Saving Private Romney

No sooner had Romney and his newly picked running mate Mr. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin dubbed themselves “America’s Comeback Team” than President Barack Obama tweeted: “Romney-Ryan: The Go Back Team.” Bring it on! Saving Private Romney is going to involve an ideological battle, over the size of the government, extent of Americans’ obligations to one another, even the soul of the country, is no less than United States deserves. An election should not be about candidates’ “likability” when a great nation is poised at the brink of decline. It should be a large debate, not a small one. (source: Roger Cohen – NYTimes – 14/08/2012)

I had been observing U.S. election from Europe, which knows about painful loss of power, and picked up principally a blur of slur. Now Mitt Romney has provided a spark. He has introduced a young man with conservative credentials that meet Ayn Rand test and a whiff of the natural political animal. Elections often hinge on simple ideas. Ronald Reagan asked Americans: Are you better off than you were 4 years ago? François Hollande defeated the incumbent in France by presenting himself as “Monsieur Normal” who dislikes the rich. Romney, in picking Ryan, turned the election into a vote on a core question: Who can revive America? (Rest of the world hardly comes into it for now: Ryan’s international credentials are nonexistent.)

The Romney gamble is huge because the line of Democrat attack against him and Ryan is so clear: They are the heartless would-be destroyers of Medicare, the health insurance program for retirees (who abound in battleground state Florida), and Medicaid; and they are the architects of a massive redistribution of income from bottom to top at a time when the top, unlike middle and bottom, is doing just fine. They would offer the Bain blandishments to billionaires but bulldoze America’s social compact. (Contrary to a widespread European view, it exists). The shape of Republican counter-attack is equally apparent: Obama, with a little bit of studious this and a touch of worthy that, has no serious plan to stop Americans living on borrowed money. The economy is stalled, unemployment high. The country, to quote Mr. Clint Eastwood’s endorsement of Romney, “needs a boost”. Behind this battleground a mountain stands. It is composed of debt. I applaud Ryan pick because it places front and center what the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, has called the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security: its debt. A country in ever a greater hock to the Chinese, unable to invest in its schools, vulnerable to creditors pulling the plug, will not resist the decline in 21st century. This election is about American revival, stupid. Obama has steadied America’s course, killed its greatest enemy, averted financial meltdown, but he has not lifted United States from its sullen mood, undermining debt habits. Behind now looming fiscal debate lies a values debate on how to galvanize America’s energies, as every great president has done. (A subtext of Romney’s choice is: I’m a risk-taker and can lead.) The president has a deficit reduction plan. It would, among other things, cut the military spending, preserve Medicare, seek cost-saving health care efficiency. It makes a lot of sense. But try naming one big idea. Anxious nations need big ideas. Ryan has built his reputation on having big ideas to balance America’s books. He is a genial guy; the geniality masks the fact that, as Norman Ornstein, the co-author of “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” a book on U.S. political dysfunction, put it: “His set of proposals are the most radical since Barry Goldwater.”

The poor, the needy, the old, college students seeking loans, all would be worse off under Paul Ryan’s budget proposals, which would slash entitlements and turn Medicare into a voucher system. He wants a much simpler tax code: a 25% tax rate for higher incomes and 10% for lower incomes while closing the loopholes and eliminating deductions that see very rich paying far less than 25% today. Simplification would be good. There are countless ruses: Romney, my colleague James Stewart notes, has “been faulted for treating a horse partly owned by his wife as a loss-generating passive investment, rather than as a hobby.” (Don’t get me started on Mitt Romney’s treatment of animals.) If the loopholes and deductions that left six of the richest Americans paying zero tax in 2009, zilch!, are really closed, there may indeed, as Stewart has argued, be some merit to Ryan’s tax proposal. Of course that’s a big if. Romney will seek to fight election on values, freedom, opportunity, personal initiative, smaller government, that Ryan’s proposals seek to embody. Obama will counter with the specifics of lacerating entitlement cuts. We may actually get a serious debate on greatest long-term threat to U.S. national security. Mitt Romney, in choosing Paul Ryan, has performed at least that service. The world is so interwoven, that no single nation, can be its guardian or guide. But an America of restored self-belief is essential to global well-being. 


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

11 Responses to Saving Private Romney

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Roger is right. This election is not only about economics, is about US future military security. According to DOD thinking, the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security is its DEBT. Which candidate offers the best policy proposal to address both challenges, particularly the deficit question? Obama’s proposal reduces military spending and preserve Medicaid. Romney-Ryan preserves military spending and reduce welfare programs. Clearly, both proposals create winners and losers. In Obama’s proposal, defense and welfare share the burden of adjustment almost equally. In the Romney-Ryan, the burden of adjustment is paid by the middle class and the poor. Defense wins and welfare loses. The question faced by US 2012 is similar to the UK in 1945. After WW II, UK was financially exhausted and HEAVILY in debt to the US. This left it almost impossible to defend its far-flung colonies by force. The US capitalized on its position of banker and forced the UK to abandon the empire by threat of economic collapse otherwise. This was so that vast markets were opened to American companies and to weaken the UK in general. The US is the largest debtor in the world today, particularly to China.

    Is history repeating itself? Is China doing to the US what the US did to UK after WW II? the answer is YES.

    Latin America and Africa economies are already China’s largest trading partners and recipients of direct investment. The lesson: debt and superpower don’t rhyme.

  2. There is something to be said for universal health care systems. When my son developed a rash on an Italian vacation in Liguria last month, the pharmacist showed me to the doctor downstairs, who diagnosed the problem at no charge and sent me off with a handshake and a joke about a daughter in med school at the University of California, San Diego. Italy may be in a funk, with a shrinking economy and a high unemployment rate, but the United States can learn a lot from it, and not just about the benefits of public health care. Italians live longer. Their poverty rate is much lower than ours. If they lose their jobs or suffer some other misfortune, they can turn to a more generous social safety net. Every developed country aspires to provide a better life for its people. The United States, among the richest of all, fails in important ways. It has the highest poverty and the highest infant mortality among developed nations. We provide among the least generous unemployment benefits in the industrial world. Not long ago one of the most educated countries in the world, the United States is slipping behind. The reason is not difficult to figure out: rich though we are, we can’t afford the policies needed to improve our record. The politicians in Washington all know that we face a long-term fiscal crisis. By 2020, 70 million Americans are expected to be on Social Security, up from 45 million in 2000. The ranks on Medicare will swell to 64 million, up from 40 million in 2000. Virtually every economist knows that just maintaining Medicare and Medicaid benefits will require raising taxes on the middle class. But though the nation’s fiscal challenge has taken center stage in the presidential election campaign, raising more taxes from American families remains stubbornly off the table. President Obama is willing to accept higher taxes on families earning over $250,000 a year. But he is going nowhere near higher taxes on the middle class. And Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential pick, Paul Ryan, are moving decidedly in the opposite direction. Not only do they want to extend indefinitely the tax cuts passed by President George W. Bush, but they are also calling for a piñata of additional ones, and would cut social spending in return. Citizens of most industrial countries have demanded more public services as they have become richer. And they have been by and large willing to pay more taxes to finance them. Since 1965, tax revenue raised by governments in the developed world have risen to 34 percent of their gross domestic product from 25 percent, on average. The big exception has been the United States. In 1965, taxes collected by federal, state and municipal governments amounted to 24.7 percent of the nation’s output. In 2010, they amounted to 24.8 percent. Excluding Chile and Mexico, the United States raises less tax revenue, as a share of the economy, than every other industrial country (…..)

  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Americans – like any other people in the world – hate taxes but understand the need to pay them. What is going in the US? in the past, foreigners were willing to finance (cheaply) the US twin deficits i.e., trade and budget. Since Vietnam, costly wars and welfare expenditures were financed by foreigners, increasingly from China. The US government debt today -not including states and municipalities- is equivalent to the annual GNP. Sooner than later, foreigners will demand high interest rates to continue rolling the US debt. If that happens, the debt goes Greek.

    The next administration has three choices: 1. Status Quo i.e., foreigners financing substantial portions of the twin deficits. Debt may get out of control and superpower status is jeopardized; 2. Swift reduction in public expenditures a la Paul Ryan. Defense wins and middle class/poor lose. Overseas investors of US debt and dollar cash win. Robust economic growth may be restored albeit at high unemployment rate. 3. Gradual reduction in expenditures and increase taxes on the rich a la Obama. The country buys time to address the twin deficits, lukewarm growth and unemployment is maintained;

    The US tax question is not complicated. In order to keep military superiority and sustain a decent welfare system, US taxpayers have to pay more taxes, including the rich, the middle class and the poor. Besides, the country will continue to rely on foreign borrowing. Miracles only happens in religion, not in economics.

  4. WHILE MOST PEOPLE were debating Vice President Biden’s infamous Tuesday commentary on shackling, we found ourselves more disheartened by his pandering comment on Social Security, delivered the same afternoon to little response — maybe because pandering is no longer news. As has been by now widely discussed, Mr. Biden told a heavily African American audience that Republican Mitt Romney, if elected president, was “going to put y’all back in chains.” Mr. Romney read the remark as a reference to slavery and proclaimed himself to be highly affronted. Our view: The Biden comment was dumb and uncalled for, the Romney reaction tactical and over the top. On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.” Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised. Is “going broke” too strong? Well, let’s ask the experts — the trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund, who include President Obama’s Treasury, labor, and health and human services secretaries. In their annual report in April — delivered, as it happens, to Mr. Biden, in his capacity as Senate president — the trustees noted that the disability portion of the trust fund “becomes exhausted in 2016, so legislative action is needed as soon as possible.” The overall fund, combining retirement and disability, will “become exhausted and unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2033.” That leaves Congress with four choices, the trustees explained: raise the payroll tax, reduce benefits, devote other revenue to Social Security or some combination of the above (…..)

  5. Metastasis: I’ve got a great idea! Cut the damned military budget by 75% over the next ten years (graduated to avoid economic shock). That’ll free up a lot of money! Want to know the difference between country whose citizens have good quality of life and those that don’t? A gargantuan military.

    Republican president Dwight Eisenhower warned of it, and it has come to pass: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

    That from a general and one of our best modern presidents. You want the problem with America in a nutshell? There it is. It maybe made some sense during the Cold War. But Reagan doubled our debt as % of GDP to vastly expand our military as the Soviets were imploding economically, and it’s gotten even bigger since. Ask yourself whom we are defending against! Our biggest trade partner? Al Qaeda? Our vast military expenditures, half of the world’s total, didn’t protect us from 9/11, did they? You know why? NO amount of military can protect against a couple of guys with box cutters.

  6. Steve Bolger: Eisenhower knew that war was something to be avoided, so one is primarily concerned with deterring it. This does not mean engaging in constant small scale wars to give soldiers more ribbons to wear at memorial ceremonies.

  7. Concerned Citizen: Alas — let’s not forget that bloated military budgets pay a lot of people’s salaries — not just the rich. It pays the salaries of military personnel — for a lot of working class Americans, a job in the military is the only good paying job they qualify for. It pays for defense contractors, who employ millions of tech people, engineers and computer science folks. Without it, a huge segment of our economy will simply collapse. We do NOT have the jobs to employ these folks otherwise.

  8. Mitt Romney said on Thursday that he had not paid less than 13 percent of his income in taxes during the past decade, but he called the continued focus on his personal tax returns “small-minded” in the face of the nation’s problems. Speaking to reporters during a stop in South Carolina, Mr. Romney said that he had examined the last 10 years of his tax returns. “Every year, I’ve paid at least 13 percent,” he said, apparently referring to his effective federal income tax rate. Mr. Romney’s decision to address the tax question on Thursday appeared to be the campaign’s latest attempt to put the nettlesome issue of his tax returns behind him. But Democrats seized on the comments as a way to revive the issue and to once again demand proof of his claims. His statement is the first direct response to attacks by the Obama campaign and its Democratic allies suggesting that Mr. Romney paid little or no taxes in previous years. In particular, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada has alleged — without any proof — that Mr. Romney paid no taxes in some years, presumably by using offshore tax shelters and other legal accounting measures. Mr. Romney had already denounced that as false. But Mr. Romney has steadfastly refused to release more than the single year of returns that he has already disclosed. He has released the full returns for the 2010 tax year and a short summary of the taxes he paid in 2011. In an interview during his trip abroad last month, Mr. Romney was asked whether he had ever paid a tax rate lower than the 13.9 percent he paid in 2010. “I haven’t calculated that,” Mr. Romney told David Muir of ABC News. “I’m happy to go back and look, but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.” Reporters have pressed Mr. Romney and his campaign to follow through on that offer but had been rebuffed. The campaign has continued to insist that Mr. Romney has released all the tax returns he needs to. Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, said that since there was “substantial reason” to doubt Mr. Romney’s claims, “we have a simple message for him: prove it.” “Given Mitt Romney’s secrecy about his returns,” she said, “coupled with the revelations in just the one return we have seen to date and the inconsistencies between this one return and his other financial disclosures, he has forfeited the right to have us take him just at his word.” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s campaign, scoffed at Mr. Romney’s statement. “The ‘trust me, everything’s fine’ approach?” Mr. Axelrod said in an e-mail. “He still can’t answer the basic question: Why not simply do what is the norm — the standard his father set — and release his returns for years back? The argument that he doesn’t want to because his opponents might make something of them is not terribly reassuring” (…..)

  9. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mitt Romney is caught up in the income tax return trap. His non-release is not a strategy, it is a delaying tactic. Obama will make sure to remind Romney about it during their first live TV debate. The GOP candidate is facing a catch 22 situation. If Romney releases his tax returns now, they become THE issue until election day. If he postpones release closer to election day, any negative content can backfire among independent voters. Either way, tax return is a losing-losing proposition for Romney. Things will get worst if Paul Ryan’s tax returns show any impropriety. As Clinton used to say: I share your pain, Romy.

  10. Shady money, voter suppression, shifting positions, murky details and widespread apathy. If there is a road map for a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan win in November, that’s it. Distasteful all. As The New York Times reported this week, Paul Ryan made the trip on Tuesday to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who has pledged to spend as much as $100 million to defeat President Obama. No reporters were allowed in, of course. As The Times’s editorial page pointed out on Friday: “Last year, his company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, announced that it was under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — specifically, that it bribed Chinese officials for help in expanding its casino empire in Macau. Later, the F.B.I. became involved, and even Chinese regulators looked askance at the company’s conduct, fining it $1.6 million for violating foreign exchange rules, The Times reported on Monday.” There was a saying I heard growing up in Louisiana: “Bad money doesn’t spend right.” On Wednesday, a judge in Pennsylvania who is a Republican refused to block a ridiculously restrictive, Republican-backed voter identification law from going into effect in the state, which is a critical swing state. Surprise, surprise. And to add insult to injury, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday: “On the same day a judge cleared the way for the state’s new voter identification law to take effect, the Corbett administration abandoned plans to allow voters to apply online for absentee ballots for the November election and to register online to vote.” Corbett is Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of the state. In June, State Representative Mike Turzai, a Republican and the Pennsylvania House majority leader, ripped the veneer off the purpose of the voter changes in the state when he declared, “voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.” Angry yet? Well wait, there’s more (…..)

  11. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: This election is no different from previous ones that took place since the (questionable) victory of W. in November 2000. As Mr. Blow put it: election 2012 can be defined as shady money, voter suppression, shifting positions, murky details and widespread apathy. There is a fundamental question about the future of the US. The political system became dysfunctional-corrupt and people have lost faith in it. Politics is no longer a solution for the (serious) problems affecting society at large. Congress and the White House are dominated by powerful interest groups such as bankers and the military-industrial complex.

    The political system is THE main problem that includes economic decline and income inequality. The question is: how long can a superpower keep its status with a third world political system?


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