Thursday, October 4, 2012

Presidential debates: Obama and Romney not so far apart after all.

by Richard Mellor

I have been a bit busy today but wanted to make some comments on last night's debate. I made an effort to watch it but just couldn’t stomach sitting through all of it so did some reading this morning.  The US electoral arena is a very closed one, with two big business parties competing for who gets to plunder the wealth of the country for the next four years. There are many more candidates from other parties that are running but they never get any airtime ensuring no alternative point of view is heard.

The victor last night according to all major media outlets was Romney.  A major part of the first hour was “spent on ways in which the two candidates aren’t so different”, Gerald Seib writes in the Wall Street Journal.  Both candidates and their parties agree that corporate taxes must be lowered, education must be privatized and that reducing the national debt is a crucial issue.  On taxes Romney wants to cut tax rates 20% and counter that by eliminating certain business deductions. Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and counter this with incentives to business.  Either way you look at it, this is the working class footing the bill.  We all know that no matter how they change the tax code, the wealthy that they are all talking about will find a way around it. 

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial labeled Romney’s majestic performance as “..the best debate effort by a Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1980.”  The journal criticized Romney for saying that tax reform like his has never been tried before but that Reagan “did it with Democrats” in his tax reform in 1986. Romney should have made that link, the Journal says.

The 1986 Act was sold to us as the legislation that would make sure everyone paid their fair share of taxes. John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts launched a passionate defense of the Act saying, “Ordinary citizens, those people without the use of high paid lawyers and fancy tax shelters ----have had to witness a parade of newspaper headlines heralding the ---hundreds of millionaires who paid no federal income taxes. This proposal will make that kind of unfairness a thing of the past”. (My added emphasis) *

Richard Gephardt, the Democrat from Missouri said at the time, “It makes me angry that 250 families earned over $1 million last year and paid no taxes….This bill makes sure that does not happen anymore.”

This is the standard line every time they want to use the tax code to enrich themselves. There are, as Donald Barlett and James Steele point out in their excellent book, America: Who Really Pays the Taxes, two tax codes, one for the rich and one for the rest of us. And the rich will benefit not only from lower rates as a swap for eliminating tax breaks, but will still have their politicians leave plenty of loopholes for them. And anyway, they have the money and access to lawyers and all sorts of other connections the rest of us don’t have to find these loopholes.

Romney rails against big government and talks of how more efficient the private sector is over the public.  He likes paying insurance companies as middlemen in the health care industry he said.  The private sector is so efficient in health care that some 50 million Americans have to rely on the state to provide it as the private sector refuses.  And then there’s Medicare.  The private sector would be so “efficient” delivering mail, 4000 communities, often rural communities whose only link to the outside world is their local post office would be closed.  Efficiency to the private sector is profits, not needs.

It’s difficult for Obama, as he can’t really take up Romney in any serious fashion because they agree on the fundamentals.  We heard not a peep from Obama as one of his major fundraisers, Rahm Immanuel, forced Chicago teachers on strike.  Obama has said nothing about the closing of 100 to 150 schools in that city; he was absent during the Wisconsin events.  And as a candidate of the “poor and oppressed”, what has he said about the incarceration of youth, particularly youth of color?  Nothing.  And talking about younger workers, both Romney and Obama agree that pensions and Social Security need to be made more “efficient” that these programs are too generous.  Millions of people refuse to vote at all in the US and those that do tend to be older so the candidates say they will “shield” current retirees from the cuts in these programs. This is a standard divide and rule tactic, during contract negotiations we called it “grandfathering in”, it was a way the bosses would divide employees along age lines so that the cutoff point would ensure a yes vote for a contract while weakening unity among workers.  Younger workers looking to retire will be expected to work longer and with worse pensions than most have now---that is the future these candidates and the two big business parties offer.

The debate was directed at those undecided voters who wait until the last minute before making up their minds.  Romney clearly distanced himself from the Tea Baggers it seems, the US capitalist class has not lost control yet.  And it was designed not to inspire that’s for sure:

Obama: "We've begun to fight our way back, but we all know that we've still got a lot of work to do, so the question here tonight is not where we've been but where we're going."

Romney: "We know that the path we're taking is not working. It's time for a new path."

Ho hum!

Here in California, the Democrat Jerry Brown is carrying out the corporate agenda.  Throughout local races, the candidates assure big business that they can be relied on to make the “tough decisions” and are dead set on being “fiscally responsible”, so once again workers with no party of our own have no candidates that represent our interests. 

I was talking to a young guy yesterday who was somewhat inspired by Obama.  He was a person of color so I can really sympathize with this to a degree as the Republican’s and their candidates are such distasteful characters and have many more open racists in their ranks. It cannot be ruled out that the Republican Party could split at some point in the not so distant future.  But this is the state of affairs, given the limited differences between the two parties identity politics tends to dominate. Obama is also the candidate of the trade Union hierarchy who as usual cling to the coattails of the Democrats despite betrayal after betrayal. Where did EFCA go?  The “public option?” During the Carter administration when the Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency, not one major piece of legislation important to Labor was passed.  They were in the same position during the first two years of the Clinton administration.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning that Romney won the debate and came of as just a “regular guy”, adding that, “His tone of voice and choice of words said irrefutably, ‘I care’” But millions of Americans are not fooled by this acting job.  So Brad Pitt can appear to be a Pikey Traveler in the movies, or George C Scott a bumbling general in Dr. Strangelove.  We know that is just make believe and that’s what the “I care” image these politicians are taught to portray is------make believe.  What can they do? “Vote for me I’m going to lower your living standards so we can make more profits at home and abroad.  They can’t tell the truth, no one at all would vote for them. This is why so many Americans have withdrawn from the political process altogether, they are not fooled. I don’t say this is what they should do; they should participate in the movement to build an alternative. But one of the lowest voter turn-outs in the world is not, as the media so often portrays it, “apathy”.Americans don’t care,” we are told, but I don’t agree with this.  So many have determined that the difference between choices is extremely limited, coupled with the corruption and bribery that takes place, they have simply given up.

But perhaps the clearest indication of the similarity between these two Wall Street politicians and why they are so uninspiring was the comment that Romney made last night to the president, “I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high income people” he said,  “They’ll do fine whether you’re president or I am.”

That’s the real deal right there, and when he is talking about income he’s not talking about wages, Romney doesn’t earn wages don’t forget, the government allows him a better tax bracket that way.

* The information here can be found in America: Who Really Pays the Taxes

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