I know politicians speak in hyperbole to make points.
I know that most people would rather hear sound byte moments than policy details.
I know that when attacks on politicians turn personal then all meaningful discussion degrades.
But I need a little bit of help here. If any of my Republican friends can help me understand then please, please explain some things to me in a way that make sense of some things I've heard this week. I will try to listen without contradicting or arguing. Really.
Some weeks back, Mitt Romney spoke about not being concerned about the poor because (an important because often left off for how valuable the quote preceding his explanation was seen by the left) there was a safety net in place. By that safety net, I'm assuming he meant welfare assistance, medicaid, medicare (?), unemployment benefits, etc. On the other hand, he pointed out, he wasn't concerned about the very rich either, they were doing just fine. His greatest focus was going to be the middle class. I had the impression, from that, that he was interested in preserving the status quo for the rich and the poor.
I think many people from the middle of the political spectrum can get behind that idea. Disagreements arise, of course, from the best policy for helping the middle class. Jobs, of course, are the current main concern. This is where a healthy and robust and factual debate can be held about the best way to do this.
Instead, the Republicans yesterday released their long term budget plan. It is basically the same idea they keep presenting . . . an idea that even the Congressional Budget Office says will do nothing to actually reduce the deficit in the long run. This plan further cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans (already historically low and not helping create jobs). It makes drastic cuts to social programs. Most economists claim there will be no benefit to the middle class.
So if this is the party for which Mr. Romney declares himself the best leader, why doesn't his rhetoric match the policy? Or does it, and he just isn't playing straight with us? Does he mean the poor are more than fine and should be cut off? Does he mean that the best way to help the middle class is through the favorite rich-man notion of trickle down economics? If the rich get richer eventually there will be jobs for the middle class? If that is really what the policy will be under a Romney government, then he needs to tell it like it is. Or does he recognize that his own philosophy is so difficult to swallow for people of ordinary means that he is keeping it on the down low?
In last night's self-congratulatory speech politicians love to give, he leapfrogged straight over Rick Santorum to Barack Obama boldly declaring that it was time to take our freedom back.
Can somebody help me understand (I asked the same question multiple times during the interim election) what on earth he is talking about? How has Mr. Romney's freedom in any way been curtailed in the last three years? As near as I can tell he makes several tens of thousands of dollars a day for doing nothing more than running for president. This money is taxed at a shockingly low rate. He owns multiple, beautiful homes and flies about in a private airplane. He is free to worship as he wishes. Say or print whatever true or untrue thing he wishes about the current administration. Carry a gun if he wants (because, remember, the only thing we've ever heard from Obama on gun rights is that the Supreme Court was right to overturn Washington D.C.'s restrictive gun law). Unless the government has forced him to quarter soldiers in his house . . . I am not sure which freedoms he has lost.
Unless of course he is referring to the stipulation in the Federal Health Care Plan, which hasn't actually been enacted yet, that he be required to buy health insurance. But wait. Mr. Romney already lives in a state that requires him to buy health insurance. By law. A law he signed. A decision over which he agonized for many weeks himself . . . and in the end decided that overriding public interest in this case superseded the individual right. (That bill might be one of the finest and most courageous bits of legislation ever signed by a governor, and if he was running on a states rights platform as opposed to repealing, then he wouldn't even have to face the question of how "Romneycare" is appreciably different from "Obamacare." It isn't--he needs to re-frame the issue entirely.)
So, if it isn't his own freedom that is being curtailed then what does he mean by "our?" More like how somebody says "we lost" when talking about a favorite team's defeat? In other words, Mr. Romney has as much freedom as ever, but those he is attempting to represent have had freedoms removed and he is trying to show solidarity? Okay. But again, what freedoms? If he is talking about the health care thing again then that seems pretty disingenuous--after all, again, he lives in a state where health care will never be a problem. For many Americans, gaining access to health care will mean MORE freedom, not less. If he is talking about something else then what is it? Freedom from a federal deficit? A reasonable point, but only the democratic plan put forward for budget reduction lines up with the bipartisan committee's recommendation for budget reduction. Is he talking about jobs? Only the democrats put together a jobs bill in the last few years. Which his party refused to even compromise on.
A third quote from Mr. Romney, however, is the one that is the hardest for me to reconcile with the other two. At a student rally in Illinois, a young woman raised her hand and insisted that she wasn't talking about birth control but, "you have said you want to defund Planned Parenthood. If so, where will poor women go for mammograms and pap smears?" His reply, "They can go wherever they want. It is a free country. But I don't see any reason these people have to pay for it." Huge cheers.
So wait . . . it is a free country now? But only if you are poor? Does he not understand that if they had ANYWHERE ELSE TO GO they would not be at Planned Parenthood in the first place? That funding birth control for poor women saves the governments tens of millions of dollars in the long run? If he is pushing for policies that seek to get rid of the safety net for the poor, then what of his earlier statement about the poor doing just fine? Is it really then, that the stolen sound byte is the truth? That he just doesn't care about the poor? Poor women in particular?
Okay. My logic has probably strayed too far. I know that somebody will read this hear and imply that I'm getting personal. That Mr. Romney personally cares for the poor--he has a track record of donation and ecclesiastical service. That may very well be true, I don't know the man. So help me to see how the policies he is advocating show compassion and concern for his fellow countrymen. All of them.