By defending Mitt and Newt income, Santorum defends a corrupt, unfair and unlevel playing field

Some in the news media have praised Rick Santorum for his “Why can’t we all just get along” moment in the middle of the Jacksonville, Florida performance of the traveling reality show called the 2012 Republican debates.  The pundits missed the main point of Santorum’s words: what Rick did was express approval of the corruption and unfairness of our current economic and political system.

Here’s what Rick said that has won some praise: “The bigger issue here is, these two gentlemen, who are out distracting from the most important issues we have been playing petty personal politics, can we set aside that Newt was a member of Congress and used the skills that he developed as a member of Congress to go out and advise companies — and that’s not the worst thing in the world — and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because he worked hard and he’s going out and working hard? And you guys should let that alone and focus on the issues.”

Rick’s overall message is, “let’s talk about the issues,” but in making it, he also subtly asserts that the current system is just fine.

First Rick puts his seal of approval on the revolving door between government and industry that all too often leaves the fox guarding the henhouse when it comes to regulating the private sector to improve safety, reduce pollution or ensure fair and equitable wages. Newt Gingrich may represent the high point of hypocrisy and corruption in the Age of Reagan, but he is far from the only case.

Santorum’s kind words for Mitt Romney are far more insidious because they support the current structure that rewards a very few with outsized amounts of money while the number of Americans in poverty and near poverty continues to climb.

Let’s savor the words, which reek of deception and class self-satisfaction (and make no mistake about it, Rick Santorum may have come from the working class but he’s now one of the moneyed elite): Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because he worked hard.

But what about the sanitation guy working nights at Wal-Mart?  What about the warehouse worker or the stockperson in the supermarket? What about the nurse working a double shift?

Lots of people work hard, and they don’t get to make millions of dollars a year. And they have to pay Social Security taxes on all their income, not a small part of it. And their healthcare insurance is not quite as good as Mitt’s.  I’m not saying that Mitt hasn’t worked hard. So the expression that he was born on third and thinks he hit a triple doesn’t exactly apply to Romney.  I understand that brain work can use as many calories as muscle work, but the joints don’t ache as much at the end of the day.

It’s inherently unfair that some people make so much more than others, but let’s assume for a moment that it is fair.  Here would be the justifications, which we’ve heard before from a plethora of right-wing sources: society values the work of the investment banker more; the investment banker creates more wealth for society; investment banking requires a set of skills and the advanced education that very few people have.

But even if were fair to pay enormously large sums to investment bankers, corporate executives and high-powered professionals (which it’s not), the system would still be unfair because it is tilted in favor of those who already have money and power in a way that never existed in the United States until the past 30 years.  We can prove this assertion without examining the details: the United States has less social mobility than any other industrialized country.  In other words, virtually the only way to make a lot of money working hard (instead of just working hard to get by) is to be born into a well-off or wealthy family.

Money protects children from the degradation that the country has inflicted on public schools over the past 30 years with cuts in funding and an all-out war against teachers’ unions. Wealthy children can go to private schools, get tutors, attend summer enrichment camps, take lessons to improve their talents, participate in national youth competitions, take SAT prep course, hire college consultants and make sizeable donations to universities.  They can also afford to stay in school and don’t need money for graduate school.

In short, Mitt Romney was positioned to make hundreds of millions of dollars because of the millions with which he started.

Perhaps Santorum’s statement was not an admonishment to his fellow candidates to stop the negativity. Perhaps he was really speaking to President Obama—in code of course, since he’s so used to speaking in code about the President.

Perhaps Rick’s real message was that the Republicans are not interested in the “fair shot” that Obama advocated in his State of the Union address.  They like things the way they are.  It works just fine, thanks for Newton Leroy Gingrich, as he can use his government connections to help achieve the political goals of the highest bidder.  And it sure works for Willard Mitt Romney, who, because he was born on third base, received a big long-term contract for hitting a bloop single with the bases loaded to score the first run of a 15-0 blowout in April.

 

 

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