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The Artist Abroad

Hell, yes, four more years!


NEW YORK—Those ignorant of history, the saying goes, are condemned to repeat it. Mitt Romney, it seems to me, wishes actively to repeat history. The policies on which he is campaigning to be the next president of the United States are of the same type that created the deep, deep hole that this country is in and that President Barack Obama has had to deal with since Day One of his term. As can’t be said often enough, the economic downturn signaled by the 2008 financial crisis is the worst since the Great Depression—not as devastating perhaps but terrible in its consequences, nonetheless.

Romney is making a cynical bet that the public has so short a memory of those disastrous two terms under George W. Bush that they won’t recognize in him a harmful, calculating mentality. Seen through the lens of Philippine politicking, Romney should be viewed as a trapo, shorthand for “traditional politician” and a word for a rag. And how are trapos looked upon in Manila? Let’s just say a used-car salesman would have more credibility. If multimillionaire Romney (rhymes with money) wins, the nation will once more be led down the garden path, with the same war-mongering, budget-surplus eating, chauvinistic, anti-poor and elitist-pandering policies that have benefited and will continue to benefit the top one percent.

He says he is different from the second Bush—whose absence, in person and in speeches, by the way was notable at the Republican Convention—yet his administration could very well be a repeat of those disastrous years when two wars were embarked upon, a huge budget surplus created by Bill Clinton’s presidency was wasted, tax cuts given the wealthy, and a housing and financial debacle brought about. Dubya was a disaster, probably the worst to befall the office of the president in the modern era.

Traditional politician Romney promises you the moon in order to get your vote. He says he will bring down the deficit, balance the budget, not raise anyone’s taxes; he also says he will increase the budget of the military by $2 trillion, and the military isn’t even asking for such an unconscionable raise. (While he’s at it, he might as well promise to put adobo in every pot, and that we will all live happily ever—this is the kind of fairy dust he sprinkles his speeches with.) He says he can do all this by closing loopholes and not raise taxes but to this day will not specify which loopholes those might be. Given his cavalier view of the less fortunate—the forty-seven percent he referred to as takers in his candid remarks to wealthy donors—you know those cuts will be felt in social programs, such as Medicare, a program the Romney/Ryan scheme would voucherize, which means privatizing the program, with costs rising by an average of $6,400 per beneficiary.

Romney has made it a point to stress that on Day One of his presidency he would repeal Obamacare—the Affordable Health Care Act, the biggest change in health reform since Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through Medicare—never mind that this would mean approximately 45 million Americans not receiving health care. Never mind that the plan used as a model the Massachusetts health program pushed through during Romney’s tenure as governor of that state.

Romney and Ryan have tried to paint themselves as compassionate conservatives, just as Dubya did, but nothing indicates that compassion figures prominently in either man’s vocabulary. Neither man is a man for others.

Joseph Stieglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and professor at Columbia University had this to say in a recent New York Times opinion piece, about the Romney plan: “The macroeconomic consequences of the Romney-Ryan economic program would be devastating: it would slow growth and increase unemployment while decreasing the protection of government safety nets just as Americans would need them more. And that’s not even counting the Romney-Ryan approach to health care. They have criticized the president’s reforms but have said nothing about how or whether they would ensure universal access to doctors, nurses, and medicine.”

Stieglitz ends by pointing out that both  “have tried a hard tack to the center in their rhetoric in recent weeks. But let no one be deceived: their tax policies will lead to more inequality, the continued hollowing out of the middle and more poverty at the bottom. Worst of all, their policies would lead to a more divided society, one that endangers our future—our economy, democracy and sense of national identity.”

President Obama’s record is hardly perfect but he has put into place economic policies that have halted the slide towards complete economic ruin, the successful government bailout of the auto industry—which Romney famously said should go bankrupt—being its signal accomplishment. In fact, Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, while a huge step in the right direction, didn’t go far enough. Deficit spending, any economist worth his or her salt will tell you, is how you climb out of a recession. To be sure, it is a slow growth, but, as Paul Krugman, another Nobel laureate in economics pointed out recently in his New York Times column, “a slow job is better than a snow job.” The Republicans, captive to the Tea Party, have obstructed President Obama at every turn, their aim perfectly encapsulated in Senator Mitch McConnell’s vow that Obama be a one-term president. To let loose a Mitt and Mitch tandem … scary!

Let’s not even bring up the issue of women’s rights when all the Republicans have to offer in this discussion is a mindset that produces for instance nothing but lame, demeaning, cave-man views of what rape is, a Congressional hearing that excluded women, and a rabid desire to roll back their gains.

Why would anyone wish to live through and under a Romney/Ryan administration?

I know a lot of Filipinos who would, folks who would cut off their noses to spite their faces. Many don’t care for Obama, not because of his economic or social or environmental policies—no, not for reasons of governance—but simply because he ain’t white. They cannot imagine a person of color, especially an African-American, leading a country that in their minds has indelibly been identified as the realm of white privilege, to which their whole lives they have aspired but at the same time feel that they will never be that knight on a white horse taking charge of a kingdom—a self-fulfilling expectation, if ever there was one.

I don’t say that all those Pinoys who do vote for Romney do it as a vote against a black man. ­I do think that it is the hidden reason many will, though they will never admit to it. They’ll cite manufactured and completely unfounded, even demented, reasons, of which the the birthers have proven to be Exhibit A. And therein lies the tragedy—that we have racists in our midst who are invisible even unto themselves.

Copyright L.H. Francia 2012

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