Saturday, January 7, 2012

Meditations on Willard (Mitt) Romney and a fair and just nation

Although the title is mine, the following essay was written by Gene Bockneck.  It is used with his permission and we thank him for his generosity.

Gene begins with a brief reflection on Willard Romney, also known as "Mittens," also known as "Mitt."

That is followed by some thoughts about how we treat our workers and students compared to other countries and why taxes are not something to be shunned or evaded but rather are a responsibility to be accepted in order that we may have a fully functioning society where all people are treated with dignity and respect.

 [I have made a few minor editorial changes.]

Mitt Romney may be revealing himself by exposing a quality not much written about in our media.  Over the course of time I've gone from a view of him as a moderate Republican to something less attractive.  I now see he represents a kind of amorality built on the feeling he can do no wrong.

This quality appears to be inherent in some people who have lived their lives in complete safety and security, leading them ultimately to a deeply felt belief that they are impervious to any truth but their own.  Certainly this was a dominant quality in George W. Bush as well:  a kind of unshakable self-confidence or self-concern, which allowed him to operate from the point of view that whatever he did was right (since he had done it).

Like G.W. Bush, Romney grew up with, and inherited, great wealth.  His father was the CEO of American Motors, producers of the Nash Rambler and other cars of its time.  It's no wonder he gained a sense of unfettered superiority, which was expressed so well in a famous (or infamous) quote by Richard Nixon:  "the president does not commit crimes."

Nixon's statement is not a statement about morality but its absence!  Some would say it is this kind of amorality that is reflected in Mitt Romney's own history:  Romney bought a company, made a great profit by laying off thousands of workers, then sold it and walked away.

The inner certainty of one's rectitude is a troublesome quality in a person who seeks to rule in a complex, ever-changing world.

[Here Mr. Bockneck changes gears and moves into another discussion.  I do not have the column to which he refers, but the value of what he has to say stands by itself.]

I've gotten more than the usual amount of feedback from my column on "entitlements."  It may be of interest to note how other nations view that status of American workers.

"German workers by law unlike their American counterparts are given 30 days paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave and medical insurance and dental insurance that is so comprehensive that it is in fact by comparison commercially unavailable for purchase in the American market.  All of this is to say nothing of subsidized day care and subsidized elder care and university tuition that is so low, that American students actually spend more on textbooks than German students pay for tuition for an entire school year.  So when they graduate, they (and their parents) don't graduate into indentured student loan servitude for many years and sometimes in certain cases even decades.  This gives new meaning to the phrase only in America!"  -- Der Speigel (Germany's major news magazine)

Skeptics may have a point when they argue that it's much easier for governments of small nations to provide for so many human services.  And they might also argue that such nations (including France, Norway, Holland, Finland, and Denmark) have much higher individual tax rates.  But I wonder how many Americans would swap higher tax rates for those services.

Even more important is the challenge being raised by large, indigent countries such as China and India.  These nations are very quickly becoming strong competitors with the United States in terms of manufacturing technology.  Poor families are in no position to pay for higher education when they are barely surviving themselves.  How, then do these other nations do it - educate vast multitudes?

I would call it a process of collaboration:  not socialism, not dependency, not even dictatorship.  And could just plain good, plain, practical common sense play a role?  How can these other nations afford such "luxuries"?

I'm no economist but I think the answer to affordability comes in one word and one size:  taxes.  Contrary to the crap that most of us have heard for the last umpteen years, taxes are not -- ARE NOT -- a burden on individuals and families.  Taxes are the means by which a government can ensure that its national wealth is spent helping its citizens grow, prosper, and thus strengthen the nation.

Having healthy, well-trained, actively employed citizens actually saves money in the long run (just ask the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office) while fulfilling the promise of our founders for life, liberty and opportunity in a government of, by, and for its people.  Taxes invested in the the public arena return to reward the people who pay them.

But taxes that are evaded so as to benefit the few are contrary to America's best interests -- especially in this increasingly competitive world.  A nation in which the middle class is disappearing and the number of poor are growing is a nation going downhill.  As a progressive I think that's moving in the wrong direction.  As a human being I think it's a disgraceful way to manage the public trust.

Our national problems did not begin with Barack Obama.  Historically, they actually began with the me-first heroics of our most charming president, Ronald Reagan.  Although Reagan derided what he called the "burden" of big government, and took pride in union-busting, he didn't object at all when he received his government pensions from California and the United States, as well as the actor's union.

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