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Frankly Speaking: Romney Lights 47% of America on Fire

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An Open Letter to Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has made plenty of gaffes and controversial comments, and there is certainly no lack of criticism from within his own party, or without. But in trying to put out the fire that he started with his comments about the 47% of people who don't pay federal income tax and aren't going to vote for him, he may have undone the entire narrative on the right. 

The comments definitely burned a great number, and many are still on fire. It has been all Romney can do to contain it to the 47%; if the fire should spread to another 3% or more, the Quest for the White House may be lost. There's good news, however, for people who don't pay income tax but happen to be latent racists and/or birthers or other sorts of right wing conspiracy theorists. Mitt Romney's campaign is now about the 100%. So whether you pay income tax or not, he's on your side. You may call him Lord Romney, and he will collect all of your taxes. All 100%. From the 53% who aren't deadbeats, at least. 

Of course, before he can collect all the taxes, he must defeat Obama, who has deployed Joe Biden, complete with his blue jeans, train ticket, and hard hat. Biden had been laying down his "we're all in this together" line for some time before Romney went for the 100%, and that's where things began to unravel. Soon it became "we're in this 100%," and "100% of us are all in this together," but that's not really what undid the entire narrative. What undid the entire narrative was when Romney said "I think most people want to pay taxes." 

Seeing how this is the first honest thing I can recall Lord Romney saying that I agree with, I grew a bit concerned that something might be amiss. So I decided to write him a letter. 

Dear Mitt, 

About that thing you said about most people wanting to pay taxes? You're right. Most people want to pay taxes. Most people like roads and bridges and water and power and schools and hospitals and libraries and firehouses and police stations and parks. But perhaps even more importantly, most people want to earn a living. They want to provide for their families, and feel like they are contributing to society in a positive way.

Of course, that obliterates the whole idea that (at least) 47% of the population is never going to vote for you because they're presumably deadbeats who don't pay taxes, but feel they are entitled to government handouts. Whether or not you truly believe that, it has become a dominant narrative on the left, and you've done nothing to dispel it even though you just demonstrated it's a false narrative, probably because you're scared the right will then discover you're actually a moderate. One thing's for sure though: you're definitely not conservative. Not the way I define it anyway, based on what the word actually means. But then again, most Conservatives aren't either. 

But let's get back to the false narrative. Most people aren't deadbeats. Just because they're not paying federal income tax right now doesn't mean they're not still paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, or sales tax, or that they didn't pay income tax for their entire adult life, or that they won't pay income tax for their entire adult life once they finish schooling. So let's not perpetrate that myth. 

Instead, let's talk about the specific policies you would enact in order to bring prosperity to all Americans, since your campaign is now about the 100%. Let's talk about what exactly you would change about the healthcare law, and why, instead of talking about repealing and replacing the law, which any reasonable person can tell you isn't going to happen because you're not going to get 60 votes in the Senate. And it's not as if you really want to repeal the whole thing anyway; there are parts you think are good. Parts a lot of people like. Parts to try and reign in skyrocketing costs and make sure insurance providers aren't price gouging or denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, or dropping coverage for people who hurt their bottom line, or else raising their premiums so high that those people simply cannot afford insurance. 

People of course do not like the idea of a mandate; there is something foul-tasting about the government forcing people to buy a product from a private company. That is the issue people of every political stripe have been screaming about. Of course there was also screaming about Death Panels, which was really about paying doctors for end-of-life care consultations, but somehow fed this idea that some government panel would decide whether or not you'd live or die. Of course this is ironic because right now it's much the same thing, only it's private companies between you and your doctor instead of the government. And from my perspective at least, that's actually worse, since the primary goal of these companies is to make a profit for their shareholders and executives, not to care for my health. What happens when those two interests don't line up? 

Of course, instead of fixing this fundamental conflict of interest, we added more regulations in an attempt to prevent those things from happening, but in order to off-set the cost this would force the insurance companies to incur, which would then be passed along to consumers, we had to expand the market by forcing people to buy insurance. Otherwise consumers could game the system by waiting until they got sick to purchase insurance. And of course, we know that this is essentially the scheme you set up when you were governor of Massachusetts, and it has actually worked pretty well, though for some reason you say it's not the right solution for the entire country, though I've never heard you give a good reason why, or propose a better alternative. 

To me, a better alternative would be removing the conflict of interest, and including at least a public option, if not a single payer system. To me, access to affordable health care is one of those unalienable rights, as life, liberty and happiness don't really mean much unless one has their health. And I don't know about you, but I believe we as a country are capable of educating enough doctors, and producing enough medicine and equipment to provide a basic level of healthcare to all Americans. I don't know why I never heard this brought up, but I'd be incentivizing more of our best and brightest to become the kind of doctors we need, like general practitioners and gerontologists, and paying off medical school loans for doctors that spend a certain amount of time working in the public system. 

But that's enough about healthcare; let's talk about the economy. I'm tired of hearing this bullshit about how Obama has failed us. Sure, there are things he could have done better, but there is more than enough blame to go around here. Housing policies and financial deregulation enacted under Clinton have played a role, no doubt, as have George W. Bush's unfunded tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, and two wars that went unpaid for while he was in office. And then of course, there's Congress, with its 9% approval rating. Republicans in Congress have spent more time trying to repeal healthcare and pass anti-abortion measures than they have working on bills that would help get the economy moving. They caused the credit rating of the United States to be downgraded for the first time in history by playing political brinksmanship with the debt ceiling. They have filibustered a record number of bills in the Senate, even routine legislation and non-controversial appointments. They have refused to compromise on tax increases to reduce the deficit, triggering a fiscal cliff, and slowed economic recovery and job growth by not passing a jobs bill, or other sufficient measures to help the economy grow, despite attempts by the White House and the Democrats.

Meanwhile, you would seek to keep the Bush tax cuts, restore the cuts Obama made to Medicare, and sustain Social Security and defense spending while somehow getting government spending under 20% of GDP and balancing the budget? According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities this would mean you'd have to cut all other programs — including Medicaid, veterans' benefits, education, environmental protection, transportation, and SSI — by an average of 40 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2022.

This does not seem remotely feasible, nor a good idea. It would be a devastating blow to our entire society, especially the poor and elderly who rely on many of these programs, and it would cause even greater social stratification than already exists. And to me, this is the real heart of the issue, so let's talk about what you would do to combat the rising income inequality, which is worse now than it was even during slavery, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research

So let's talk about that, then let's talk about creating a sustainable energy policy, and an infrastructure for the 21st century, and an educational system that gives all our children the opportunity to show what is best about them, and doesn't leave them drowning in debt. Let's talk about promoting religious tolerance, and freedom and equality and democratic governance, and community and prosperity and happiness. And last but not least, let's talk about what you would propose to do about the undue influence of special moneyed interests over our democracy, and the inherent conflict of interest our public officials face between doing what is right by the people, and doing what will fill their campaign coffers or otherwise personally benefit them. 

If your campaign is truly about the 100%, then let's figure out where we can agree, and have honest, constructive policy discussions rather than using divisive and dishonest rhetoric to perpetuate the political polarization that is preventing us from creating a better future. 

Thanks for your Concern,

Frank Lee Speaking

Frank is the Sr. Political Polemicist and starting left fielder for Slurve Magazine, and Chair of the Concerned Citizens Coalition LFGSD Committee.

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