There’s an underlying philosophy here–rewrite America’s social contract
Romney has spent a year trying to show the American electorate a road map, pointing at a distant, radical destination. Only the deliberately blind could miss the signals, and only a fool would assume he’ll change direction once he’s in power. The presumptive Republican nominee aims to set the nation on a very different course early next year. The general consensus about the social contract has been fairly reliable since the days of the New Deal, but Romney intends to rewrite it. --Steve Benen, NY Daily News
Beneath the moderate veneer, a right-wing agenda lurks. Steve Benen (NY Daily News) wrote this piece recently. It is right on the mark and worth the time to read. (my bold)
Jimmy Carter was asked this week about the prospects of a Mitt Romney presidency, and offered an unexpected response. “I’d rather have a Democrat, but I’d be comfortable,” Carter said. The former President added that Romney had at least been moderate “in previous years.”
The sentiment is not uncommon. The former one-term Massachusetts governor has gone through several iterations – enough to raise doubts as to whether he has a core integrity at all – but at least one of the versions was fairly sensible. For some, it’s reassuring to think Romney is putting on an elaborate ruse, and a closeted moderate may reemerge.
That’s quite a risk for a nation to take with so much on the line.
The likelier scenario is that the presumptive GOP nominee didn’t just adopt a few conservative positions during the primaries to satisfy assorted party constituencies.
Romney has actually become the most far-right major party nominee in generations, eager to make the Reagan and Bush presidencies look almost liberal by comparison.
To be sure, in the coming months, Romney and his team will frequently feign moderation. And he knows how not to seize on cultural and social wedge issues like, say, Rick Santorum. But a coat of centrist paint can only partially cover up genuinely right-wing substance.
Take tax policy, for starters. Ronald Reagan, concerned about runaway deficits, raised taxes seven of the eight years he was in office. George H.W. Bush famously broke his “no new taxes” pledge in 1991 in order to help keep the nation’s fiscal house in relative order. George W. Bush broke new ground – Americans have never seen a chief executive launch wars and cut taxes at the same time – and left the nation with a $10 trillion debt.
But Romney, instead of learning lessons from the Bush era, is eager to push the fiscal envelope past the breaking point. The former governor has presented a plan that not only makes all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, he also demands a 20% across-the-board cut on top of the already-lower rates. “Romney’s plan is George W. Bush’s plan on steroids,” David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, recently explained.
Romney has promised to do this even as he plans to dramatically increase military spending – one of the biggest chunks of the budget, aside from Medicare and Social Security. How the math adds up is anyone’s guess. But to appreciate just how much further to the right Romney is than all modern GOP presidents, taxes are just the beginning.
On health care, the presumptive Republican nominee intends to begin his first day by eliminating the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. This would scrap protections for Americans with preexisting conditions, end coverage for young adults tied to their parents’ plans and reinstate the Medicare “donut hole,” imposing higher prescription drug prices on millions of seniors.
Romney may say he agrees with some of these goals, but abolishing Obamacare “root and branch,” as Romney has promised to do, would throw out many babies along with the supposed bathwater. That’s Phase 1 of Romney’s stated health care goals.
When it comes to replacing Obamacare, he envisions a new model in which consumers fend for themselves with weak tax credits in the open market. Independent experts have analyzed similar plans and concluded the nation could expect to see the number of uninsured soar.
On Medicare, Romney has vowed to end the program’s guaranteed benefit altogether and replace the existing structure with a voucher system. If prices go up faster than the value of the voucher, too bad. Maybe grandma should find a job to cover her health care costs and celebrate the joys of economic “freedom.” Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 never even hinted at such radicalism, at least not while in office.
Don’t overlook environmental policy, either. In the not-too-distant past, support for environmental protections was bipartisan. Teddy Roosevelt was a conservation pioneer; Dwight Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency; and George H.W. Bush adopted a cap-and-trade policy to combat acid rain.
While George W. Bush – a Texas oilman, no less – acknowledged that global warming is real and caused by human activity, Romney isn’t even sure whether to accept the basics of climate science. Last October, for example, he told voters, “We don’t know what’s causing climate change,” though there’s overwhelming evidence we know exactly what’s causing the crisis.
On immigration, Romney has completely abandoned the moderation of recent Republican leaders. Reagan approved a mass amnesty plan and George W. Bush backed a comprehensive reform package that enjoyed bipartisan support. Romney has gone off the deep end, endorsing a “self-deportation” agenda premised on the idea of making undocumented immigrants’ lives so miserable, they’ll simply go away.
Romney has also vowed to reject the DREAM Act for young immigrants, a policy that had been co-written by once-moderate Republicans, only recently hinting that he might embrace a watered down imitation being crafted by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
On education, the presumptive GOP nominee has encouraged students worried about rising tuition rates to simply “shop around” for a college they can afford – perhaps decent advice, because a Romney administration would cut Pell Grants and dramatically scale back the federal role in helping young Americans afford higher education. Such measures would have been considered ridiculous under Reagan and the Bushes.
The list goes on. Modern Republican Presidents supported Planned Parenthood funding; Romney has vowed to “get rid of” the women’s health and abortion rights organization. Recent GOP heads of state left the U.S. Constitution alone; Romney has endorsed a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage. Bush signed McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform into law; Romney opposes practically all efforts to curtail the influence of money in politics.
Recent GOP administrations at least paid lip service to aiding the poor and left of the modern welfare state largely intact; the Bush mantra was “compassionate conservatism.” Romney, citing growth in assistance programs during a recession that began under Bush, has endorsed plans to gut Medicaid and cut food stamps.
It wasn’t long ago when fair-minded Americans from the left, right and center would have seen such steps as needlessly callous and wildly out of step with the American mainstream. Ironically, Romney’s standard stump speech accuses Obama of wanting to “transform America.” The Republican wants the electorate to perceive the President as some kind of fringe figure, intent on turning the country into an unrecognizable dystopia. It’s ironic, because it is Romney who has committed himself to an agenda that’s clearly out of the mainstream.
This goes beyond just individual issues; there’s an underlying philosophy here. Americans have become accustomed to gradual, almost imperceptible, shifts in the nation’s larger ideological trajectory. Politics, the pundits say, is played “between the 40 yard lines.” Democratic eras inch the country slowly to the left, while Republican eras nudge the country to the right, but in nearly all cases, the basic framework of American society and the relationship between the populace and their government doesn’t change too dramatically, at least not quickly.
The presumptive Republican nominee aims to set the nation on a very different course early next year. The general consensus about the social contract has been fairly reliable since the days of the New Deal, but Romney intends to rewrite it. A press secretary for the Republican National Committee recently said Romney and his party would pursue the policies of the Bush administration, “just updated.” Democrats rejoiced – it meant they could tell voters Romney would simply represent Bush’s third term. But in important ways, they’re both wrong. Romney is more extreme. Those quietly hoping that he doesn’t mean what he says are making a sucker’s bet.
The man has spent a year showing the American electorate a road map, pointing at a distant, radical destination. Only the deliberately blind could miss the signals, and only a fool would assume he’ll change direction once he’s in power.