When David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty “disappear,” that was an impressive stunt, but of course it was an illusion. Did Mitt Romney perhaps win the American presidency with a similar illusion during the first presidential debate, when he managed to make $7 trillion vanish before our eyes?
While others have accused President Obama of blowing the debate, I think he was caught off balance by Romney’s sleight of hand. Chris Kowal, a Purdue University professor who has studied Obama’s and Romney’s facial expressions since 2007, said that the emotions Obama expressed were positive, on the whole, but that his face registered frustration. And that’s completely understandable, considering Romney’s vanishing act.
It’s hard to debate wild myths rationally, so I can certainly sympathize with Obama’s frustration. At this juncture in the race, the main election issues are jobs and the economy. The candidates have very different ideas about how to create jobs and stimulate the economy. Obama was prepared to debate the most obvious difference, only to see Romney make it vanish — Presto! Change-o! — with smoke and mirrors.
Obama and the Democrats favor a balanced approach: ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, some much-needed belt-tightening that isn’t so extreme it shreds the safety nets of the elderly, sick and poor (which means cuts in defense spending), and investments in things that will allow future growth, such as education and green energy.
Romney and the Romulans have favored supply side economics — also called “trickle down” and “voodoo” economics — ever since the presidential campaigns began in earnest. According to Romney Hood and his partner in crime Lyin’ Ryan, reversing tax cuts for the super-rich is not only verboten, but it is imperative to cut their taxes even more. Ryan’s “rescue plan for the super-rich” would virtually free them from all federal income taxes, by exempting the main sources of their income: capital gains, interest and dividends.
As everyone from Bill Clinton, to Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman, to ultra-conservative Republicans have pointed out, it is impossible to cut $5 trillion in tax revenues, increase defense spending by $2 trillion, and not end up $7 trillion deeper in debt, unless some combination of new revenues and spending cuts can balance the equation. But to my knowledge not a single expert on either side, or in the middle, has agreed that $7 trillion can be found without raising taxes for middle income Americans and/or letting the elderly, sick and poor experience a world of hurt.
Romney’s magic act discounts basic math and he refuses to discuss where $7 trillion can realistically be cut, other than to suggest giving Big Bird the boot, which would reduce the federal budget by a whopping one one-hundredth of one percent.
But hold on, because it gets worse. I am about to reveal the depth of the sordid deception involved. Romney has promised repeatedly that he will not raise taxes for middle income Americans. But when George Stephanopoulos asked him recently if by “middle income” he meant people who make $100,000 per year (which is still double the median American family income), Romney replied, “No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”
If we peer deep enough into the illusion, it becomes clear that Romney has promised to cut taxes only for American families making $200,000 or more per year. He has made no promises to anyone at lower income levels. He can raise their taxes because they are not really “middle income.” And who can guess what he intends for the elderly, sick and poor? He is on record as saying that it is “immoral” to have trillion-dollar deficits and to borrow money from China. As the CEO of Bain Capital, he was perfectly content to fire American workers, liquidate entire companies, rake in profits for himself and his rich cronies, and let everyone he deemed expendable either swim with the sharks, or sink to the bottom.
Perhaps Romney intends to perform the same sort of LBO “magic” on the struggling American public that he once performed on struggling American companies. An LBO is a nifty way of transferring money from a sinking ship to its richest passengers, just before they skedaddle for the lifeboats. President Obama is trying to save the ship of state and all the passengers, so he has my vote.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.