Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category


Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?

October 3, 2012

After my last post, a friend of mine directed me to an article in Salon which points out that Romney can’t run on his most significant achievement – passing universal healthcare coverage in Massachusetts. Obama co-opted it and the GOP vilified it, so Romney’s had to campaign on repealing Obamacare. It was the one issue the Republican might have used to convince voters that he cares about them, that he understands their struggles, and it’s gone. When I read the Salon piece, I felt kind of sorry for Mitt Romney for a moment. It was the way I so often felt about John McCain in 2008; a sadness for him that he had been forced so far to the right by the most vocal, rabid voices in his party. But the feeling quickly passed. Whatever McCain’s motivations were, he made the choice to abandon his deeply held convictions to become his party’s nominee. To do that, he had to convince himself that he believed a lot of the far-right nonsense. He couldn’t just lie, he had to believe the lie himself. The tragedy of John McCain was that his party had no use for him as coalition-building moderate, a war hero who stood up for the Geneva Conventions. But McCain needed the party; somehow, he needed the validation so much that he gave up all that was special about him for a shot at the presidency. It’s tragic, and I say that without any irony or sarcasm. McCain had been a great man, with deeply-held convictions, but he sold himself out and got nothing in return.

That is not the story of Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney will say anything, take any position, if he thinks it will appeal to voters. He has demonstrated for months that he will lie, easily and often. In abandoning support for universal healthcare, Romney didn’t turn away from his core principles. Nothing in his biography suggests that universal coverage has ever meant anything to him. It was popular in Massachusetts. The nation was headed for healthcare reform, and with his presidential aspirations, it seemed to be a shrewd move. It didn’t pay off because his party lost its collective damn mind, but his work on healthcare had never reflected Mitt Romney’s true convictions. Mitt Romney’s True Conviction is simply “The Best for Mitt Romney.” This was his motivation when he was a young man protesting against opposing the draft (seriously, where does the GOP find these people?), while getting four years of deferments himself. The Best for Mitt Romney was his guiding star as he built a firm that sucked all the value out of the American companies for no reason other than exponentially increasing his own wealth and the wealth of a handful of other ludicrously wealthy individuals.* And since he entered politics, it has been his only True North. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about jobs, the environment, Israel, Iran, government regulations, aborted babies, farmers, auto workers, children, teachers, healthcare, the troops, or even taxes. Mitt Romney cares only for Mitt Romney – and if changing the tax code helps Mitt Romney, then that’s what Mitt Romney will do. Abandoning universal healthcare put him in a position to improve the world for Mitt Romney, so he pivoted on a dime. It’s what makes it so easy for him to shift positions – none of them have ever been anything but a means to his only end. Truth has no hold on him, because the Truth does not advance the cause of Romney’s Own Good. It’s a mind-bogglingly simple understanding of self-interest. We’ve had tons of corrupt pols in our history, but even they seemed to have some ethic outside of their own enrichment, or at least to be aware of the game they were playing with the world. Not so with Mitt Romney. He appears to be wholly unconcerned with ethics, with truth, with right or wrong. He has no political philosophy at all. Its not a that he’s a craven opportunist, or has been bullied to the right by his party. He’s just truly, deeply committed to making this a Better World for Mitt Romney.

“These colors really bring out my Mitt Romneyness.  Vertical stripes would make me look taller, though. Somebody get on that.”

* Yes, I am going to keep linking to that Rolling Stone article about Bain in every single post until you’ve all read it, why do you ask?


Let Them Eat Cake! In the Ambulance! (The Problem with Romney’s Money, part 2)

September 27, 2012

I said in my last post that Mitt Romney’s wealth doesn’t disqualify him from the presidency, but that his attitude about his wealth, and the way he has let it shape his world view, are real problems. Not only does Romney have an incredible sense of entitlement, and a blindness to the privileges that have made his success possible, he also seems completely oblivious to the way ordinary Americans live.

A leader has the capacity of vision, the ability to see where things are headed before people in general see those things. That vision is typically a product, in part not just of their skill and brilliance, but even more of their experience, their life experience. And so if you’re looking for a leader to guide an economy, you hope that you have someone who didn’t just study it in school, but someone who’s actually lived in the economy.

That’s Mitt Romney, making a fine case against a Romney presidency on 60 Minutes. Romney’s great privilege has made his life experience so unlike that of most Americans, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that he has risen to his party nomination for POTUS without showing any curiosity about how it is that most Americans live. This has led to some amazingly tone-deaf pronouncements from the candidate. “I like to fire people.” If you can’t afford college, “borrow money from your parents.” From the 60 Minutes interview, his plan for middle class tax relief – “eliminating the tax for middle-income families on interest, dividends, and capital gains” – as if these were even on the radar for most of us. And of course this gem:

Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and — and die. We — we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care.

Oh. My. Lord. There really is not one single issue on which he can relate to people of average income, is there? Forget policy – forget that everyone knows that emergency room care is the least cost effective way to provide care for those without insurance. Forget that people without insurance don’t just have heart attacks – they get little things like strep throat that can become much worse things if untreated, but are a terrible use of ER resources. Forget, if you can, that a lot of people have serious medical issues – cancer comes to mind – that cannot be treated with in an emergency room visit. Forget, for a moment, that our hypothetical heart attack victim probably had hypothetical hypertension for years, and that if she had insurance she would have been treating her blood pressure and would not now need a $1,000 ambulance ride and several additional thousands of dollars in ER bills – in fact she’d never know that today was the day she would’ve had a heart attack. Instead, remember this:

Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis.

She has been under a doctor’s care for 14 years, and is almost certainly on a host of prescription medications to manage her condition. If she had been uninsured, she would not have been able to get insurance until Obamacare passed. If Obamacare is repealed, thousands of people diagnosed with MS will not be able to afford treatment, unless they bankrupt themselves paying for it out of pocket and become sufficiently poor to qualify for Medicaid. But even knowing all of that, Mitt Romney is determined to repeal it.

Speaking of Ann, she gave a lovely speech at the RNC about the idyllic poverty of the Romneys’ student days as a young married couple living off the sale of stock. Sawhorse tables and tuna and macaroni and cheese. See, she was saying, we know your struggle. We’ve lived it. But they never did. All the milk-crate furniture in the world doesn’t mean you know what struggling is – because poverty isn’t crazy-quilt carpeting or Hamburger Helper. Poverty is FEAR. The fear that comes from knowing you have no cushion, no safety net, no one you know who is in a position to help you. Poverty is having your wife diagnosed with MS and knowing you cannot help her because neither of your full-time jobs provides health insurance. Poverty is your kid having strep throat and missing school for a whole week instead of 2 days because you can’t afford the doctor. Poverty is knowing there’s a heart attack with your name on it, and no way to afford preventative care.  And far far too many Americans have lived with that fear. Not just the “very poor” Romney doesn’t concern himself with. Not just the 47% it is “not [his] job to worry about.” Far too many middle class Americans have inadequate or non-existent health insurance, and know that a serious illness would bankrupt them. And that is a condition that Willard Mitt Romney simply cannot fathom, and has never tried to comprehend – even when serious illness came to the woman he loves. Fear. Uncertainty. That’s what it means to “live in the economy,” Mitt. And you haven’t.


Which 47%, Exactly?!?

September 18, 2012

By now, you’ve all heard or read the heinous remarks Mitt Romney made at a fundraiser in Boca. Everyone from David Brooks to the Daily Kos has weighed in on his remarks about the 47%. What surprises me, though, is that almost no one is untangling Mitt’s logic and pointing out that he’s talking about apples and oranges and bananas as if they were all grapefruit.

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax… My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

What’s remarkable is not that Romney wrote off half the country (we knew that); what’s remarkable is that the mystical 47% refers, in the course of six sentences, to three very different things – Obama’s base, people receiving some form of government assistance, and finally to those who pay no federal income tax. Romney is referring to these as if they were all exactly the same thing, and of course, they AREN’T. But why would he do that? Look at the points one by one:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. It’s true. It’s also true that a similar percentage is locked and loaded for the GOP; there are far fewer “undecideds” in this race than in the past. This is the argument Romney fell back on in defending these statements to the press: he’s not trying to win over this 47%, he’s trying to appeal to the five-to-seven percent who still are undecided. There’s nothing inflammatory about this at all, it’s conventional wisdom that this election belongs to the candidate who turns out his base and captures enough undecided voters to close it out.

“All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement.” Wait – what?!?!? According to a libertarian think-tank at George Mason University, nearly half of American households receive some kind of government assistance. That includes food stamps and housing assistance, to be sure, but it also includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as unemployment benefits. It includes all of the elderly who paid into the system all of their working lives, and are now receiving what they are, yes, entitled to. Yet Romney states this as if the “47 percent who are with [Obama]” is the same as the 47% “dependent upon government.” This clearly untrue. Many middle class and and wealthy voters receive no government assistance and yet support Obama, including me. More tellingly, large numbers of the working poor who receive some government aid still vote for Republicans. Some of them really do believe in trickle-down economics, despite decades of proof that it doesn’t work. Some of them are single-issue values voters, who will never vote for anyone pro-choice, or pro-marriage-equality. And some of them simply have what one article (the one link I can’t find) recently called  “a deep-seated personal antipathy towards Obama,” which is a really nice way of saying they are racist. In any case, there’s no truth to the idea that Obama’s base is entirely composed of those who receive benefits, or that those who receive benefits will automatically vote for him.

(No. I’m not even going to TOUCH the hateful assertion that those receiving government benefits “believe they are victims” or won’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” I know Mitt Romney lives in a gilded bubble, and that he was speaking to a room full of similarly insulated hyper-wealthy individuals, but this is so desperately insulting to working people, to the elderly, and to our nation as a whole that it makes my brain explode. I’m saving that for tomorrow.)

These are people who pay no income tax.” There is quite a bit of overlap between those who receive government benefits and those who pay no taxes, simply because our tax system is (sanely and humanely) structured to limit the tax burden on the very poor. So yes, many elderly people receiving social security pay no income taxes. Many working class families pay income taxes and then receive a full refund because the standard deductions cover their liability. But you know who else doesn’t pay income taxes? Students working part-time while they go through college. U.S. soldiers in combat zones. Oh, and of course, Mitt Romney and the thousands of other households in the top 3% of incomes who manage to zero-out their taxes with deductions, credits, and manipulation.

The sad fact is, Romney is conflating these three ideas – Obama’s base, those receiving federal aid, and those who pay no taxes – for a simple and craven reason. This is their narrative, repeated again and again at the Values Voters Summit this past weekend:

“There’s a growing segment of the American population that is dependent on government funds and largesse,” says Dean Welty, an activist from Virginia. “Many of them give the Obama administration credit for that. We have the largest number of people on welfare we’ve ever had. We have the largest number of people on unemployment. It’s not good for the country, but it’s good for Obama.”

and again, from The Slate,

“Forty-seven million on food stamps and the regime is advertising for more,” said [Rush] Limbaugh in July. “We have 47, 48 percent who pay no income taxes. We have 3 million more off the unemployment rolls and on the disability rolls, and they all vote.”

Romney was speaking directly to this Republican narrative, stoking the fears of those who believe our black president is willfully destroying the economy to create a culture of dependence to expand his base. In this hateful scenario, Obama voters are all welfare queens, living off hardworking folks like you and me. They contribute NOTHING, they don’t even pay taxes, they refuse to take responsibility for themselves, and that’s the culture this president encourages….

It’s a sad and horrifying mash-up of Ayn-Randian narcissism, paranoia, and racism. It’s the crudest, basest dog-whistle, but it works, apparently even with multi-millionaires. I suppose they too may have “deep-seated personal antipathy” towards President Obama.