February 16, 2012
On stage at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas on Feb. 2, Mitt Romney and his wife looked humble as they basked in the endorsement of The Donald, orange-haired birther and billionaire capitalist sage.
Trump sounded as if he were presenting the new Mr. and Mrs. America: “This is a great couple. Look at this couple.” If the Romneys had brought along their four totally handsome sons, Trump might have put in a plug for eugenics.
The scene was an ironic reminder of the financial elite’s success in taming the town-hall invaders, founding-father impersonators, tax haters, raucous Obamaphobes and flag-waving birthers that had coalesced as the Tea Party. Here was Trump, once the Tea Party’s presidential favorite, now blessing the establishment candidate.
During the primary season, the Tea Party became infatuated with a succession of unelectables—Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. Happily for the GOP, all three quickly sank under the weight of their manifest incompetence.
That created an opening for another Tea Party darling: the disgraced former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, with his venomous mouth and great debating skill. This corrupt Washington insider won over South Carolina conservatives by presenting himself as anti-elitist. In a state that still sports the Confederate flag in front of its Capitol, Gingrich scored points by calling Obama a “food stamp President” as well as scolding blacks for lacking a work ethic.
However, Newt’s victory frightened GOP elders. Bob Dole warned that Gingrich would doom the party’s chances in November. Romney’s super-PAC was able to raise enough money to overwhelm Newt in the Florida primary.
Rick Santorum’s Feb. 7 victories in the low-turnout, non-binding caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and in Missouri’s straw poll, and his resulting surge in opinion polls, are unlikely to stop Romney. Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul will continue to divide (and thereby weaken) the anti-Romney conservatives. Romney’s much greater financial and organizational resources will likely prevail in the big primaries to come, as they did in Florida.
After his decisive win in the Nevada caucuses, Romney tweeted triumphantly: “Our message of restoring America’s greatness continues to resonate through the west & across the country.” What is his vision of our greatness?
And what is his message to the millions enduring the psychological and financial stress of unemployment? To the 48% of Americans who are either poor (49.1 million) or low-income (the 97.3 million who scrape by on less than 200% of poverty-level income).
In a recent CNN interview, he admitted that he has nothing to say to many of these people: “I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”
Can we believe his promise to care for the safety net? As Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone points out, Romney has already told us how he would “fix” Medicaid: “Romney has endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to "block-grant" the federal contribution to Medicaid – and turn the program over to the states.”
As an April 5 report of the Congressional Budget Office explains, under the Ryan plan “federal spending for Medicaid would be 35 percent lower in 2022 and 49 percent lower in 2030.” Romney told Sean Hannity in an Oct. 24 radio interview that he would cut even more from Medicaid, by reducing the annual growth cap of the block grants from 3% (in Ryan’s plan) to 1 or 2%. As any governor could tell him, this would be a disaster for millions of families.
In the same CNN interview, Romney added “I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine.” Instead, he says he worries about “middle income Americans, they're the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them."
In fact, his tax proposals suggest the exact opposite. According to Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center, “Mitt Romney’s tax plan would cut taxes for millions of households but bestow most of its benefits on those with the highest incomes. At the same time, it would significantly cut corporate taxes and add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit.”
In the year 2015, Romney’s tax plan would raise taxes by an average of $157 for the bottom 20% of taxpayers, and $82 for the second quintile. The third (middle) quintile (“the folks that are really struggling”) would receive a whopping $138 tax cut! (Tax Policy Center, “The Romney Plan”)
And what about the “very rich” that Romney says he’s “not concerned about”? The tax cut for those with incomes over $1 million would average $145,568.
In short, Romney’s vision of a restored America comes straight from George W. Bush’s coloring book: prosperity trickling down on the rest of us from super-wealthy “job creators” such as himself.