Monday, October 1, 2012

Catch This, Mitt

Dear Mitt,

I listened with great interest to the leaked audio of your comments to a small group of your ardent supporters because I was excited at the possibility of getting a chance to hear from you in a way that isn't possible through the media. These elections are so scripted and rehearsed that it's really hard to know what the candidates really believe. The system requires you to speak very carefully in public and makes it almost impossible for you to be perfectly frank. Everything you say is parsed, analyzed, scrutinized and sanitized to leave it devoid of any true content. The only things that get through are the short clever sound bites and these never really get to the heart of the issues. All we can do as voters is pick the candidate that seems the most capable of running through the obstacle course of the modern election process as a measure of your fitness and competence. In the end, it doesn't seem to matter what the candidates actually say, it only matters that they managed to avoid saying anything truly awful.

When I heard of this leak and the snippet that is getting the most attention I was also very skeptical. I first had to consider that the comments were taken out of context and distorted by your opposition. It doesn't seem like anyone in American politics is above taking a quote and leaving out the key words that make it clear what the speaker really meant. You've done this yourself repeatedly with the president's phrase "you didn't build that".  So it really wouldn't surprise me if Mother Jones had chopped off some key phrase or spliced together disjoint statements to make it sound like something you weren't really saying.   But I listened to the whole audio up to the point where you said that 47 percent of Americans are leeches, and unless you followed up those comments by saying "Just kidding! I was role playing the caricature of myself that the opposition portrays" I can't see how any additional context would change the true meaning of what you were saying.

First of all the number "47 percent" is the only thing in this statement that has any connection to reality.  It is true that nearly 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax.  Their income is still reduced by other federal payroll taxes, including Social Security, and they still pay state and local taxes.  Plenty of articles have been written already breaking down the statistics of why such a seemingly large percentage of Americans don't pay federal income tax, so I don't feel the need to go into all the details here.  But I think it should be pretty obvious to anyone that this group contains all sorts of different people and its very unlikely that all of those people are all unanimously voting as a block for Obama.  This is obvious hyperbole, and I can perhaps sweep that part under the rug.   I was willing to look past this as nothing but the usual political generalization.

Let's also put aside the fact that even some millionaires don't pay income tax if they live off their  investments only and don't listen to their financial advisors.  Let's ignore the fact that "78,000 tax filers with incomes between $211,000 and $533,000 paid no income taxes; 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million paid no income taxes, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million paid no income taxes."  We don't need to argue about whether the income tax should be a truly progressive tax and why it's perfectly reasonable that a large percentage of Americans don't pay that particular tax.  But I am curious, did your father claim any income when he moved back from Mexico and collected welfare?  Anyway, I didn't start writing this blog simply because a politician again "refused to let the fact-checkers run their campaign."

Mr. Romney, if you really believe that 47 percent of this country supports Obama because he promises them a handout then you must really hate America.  Do you really believe that we're a nation of people that is so dependent on government that we just vote for whoever promises more free stuff?  I thought you said America was still the greatest nation on Earth?  If what you say is true, then we're already beyond hope.  If we as a society really thought that way, then the communists really won, the cold war was lost and your hero Ronald Reagan was a total failure.  I thought surely you can't possibly have such a low opinion of the American voter, but then I listened to the rest of your comments.  First there's the part where you say that all the detailed policy information you've provided won't have any significant impact on your electability.  Then there's the part where you said that nobody will be paying attention to politics all summer.  And then there's the part when you said that "being right early is not good in politics" and that "a highly intellectual subject or a discussion of a whole series of important topics typically doesn’t win elections".  Then there's the part where you say that you're going after the 5 to 10 percent of voters that are independent and "thoughtful", but even those people often vote based on "emotion", "whether they like the guy or not", or "what he looks like".  Taken in total, it sure seems like you have a very low opinion of the intelligence of the American voter.  This doesn't really come as any surprise to me, based on the way you've conducted your campaign, but it was still jarring to hear you speak so openly about how you intend to manipulate your way into the Oval Office.

Believe it or not Mr. Romney, there are people making less than a million bucks a year who do understand how capitalism really works.  We do understand that part of the role of government is to ensure that once wealth is obtained by legitimate means, it should not be taken away by force or coercion.  The rule of law protects the rich as well as the poor.  We do understand that the dream of becoming independently wealthy is the motivational engine that drives innovation and most of human progress.  We do understand the perils of socialism, and we want no part of it.  We do understand that eating the rich would eventually leave us hungry.  We are not moochers or looters.  We are free people trying have a happy peaceful existence by working hard and enjoying the rewards.  We don't want to kill the golden goose that we have given birth to in America.  Trust me, we get it. 

But many in your 53 percent think they get it, but they don't.  They think that they too can be part of the 1% if they just worked as hard as they do.  They think the problem with America is that government is taking too much from them in their taxes to give to the poor, or that the government takes too much from the rich and that money would otherwise somehow flow down to them.  They think there would be more good jobs if it weren't for all these pesky rules and regulations holding back all these "job creators."  Your message to them is that a vote for you will get the government out of the way resulting in a world where hard work and talent is always rewarded.

That message is appealing and I'd consider voting for a candidate that truly believed in meritocracy too.  But I don't believe you are that candidate.  Your party wouldn't be stupid enough to dismantle the social safety net either because it would ruin your chances of holding onto power..  Some Republicans will talk tough about privatizing Social Security or dismantling Medicare, but we know damn well they'll never do it because it would leave the majority of the American people at the mercy of the corporatocracy and we know how well we'll all fare when that happens.

So here's what really bothers me.  A short while ago you attacked the president saying that his message was to "promote envy as opposed to ambition and to poison the American spirit with class warfare."  I thought you were trying to show that Republicans are not really just about protecting the rich and the powerful.  I thought you stood for the idea of shared prosperity through capitalism.  I thought you were trying to say that there should be no "class warfare" between the "haves" and the "have-nots".  But then you stood up in front of the "haves" and declared that class warfare does exist, but don't worry, Mitt's on your side!  While you accuse the president of playing to the fear and anger of the poor, you blatantly exploit the fear and anger of the rich. These people that founded the Tea Party movement idealize the American Revolution when the rich and the poor allied against the government but they live in terror of the French Revolution when the poor attacked the government and the noble aristocracy alike. You know full well that the rich need the poor to sustain their lifestyle and your message to them is that as long as they raise money for you, you will sustain the status quo for them.  You people who forget that Ayn Rand was a novelist like to think you're saving the world for everyone, but all you're really doing is keeping the weak at war with themselves instead of focusing on the real issues.

At first, I was a little confused about which "job" you were talking about when you said "my job is not to worry about those people."  You couldn't be talking about the job of president, because your job as president would definitely include worrying about "those people."  I assumed you were not talking about your job as CEO of Bain Capital, because it goes without saying that in that role the only thing you would care about is increasing the wealth of your shareholders.  I thought maybe you were referring to your job as the savior of the Olympics, but that was too long ago and has no relevance to your candidacy.  It finally dawned on me that you were talking about your current job as the official professional spokesperson of the one percent.  You certainly don't have to convince anyone to take personal responsibility for themselves in that role.  All you need to do is convince enough people that all of the nation's problems are caused by "those people."

So I'm sorry to say Mr. Romney, that this voter who would once have considered voting Republican now cannot stomach the idea of casting a vote for you.  I once believed that you were really a moderate, pragmatic candidate who was tilting to the right only as a means to an end.  I thought once you got past the chump candidates that popped up every month to challenge your nomination, you would really shake that etch-a-sketch and reboot yourself as a rational candidate with conservative fiscal views and a moderate stance on social issues.  Instead you chose to keep going after the hard-core right wing votes that are so easy to come by if you just send the right hateful subliminal messages.  And even though I have to believe that you would govern no differently than any president since Reagan, I can't in good conscience cast a vote that would give validity to the tactics your party has been using to gain power.  It's time for people to stop being afraid to admit that government does have a role in society and that thinking so doesn't make you a leech.  I no longer just want you to lose Mr. Romney, I want you to lose in every single state of this United States.  I hope that your outsourced campaign consultants that you recruited from Algeria, Africa and Israel all see what a pathetic candidate you are and quit like Tim Pawlenty.  I'll explain to America that even if the stock market goes up for a day after you're elected, it sure isn't going to stay that way.  And if a situation like the Iranian hostage crisis does pop up for you to exploit before the election, I'll be sure to remind America how you longed for such an opportunity.

I will no longer sit idly by without at least doing this one small thing to help make sure that we never elect another fraud like you.


(a guy with the courage to use his real first name)

P.S. I'd be willing to bet that Leno hates your guts too.

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