You wouldn’t ask a fox to guard a henhouse. Nor would you ask a known thief to serve as treasurer for a charity. And you certainly wouldn’t have a child molester chaperone a two-week Cub Scout camping trip.
And yet the part of the white middle class that is free-falling towards poverty wants to put a former vulture capitalist in charge of the nation’s economy.
A Washington Post-ABC poll released earlier this week found that white voters who are struggling financially or experiencing job loss believe that Mitt Romney will do more to advance their economic interests than President Obama will, by a landslide margin of 58% for Romney to 32% for Obama.
It’s just crazy to think that so many more people would trust Romney over any Democrat with their future economic well-being. Say what you will about President Obama’s economic track record as president, Mitt Romney has for decades displayed an enormous disregard for the economic interests of anyone but the super wealthy.
It starts with his profession, investment banker who specialized in buying companies, squeezing costs—often through layoffs—and taking enormous profits. Bain Capital was never meant to be a job or a wealth creator, but rather a wealth transfer agent that would transfer the value of companies into its bank account. Sometimes the companies Bain bought and sold thrived and often they went under. Didn’t matter. Romney and his associates got theirs.
While Romney claims that while he was governor Massachusetts was a job creation machine, the Democrats have released reliable figures that show that Massachusetts was 47th in job creation during Mitt’s years in office, while state debt grew. That sounds like a Republican, from Reagan to Bush II: slow job growth (or in Bush II’s case, job losses) with an increase in debt.
Now let’s take a look at Romney’s economic ideas:
- He wants to reduce taxes even more than the current low tax regime that has people with high incomes paying the lowest rates of at least the last 70 years. When rich people don’t pay taxes, they spend some of the extra money, but some gets hidden from the economy in investments that don’t produce jobs. But when the government gets the money, it either spends it or gives it to someone who is going to spend it. Spending money creates demand for goods and services which creates more jobs. Create enough jobs and the demand for labor grows and wages increase. In a profound way, lowering taxes on the wealthy, as Bush II did, activates a transfer of wealth from middle class and poor people to the wealthy.
- He wants to make it harder for unions to organize, which means that there will be fewer good paying jobs around, since unionization tends to increase the wages not both of the unionized workers and of other employees at the same company and in the same industry.
- Romney wants to cut spending on programs that help the middle class and near poor and are making things bearable for the white middle class that has lost jobs. Unemployment, food stamps, health care—you name it, if it’s money that’s going directly to people, Romney doesn’t like it., except of course when it’s tax cuts giving more money to his fellow country-clubbers.
Whites who are struggling—or if you prefer, whites without a college education—have been voting against their economic best interests since the time of Nixon. Nixon’s brilliant strategist Kevin Phillips developed what was called “The Southern Strategy.” (Phillips has since recanted and spent the rest of his career doing penance for developing this inherently racist and divisive approach to grabbing power by writing a series of books criticizing Republican economic policies).
The objective of the strategy was to pry southern states from the Democratic column by taking stands against busing to achieve integration, affirmative action and other steps to give African-Americans equal rights. The strategy also had Republicans making accusations that the government under Democrats gave away money and jobs to the undeserving (code for minorities). That message resonated with whites who felt that giving minorities (and women) greater access to the workplace threatened their jobs and who were beginning to lose ground economically as the United States pursued policies that favored its multi-national corporations and banks over maintenance of a strong domestic manufacturing capability. It was classic “divide and conquer” in which the ruling elite divided the middle class against itself.
Reagan refined the Southern Strategy by adding the white knight of the private sector and unrestrained free enterprise who would save the American people from the wasteful giveaways of the federal government. The coded language defined the undeserving who ended up with “our hard earned money” as minorities, thus playing on old racist myths while strengthening them.
After some 40 years of this brainwashing, it’s no wonder that a large part of the population resents the government and doesn’t realize that the so-called “undeserving” getting government benefits are for the most part very much like themselves—white, uneducated and either poor or struggling. I can understand their frustration (but not the racism) and I also understand that a lack of education often denies them not just the training to succeed in a technologically driven economy, but also the tools to analyze in depth the absurd claims of right wing politicians. It doesn’t help matters that there is a large right wing media feeding nonsense to the public and a mainstream media that looks to the right to define the issues on the political agenda.
The result is this grotesque situation in which the oppressed throw their support to a man who symbolizes the oppressors and their techniques of oppression.