Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mr. Etch-A-Sketchy

Because of our crazy primary system, candidates have to pander to extremists to win the Primaries, and then try to appeal to moderates to win the general election.   This can lead voters to be confused as to the real values of the candidate.

Who is elected President is important, but not for the reasons the idiot voters think.  The Bubbas at the town-hall meetings ask stupid questions like how the President will lower gas prices, get them jobs, balance the budget, or outlaw Gay Marriage.

And the answer, of course, is that they can't do any of these things.   Congress balances budgets and outlaws Gay Marriage.  The  price of gas and the availability of jobs is a function of a whole host of things, some of which are within the control of Congress, some not.   Presidents can make minor policy tweaks in some areas, but that's about it.

Presidents can determine how our laws are enforced, and which ones are given greater emphasis.  And Presidents appoint Supreme Court Justices - which will have a profound effect for years, even decades to come.  So it matters - no matter what your political views are - what a candidate stands for, in the long run.  And general principles are arguably more important than specific policy issues of the day.

The problem for Romney is that during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts (the bluest of blue States) he passed a health care law which some have dubbed "RomneyCare" - and which is largely the same as the much-derided "ObamaCare" law (bear in mind that Social Security was much-derided back in the 1930's.   People's opinions changed, once they realized its benefits).  So arguably, he is a liberal.

But during the primaries, and since his time as Governor, he has moved to the right, embracing "Right to Life" causes, gun control, the "Protection of Marriage" and other Rightest social issues.

During the debates, however, a new-and-improved Romney has emerged - one that embraces a woman's right to birth control, even as he supported the "Blunt Amendment" that would have allowed employers to opt-out of providing Birth Control.  No matter how you slice this, Romney has made a 180-degree turn on this issue.

Of course, we expected this to happen - all challengers do this, and the Romney Campaign even PROMISED to do this, earlier in the year:
National Democrats looking to portray Mitt Romney as a panderer think they’ve found the Holy Grail in a quote from Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom today about how his candidate plans to handle the general election.
Fehrnstrom was asked on CNN Wednesday whether he was concerned that Romney’s prolonged fight with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would force him to “tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election.”
“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom responded.
“Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”
So, is Romney a Conservative or a Moderate?   Which reading of the Etch-A-Sketch do we go by?

In my view, he is really neither.   Social issues, as I have noted before, are the window-dressing that the parties use to hook the plebes - the idiot voters - who think these are the end-all to government policy.

I think Romney is more of a kleptocrat that anything else.   He wants to see financial legislation enacted that will eliminate consumer protections for credit cards (abolishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been the centerpiece of the GOP platform for three years now).  He wants to see any regulations of Wall Street or the Big Banks - enacted as a result of their financial misdeeds that sank our economy - repealed.  He wants all the "fun" to go back to the stock market, so Vultur Capitalists like him and his friends can make a mint of money by doing nothing more than repacking crap and selling it as perfume - to folks like you and me, who don't even realize we are buying his shit, in our 401(k) plans.

And as President, he can control how these regulations are promulgated through various government agencies, and more importantly, how they are enforced.

All that other stuff?   That social issues crap?   Well, I suppose as a Mormon, he would be somewhat socially conservative.   But frankly, I get the impression he would say anything and do anything to get elected.

For an incumbent President, things are much harder.  You can't "Etch-A-Sketch" away your past four years in office and promise to "start over" with something different.   You have a record to run on, good or bad, and you have to live with it.  And this means you tend to look bad at times, while the "Etch-A-Sketch" guy can simply change his positions to suit the moment.

Obama can't pretend to be one thing one minute, and something else the next.  And to his credit, he has stood firm on his core values and issues, and not tried to pass himself off as something he isn't.   Because he can't - he has a record that would call him out, if he tried to claim to be "Mr. Right-to-Life."

I get some comments from some readers that they think Obama has done a bad job.   Handed the worst recession since 1929, he has in fact, done pretty well.   But you try to mention that our current recession is the result of the financial crash that occurred in the waning days of the Bush administration, and they will have none of that.  "There they go, blaming Bush again!"

Well, yea.  But you may recall, four years ago, just before the last election, gas going up to FIVE DOLLARS A GALLON and both GM and Chrysler heading toward insolvency.  The market tanked, and kept tanking, until it reached its nadir, just as Obama took office.   It was Bush's recession, plain and simple.  And bashing Obama for not getting unemployment down is a cheap trick.   By the time he took office, Bush had basically burned the Whitehouse down. 

Some folks on the Right want to re-write history, it seems.  They want us to think that everything was fine, until the day Bush left office, and then it all came apart.   Sorry, but no sale.  I can remember four years ago.   And you should too, or at least Google it.

And stock market crashes and recessions are very sudden things.  Recoveries from these events are usually painful and take a long time.   So running down Obama as "not doing enough" is really idiotic, particularly as the economy is recovering, and recovering very well.  Could more have been done?  Possibly - if the Republican-controlled House had not played "chicken" with the debt ceiling (remember that little fiasco last year?  When we all lost 20% of our portfolios, overnight?  Thank you very much Mr. Boehner!).

How well are we doing?  Well, existing housing sales were down this month.   That's bad, right?  No.  The problem is, there is a shortage of housing in some sectors of the country, particularly in the West.  As a result, the average price of a house has risen by more than $10,000.   And when there is a housing shortage, new housing starts will not be far behind.

And of course, consumer confidence is up, people are borrowing again, sales are up, unemployment is down, and all leading economic indicators, including the stock market, are rising.

But, the GOP can't use that data, as it does not paint the gloom-and-doom picture they want you to buy into.  They want you to believe that you are "lucky" to have a job, and that if we just give in to the demands of the Billionaires and the "Too Big To Fail" Corporations, they will benevolently offer us those scarce-and-hard-to-find jobs that we all desperately need.

Nice try, but the reality is, the reason we are in this mess was that we let people controlling our markets and our money get too greedy and too crazy.    We need to rein in lending practices.  We need to rein in home mortgage lending.   We need to limit what banks can do.   And we need to eliminate these shenanigans in the corporate boardrooms that result in meltdowns that leave bondholders intact and executives with golden parachutes, but with you and me with a hole in our 401(k).

So in the end, it doesn't matter whether Romney is a darling of the Conservative Christian Right, or just a plain old ordinary Joe who is middle-of-the-road.  Both are just disguises he wears to garner votes and gain support.   The real Romney, below the surface, is a thief with one hand in your pocketbook.

And you buy into the idea that he can lower your taxes, lower the deficit, and increase government spending, well, I guess you still believe in Santa Claus, too.   Because you can't do all those things, at the same time.   It just doesn't add up.

Sorry, but if we elect Mr. Etch-A-Sketchy, we are all going to be in for a world of woe.  It is time we stopped pandering to the very rich.

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