By: Eric Fox
When I had to ask myself on Monday night how on Earth someone running for POTUS could be such an ignoramus as to suggest that 47% of people in this country see themselves as victims, that 47% of people fail to take responsibility with their lives, because they do not pay federal income tax I felt a strange combination of furious anger and sheer delight. Make no mistake, with how offensive and misleading as that statistic Mitt Romney used is, he has made his chances of getting elected in November even slimmer.
All over the internet you can find easy rebukes of Mitt’s comments on the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax. For example, as was pointed out in Ezra Klein’s piece in the Washington Post, 61% of that 47% of people (let’s put it at 28.7% of the whole country) are working but do not make enough money, either because of tax credits for having children, just making too little money or whatever else, still pay the 15.3% tax deducted from every paycheck. 15.3%, I am pretty certain that is higher than the percentage of Mitt’s income he paid in income taxes (editor’s note: Mr. Romney’s recently released tax returns show that for 2011 he paid an effective federal income tax rate of 14 percent. Mr. Romney’s return for 2010 indicated that that he paid a rate of 13.9 percent.) in 2009 or 2010, but what do I know, I am part of that 47% who pays no federal income tax at this stage of my life. That says nothing of the percentage of their money that is paid as sales taxes, or what is paid in state taxes each year.
This clearly simplistic reasoning is why, when I look back at the transcript and video of his speech, the greatest thing I feel is concern. Concern that a man who very well could become our President fails to grasp the nuts and bolts of policy issues. Concern that Mitt can look at a piece of paper or a computer screen or have an advisor tell him that 47% of people do not pay federal income taxes and he can just so easily dismiss them as piglets suckling at the government teat, as beggars who could just turn it around if they had a can-do attitude like him, while at the same time failing to recognize the benefits he has accrued from his great income and those benefits that he feels “entitled” to in our tax code.
The cognitive dissonance in Mitt Romney’s thinking during this speech was incredible, particularly when discussing some of his own personal history. Ignoring for a moment his ‘gosh, it would be an easier campaign if I was Latino’ joke-but-not-really-a-joke, he clearly fails to recognize the extraordinary privilege he has grown up with. This has been clear for much of his campaign, exhibit A being when he told college students to “borrow money from their parents” if they could not pay for school, but he was remarkably out of touch at this particular event. He said at one point, that though his father had passed an inheritance to him, that he had given it away so really he got nothing. I am sorry Mitt, but in that particular gem you neglected to mention the fact that your father bought your first house, paid for your college, your private school education, and probably got you just about any meeting you wanted since he was such an important political figure in his time. No one is calling Mitt lazy, but his idea of a self-made man is very different from what the layman would describe it as.
Mitt Romney’s “simpletonian” philosophy was not limited to his ridiculous 47% comments, he revealed himself to be a total bozo on both immigration and the Israeli-Palestine conflict as well. During the primaries Mitt was crass enough to suggest a policy of “self-deportation” with respect to immigration and has repeatedly called for President Obama to close our borders in spite of the effect that for much of the President’s term net immigration has been zero or less. During this speech, Romney says
“Gosh, I’d love to bring in more legal immigrants. . . . I’d like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, ‘Come to America, we want you here.’ Instead, we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you’re welcome to cross the border and stay here the rest of your life.”
I found this statement about as appalling as anything he said during the speech that (hopefully) killed his campaign. First of all, it is easy to want Ph.D.’s to come to the United States, every country wants Ph.D.’s to come to their country. However, if you live in a place where you get a Ph.D. I would have to imagine (because I am not aware of the statistics regarding the immigration of those with doctorates) that you are much less likely to leave the country you live in or got your degree because you will have plenty of opportunities there usually (particularly in Europe and more developed Asian countries).
The policy of self-deportation that Mitt espouses would also make it more difficult for those people getting an education here to stay here. One of his campaign advisors is the man who inspired the Arizona immigration law that spawned similar laws in places like Alabama that make it tremendously difficult for children who are getting an education here to keep getting that education. In fairness to Mitt Romney, those laws are meant to address the undocumented, however, that does not matter when you address the biggest problem with his immigration nonsense. People that come here with “no skill or experience,” first of all, do not live some extravagant life; second, they certainly do not get reminded of how welcome they are in this country. The problem with what Mitt is saying here, is that if America is the land of opportunity, shouldn’t we be glad that people are coming here so their children can get a better life? Many families come over the border to escape violence in their home countries, to find a place that has a demand for cheap labor (our immigration system has, for much of its history, been driven by corporate interests, with the primary interest being cheap labor) and a place where their children can go to a real school, and have a chance for a better life than their parents. If Mitt wants to make it easier for people with high level degrees to come to the United States, why does he insist on policies that prey on some of the most vulnerable children here? Instead of making up some policy to lure foreign Ph.D.’s much more likely to stay in their own countries, why not cultivate the minds we have here, yearning for a chance to be well-educated Americans?
Mitt has insisted on putting his foot in his mouth with respect to foreign affairs since he unofficially became the nominee and while I admire his flexibility at age 65, his hypothetical presidency could be a foreign policy nightmare. In addition to his comments this past summer where he said the Israeli’s had been more successful than the Palestinians because of their “culture” (just say it Mitt, you think Jews are good with money), Mitt’s comments on the conflict there made him look both like a racist and a nincompoop:
“I’m torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I’ve had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace. And that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now, why do I say that? Some might say well just let the Palestinians have the West Bank and have security and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. And I don’t have a map here to look at the geography. But the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel. The center of Israel. It’s, uh—what? The border would be. . . .Nine miles. The challenge is the other side of the West Bank . . . the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point or Jordan. And, of course, the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon and what they did in Gaza. Which is the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel, of course, would have to say that can’t happen . . . . Well, that means that . . . the Israelis are going to control the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, ‘Ah, no way! We’re an independent country. You can’t guard our border with other Arab nations’ . . . . And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem. I mean, we look at that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it.”
The Palestinians do not want peace, we must blindly support the far-right Israeli government and we are going to let someone else figure out this problem. That is the Mitt Romney’s position on Israel-Palestine. His position is to have a vacuum of leadership in this part of the world until someone smarter comes around to try to get these two sides to speak with each other. His ideology is both lazy and moronic. When a country is under occupation for six plus decades by a foreign power, they generally will not have warm and fuzzy feelings towards them, particularly when conditions in Gaza, according to a UN report released in August, will be unlivable by the year 2020. Plus, the doomsday scenario that Mitt describes is already totally feasible, Iran does not have to have weaponry in Gaza or the West Bank to threaten Israel, they can do it from home. Mitt later went on to say that the idea of the Israelis giving something up in any negotiations with the Palestinians is the “worst idea in the world.” This was an extremely crass statement when one considers the living conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, the lack of potable water, terribly low food security, extremely high unemployment, restricted travel and the amount of land theft by the Israeli government. So I would have to ask Mitt Romney, what exactly do the Palestinians have to give up? Besides their lives of course, but the IDF takes those as they please anyway.
For a man with two Harvard degrees, who was a son of a very prominent Governor in his time, it is remarkable that Mitt Romney may be the worst major party Presidential nominee we have seen in decades. His foreign policy opinions appear to come from a place of extreme ignorance, and calling his domestic policy proposals (the parts that are not so vague it’s impossible to tell what he’s advocating for) “misguided” is about as generous I can be at this point. I want to be able to say that he was just trying to work the crowd with his answers, but, he seems to have been the most sincere that we have seen him be since he started running for President 11 ½ years ago. Let’s just hope we don’t have to find out how “sincere” his policies will be come January 20th.