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The Case for Another Obama Term (a.k.a. 10 Things I Hate about Mitt Romney)

Posted by wastedenergy on September 13, 2012

When I first started this blog, its purpose was more or less narrowly focused on matters of resources and ecology and the various footprints humans leave on their home planet.  Bearing that in mind, from time to time I feel it necessary to branch out into other topics that may be tangentially related to this core subject matter.

In this case, with the U.S. presidential election coming up in less than two months, I wanted to lay out a more general case for why I feel one evil is in fact dramatically greater than the other and merits substantial, outspoken and repeated rejection.  I’ll preface this point with a caveat:  I personally have no great love for the policies of Barack Obama or the Democratic Party, viewing them more or less as the lesser of two evils.  For instance, I would like to see much more aggressive action to combat the immense ecological threat of climate change and the unsustainability of our economy and growth more generally, and I know many folks of a leftist persuasion who have stated essentially that they plan to withhold their votes or use them to engage in (an ultimately fruitless) protest by supporting Jill Stein of the Green Party or other fringe candidates.

It may surprise you to learn I even have little to no love for electoral politics in general and find it a rather tasteless display of pandering in platitudes to “moderate” “undecided voters” in “swing states” and horse race coverage wherein “Twitter defines the narrative” (per one prominent political reporter who shall remain nameless) supplanting meaningful discussion of matters of substance, and this in spite of the fact that politics runs deep in my blood and that I even make my present living in the field of political media (no disclaimer necessary here, as the organization I work for is honestly and truly nonpartisan).  Who can be surprised in such a world that the big picture is so often missed in the race to be first to report and point-counterpoint the latest gaffe, photo op or silly campaign moment?

The upshot of my day job is I have actually heard just about everything the candidates have had to say, usually at least two or three dozen times, so having amalgamated sufficient information to form a coherent and substantiated opinion, I feel compelled now to present it here.  While the case for Obama, or more precisely the case against his only substantial opposition, Romney and the Republicans, may seem obvious, I’ve seen surprisingly few instances of journalists or bloggers who conveniently make this case all in one place.

So with that, I’ll go ahead and launch now into what I feel are the most positive aspects of Obama and the Democrats, namely the negative aspects of Romney and the Republicans.  Let the countdown begin:

10. Romney and the Republicans would revert to the aggressive unilateralist foreign policy that got us into so much trouble during the Bush administration.  Even before his latest bit of rhetorical idiocy following the embassy attacks in Benghazi and Cairo, Romney had already established a firm track record of putting his foot in his mouth in dangerous ways when it comes to the United States’ foreign policy.  He says he would increase spending on what is already far and away the world’s largest military (thereby forcing even deeper cuts elsewhere), says he’ll “crack down” on “cheaters like China” and has referred to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe,” seemingly unaware that the Cold War ended over 20 years ago and undeterred by any pragmatic need to work with countries with which the United States has differences on issues of international consequence.  And lest we might be prone to dismiss the candidate’s numerous blunders on his recent trip abroad, I suggest that his misstatements were not mere gaffes but Freudian slips, indicating a level of arrogance, ignorance (Palestinians make $10,000 a year on average – really?) and closed-mindedness unfitting a commander in chief and unbecoming of the lead diplomatic voice of the United States abroad.  Obama began his first term with his work cut out for him in recovering from a deficit in foreign relations strained by the Bush years, and yet by all indications he has been up to the task; Romney, on the other hand, would start off on extremely shaky ground, and his rhetoric on the campaign trail and lack of experience in dealing with other countries suggests he would only damage relations further with just about every country in the world save Israel, which he seems all too eager to see launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran.

9. Romney’s tax proposals would exacerbate the already widening gap between the rich and the poor and working classes.  He claims he would lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy without increasing the burden faced by poor and middle-class Americans, but let’s face the facts:  We have seen this movie before, specifically during the Bush years.  The only way to make this sort of trickle-down economics work is by fraying social welfare programs (hint:  When he talks about “block granting Medicaid to the states,” this is code for eviscerating the program).  Call it the “Are There No Prisons?” economic policy.  But then what do you expect from a candidate who made hundreds of millions of dollars in his private sector career by forcing debt on companies to be paid off by cutting jobs and wages and slashing benefits, then refusing to reveal his own tax returns for public scrutiny, or from a party that espouses the notion that if you aren’t succeeding in this economy, the only possible explanation is that you aren’t working hard enough?

8. Romney makes empty promises to fix the federal deficit and national debt, while all his specific proposals in aggregate would make the deficit far worse.  Republican rhetoric on this issue has long (as in at least since the Reagan years) seemed more geared toward winning over self-styled centrist softball editorialists and creating the appearance of sincere and deep concern than it has toward actually, you know, reducing the deficit.  All you really need to do to understand where they stand here is have a look at the number of times they have accused Obama of eschewing the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, when in fact Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan was on this same commission and voted against its recommendations, a reasonable facsimile of which were then adopted as the Obama administration’s debt reduction platform, which were then subsequently rejected again by the Republican Congress.  I don’t know why anyone continues to lend these folks credibility on this issue at all.

7. By all indications, Romney and his party are completely out of touch with the struggles of everyday Americans.  I thought one of the most telling moments during the campaign was when Romney stated during a campaign speech that he wanted to protect the interests of both management and labor, but he didn’t want the pendulum to swing too far in favor of labor.  The fact that he felt compelled to make this statement at all at a time when unions, the institutions responsible for winning an eight-hour workday and workplace health and safety protections, are held in such low public regard and when the income of the typical American household is in decline for the first time in the postwar period even while CEO salaries have ballooned to hundreds of times those of ordinary workers shows just how little he really appreciates the issues that matter to those struggling to pay off their student loans and medical bills.

6. Romney and his party are in league with religious extremists and culture warriors and would attempt to roll back decades of progress on women’s rights, the rights of gays and lesbians and religious and racial equality.  One need only take a look at the party’s platform and the repugnant statements made by so many under the Republican tent to see the kind of theocratic, patriarchal sentiment and racist apologism that is likely to translate into public policy if they are put in charge.

5. Romney and his party are opposed to any meaningful measures to control the rise of health care costs.  The Republican platform on health care seems to consist entirely of one half-baked notion:  overturn “Obamacare.”  When they are pressed on the issue, you might hear phrases like “patient-centered reform” or “states as laboratories of innovation,” but these are nothing but insubstantive language designed to generate newspaper ink and cover for the fact that the United States remains the only advanced country without universal health care coverage, and they fully intend to keep it that way.

4. Romney and his party would hamstring federal oversight and regulation of precisely the kinds of Wall Street trading that led directly to the financial crisis and economic collapse of 2008.  Couched in rhetoric about loans to small businesses, the policies they present would in fact roll back protections for consumers against deceptive lending and make it easier for huge financial institutions to turn profits on opaque transactions that create no or negative economic value and generate massive exernalities and systemic risks for the entire economy, threatening those who had no part in these transactions.  The promise of easy credit shouldn’t be used as a reason to put the fox back in charge of guarding the henhouse.

3. Romney and his party would cut federal support for education, the only hope ordinary people have of achieving their potential.  Under the Republicans’ right-wing utopia, attempts to achieve a level playing field by encouraging educational pursuits, programs like Pell Grants and low-interest federal student loans, would vanish, and higher education would become the exclusive domain of those who can afford it.  Not only does this deny the opportunity to achieve economic equality based on meritocratic rather than plutocratic principles, it fundamentally stunts the intellectual development of humanity as a whole:  The next great leader or scientist may never be able to achieve his or her dreams simply because of circumstances of birth.  Is this just a transparent attempt to make sure those currently in charge of making decisions of consequence and determining which technologies are available for the betterment of humanity remain so indefinitely?  My sources say that might have something to do with it.

2. Romney and the Republicans support economic policies based on European-style “austerity” proven to hamper and even reverse economic recovery.  At precisely the time when serious macroeconomic study indicates the federal government should be working harder to generate employment (interest rates at an all-time low and a depressed economy), they want to cut government spending even further and gut unemployment insurance and other protections for those facing tough times so the bottom falls out of the economy and overall demand contracts because those residing at the lower rungs of the economic ladder remain mired in debt, shrinking opportunities for hiring and social mobility.  But then we should trust that they know what’s best for us anyway, no?  Per their ideology, a perverse blend of Rand and Descartes, that’s simply the way it ought to be:  I am rich, therefore I deserve to be rich.

And finally…

1. Romney and the Republicans want the omnicidal fossil fuel industry to maintain and strengthen its stranglehold over our political system precisely because it is their biggest campaign backer.  Allowing them to control the discussion of climate change and energy security issues at the highest levels would literally destroy the world as we know it.  So complete are their devotion to the extremist anarcho-libertarian viewpoint of the Koch brothers and their ilk and their worship of money above all other values that they are willing to hang the Earth and all its residents, present and future, human and otherwise, out to dry.  Those possessing such little regard for life should not be allowed anywhere near the reins of power and ideally should be expelled to some other planet they can wreck without having to worry about the possibility of disturbing the welfare of other lifeforms.  Uranus comes to mind.

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