lobby for the future tax cuts their wealthy owners will be getting. It is heads we lose, tails they win and Mittens knows this the way he knows his way around the Book of Mormon. (I hear the man is a Bishop or Elder... or both...the story, like so much with Mittens is really hard to nail down as it keeps changing.)
This trio of realities reveals an ugly and uncomfortable set of truths. Corporations are not rich because they are masters of some ephemeral thing called a market. They are rich because they do everything in their power to drain public wealth into their private pockets while sharing as little of their wealth with the public as they possibly can. If there is a parasite on society’s body-politic it’s not the 47% of people who do not earn enough money to pay federal income taxes it is people like Mittens and he has to know this. This is the kind of thing that makes you think, yep, he’s evil and we should start looking for tar and feathers at his next campaign stop where we can get to him. But he might also just be ignorant. Let me explain.
Now Mittens has more money than I will ever see. I dare say he has more money than all 20,000 or so of you who will read this combined and a lot of you cats have jobs. So how is it possible that he is ignorant of this basic aspect of the economy? I mean if such is the case why does he have more money than all of us put together? What he is ignorant of is that one can work sixty to eighty hours a week and not get ahead. It’s the kind of ignorance that makes him bet people $10,000 dollars or say that middle class people earn $250,000 a year or wonder why one doesn’t borrow $20,000 from one’s parents and start a business. He honestly believes such things are not outside the norm. It’s also why he’s probably genuinely shocked that this election continues to be a referendum on what he represents not Obama’s frankly disappointing record of economic half-measures. Apparently people are more appalled that a member of the corporate elite has decided to step from behind to curtain to formally claim the government than be upset at the President for protecting them that same government's paltry attempts at reform.
The problem that Mittens is encountering is that he has to have some way to justify the obscene pile of money that he and his heirs have. Since he refuses to give public policy/society any credit for his obvious financial genius he has to construct a belief system that justifies his gross wealth and the resulting economic inequality. So in this new world his wealth is natural and deserved because he is just that much better than the rest of us. Because if he doesn’t then he begins to share a lot of traits in common with a conscious-less sociopath and no one, not even Mitt wants to be that guy. And this is where Mitt gets kind of a pass because I honestly believe that he honestly believes what he said about the 47% of the rest of us because it makes him feel better and protects him from being an evil prick-rat-bastard.
If we’re free-loading, welfare cheats, that won’t take personal responsibility for ourselves, don’t care about ourselves, or our children because we’re all looking for handouts and are not willing to put in the hard work or the effort to achieve economic security then Mittens and his friends are the flip side of that coin. They are hard-working people, who take personal responsibility for their actions, don’t want or need handouts and as a result they are economically stable. The more stable/fantastically rich they are the harder they must have worked and are working. They deserve their rewards and redistribution of wealth amounts to a criminal punishment of their success. I fact to suggest any redistribution of wealth, one of the three things government does, the other two being tax and spend, is a thing of crass envy... class warfare.
He buys this story. He and his are entitled to every penny they have earned. It explains his good fortune, social position, great wealth and power and theirs as well. But the most important thing it does it is absolves him and them from any responsibility to people who do not take responsibility for themselves. The riff when Mittens explains that people are not entitled to healthcare, food or shelter gives you some insight to how he might also feel about education and possibly voting. It also tells you that the concept of starving children and the parents does not bother him on a moral and philosophical level. In his moral universe he’s not callous or cruel he’s justified. Not surprisingly it also proves that he doesn’t understand how the economy works.
There is a term in economics called “full employment” since 7.8% unemployment has become a thing to dance jubilantly around about, and people are starting to think of 8% as the new normal, you have probably not heard anyone talking about this concept. Full employment is the maximum number of people an economy can put to work. There is some horrifying talk that America is at full employment right now. That would be really bad news and fly in the face of centuries of economic history and theory but it would also make this Grand Bargain-Fiscal Cliff-Austerity-Sequester monkey dance insanity decent public policy. This would be because we've done all we can do to employ people or tax them within the limits of good fiscal policy so all we can do is share some sacrifice. The Grand Bargain by the way is that the rich will temporarily pay a little more and we will permanently cut Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security in some way as well as a host of other public programs to make the budget whole.
Now let us take a deep breath and get our tiny minds around what this all means. It means that there are always people, who no matter how hard they look for work will be out of work. This is called “frictional unemployment” and is considered a “natural” outcome of a capitalist economy. We could spend a lot of time fighting over the reality of this definition or how many people are "frictioned" into unemployment but for certain there will always be someone without a gig somewhere in the economy through no fault of their own and there will always be millions of them. Mittens may not be aware of this fact. Not knowing this and believing the fairy tale he and his ilk tell each other and the rest of us is the worst sort of ignorance. That fairy tale being about rugged individualism, competition and free people using free markets to innovate also absolves him and society of any responsibility to the common good.
In fact there is no such thing as a social contract or the common good in his world view. In fact, if these lazy unemployed people starve in the streets that is too damn bad. If they riot in the streets that's why we have policemen, the PATRIOT ACT the MCA and the NDAA to put an end to that kind of unruliness. And you thought those were for terrorists... silly, silly rabbits. Mittens is not confused about the danger we pose if we get hungry and desperate enough. Property rights don't mean a lot if there are not enough ways to put down the rabble... ask Louis the 14th.
You see in Mitt’s world being poor makes you undeserving because poverty already indicates dependency, slothfulness and worse. He holds you in disdain because your economic status defines you as a lazy, parasitic non-person. He should not be encouraging your bad behavior by giving you any of his money. If pity moves him to act to help the unworthy poor that’s his business and in this formulation anyone who is poor is by definition unworthy. This is why Mitt isn’t worried about the very poor; it’s not on him or anyone who doesn’t want to worry about them to worry about them. That’s why it’s called charity damn it. Let the churches do what they were created for and leave business and the worthy producers alone. When these people get hungry enough they'll find a job you wait and see.
The serious point here is that Mitt probably believes in his heart of hearts that the difference between himself and anyone born in America is effort. The most potent lies are those we tell ourselves and the most deadly ones are those that allow us to see ourselves as victims. Mitt and the productive members of society are victims. He and they have had enough of our mewling and undeserved demands for government services that he and the rest of the productive job creators have earned and demand more of. So just remember that Mitt Romney and those like him know that they have many advantages over you and are fighting for more of them because they honestly believe that you don’t deserve a single government service you can’t afford to buy. Whe you vote on the 6th... keep this in mind.