Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wait! What just happened?

On Friday evening President Obama spoke at Roanoke Fire Station #1 in Virginia. Referring to large-scale infrastructure investments like bridges and highways and the Internet, Obama recycled a line he has used often on the stump but with a slight variation: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Actually, here's what he said:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that [road or bridge]. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Some might say that the line of attack was most effectively delivered by Elizabeth Warren, seen, here.

Be that as it may, the right-wing blogosphere and Fox news lit up like a Christmas tree with over-the-top ranting about the quote, calling Obama, as we used to say in a less enlightened time, everything but a white man. “Socialist, ”  “anti-American,” “out of touch” were just some of the milder epithets. Romney proxy, John Sununu had to walk back his comment that he “wishes Barack Obama would learn to be an American.”

It took until 12:59 p.m. Tuesday, for Romney to read his script as delivered by Rush Limbaugh and others. Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, of Etch-a-Sketch fame, telegraphed the looming attack in a tweet. “Romney at PA rally will rap Obama for saying ‘if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, someone else made it happen.’”

By then, Debby Wasserman-Schultz had explained it perfectly.
     “President Obama was talking about any business owner, who has been successful, they obviously have pulled themselves up by their boot straps and put their own blood, sweat and tears into making that business successful, but that nobody’s success can be credited just to themselves.
     “President Obama was talking about the fact that investments made so that we can have roads to help move vehicles, so that we can have an Internet so that more business owners could actually sell their goods across the globe, so we could ensure that they have employees that get a good education, and therefore they have highly-qualified personnel to help them run their businesses.
     “What President Obama was talking about yesterday and Romney and the Republicans well know it, was that we all need to pull together. We all need to be working together. No one person, no one business owner is able to do it all by themselves. We’re all in this together and that’s the approach President Obama takes to governing. So to suggest that he said anything other than that is a distraction.”

Today, Romney finally reacted to what the President said, or rather, to a distortion of what the Obama said. At a town hall meeting in Ohio, Romney milked it for all it was worth – and then some. In the end, he agreed with what President Obama said. Here’s  Romney’s actual words:
     “Now on Friday he said something which the governor alluded to which really reveals what he thinks about our country.  …  I know that you recognize that a lot of people helped, you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors, there’s no question your mom and dad, your school teachers the people that provide roads, the fire- the policemen.
     “By the way there’s a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepreneurs and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs. We all recognize that that’s an important thing. Government doesn’t invent those people out of thin air. We pay for those people with our taxes! We’re paying for those resources that we receive.” 
Let’s take a moment to examine that quote. First, it is notable that Romney agrees with the President on the non-controversial point that we all depend on teachers, road builders, firefighters and police officers to have a society in which capitalism can flourish. That’s the point that Obama was making, and apparently Romney’s response is, “We all recognize that that’s an important thing.”

Second, though it is an important thing, let us not forget that Romney has been forthright opposed (some would say, openly hostile) to creating more jobs in education or in the public sector.  So, if that’s what it takes to create jobs,Romney is against it.

Third, the fact that Romney believes there’s “no question” that Mom and Dad helped the entrepreneurs he was speaking to create jobs reveals a great deal about how out of touch he is with the reality that faces millions and millions of Americans.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in November, 2009, there were approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21). The majority of individuals raising children alone started out in committed relationships and never expected to be single parents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 84% of custodial parents are mothers. How many have to work two jobs to provide for their children, and then come home bone tired and unable to give as much as they would love to give to the children they love?

Not to mention the fact that when Romney talks about help from Mom and Dad, (for example, to attend college) he is talking about financial assistance. The idea of Moms and Dads who have no wealth and wish they could help their children but simply can’t is beyond Mr. Romney’s imagination.

Fourth, by now it is well known that Romney likes to take credit for things that he had no role in. Take for example, his claim that he created jobs at Bain Capital after the date of his retroactive retirement from the company (i.e. during the time he was filing S.E.C. documents claiming that he was the managing director, owner, president and sole shareholder of the company, a claim that he now claims is false).

Is Romney taking credit for the contributions of others when he says, speaking of government workers that create jobs, “We pay for those people with our taxes! We’re paying for those resources that we receive.” We won’t know unless Romney releases his tax returns. Heads up: given the structure of his wealth, it is entirely possible that he didn’t pay ANY taxes during the recession brought on by the very policies he is now advocating.

Fifth, still on the subject of taxes, don’t forget that Romney’s plan is to cut taxes, especially on the wealthiest Americans (i.e., himself.) Now, to do this he has said that he will cut every non-essential government program. He won’t tell us which ones he will cut for the very simple reason, which he acknowledges, namely, that if people knew what he intends to cut, they wouldn’t vote for him. Is the Small Business Administration an essential government program? What about infra-structure grants to the States? He’s already said we have enough teachers and fire-fighters. You get the idea.

Is all of this important? Well, here’s why a similar non-dispute could have changed the course of history.

As we all recall, the 2000 presidential election in which 104 million people voted was decided by only one vote. See, Bush v. Gore, 521 U.S. 98 (2000). (Holding: In a democracy, it is unconstitutional to count the votes.) (See, also: Wm. Marcy “Boss” Tweed: “As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it.”)

There is no doubt that Al Gore, Jr. won the popular vote by a margin of over 543,000 votes, but that doesn’t matter in our Electoral College system. The 25 electoral votes of Florida went to George W. Bush, because the Supreme Court stopped the counting of ballots, when he was ahead by 537 votes. Other states were also incredibly close, too. The point is that almost anything that influenced the election – no matter how slightly – could have produced a different result.

Let’s take a look at one seemingly trivial thing that may have resulted in a different result in the election of 2000: the vice-presidential debates. In particular, consider the following exchange:
     LIEBERMAN: Dick Cheney must be one of the few people who think nothing has been accomplished in the last eight years. Promises were made and promises were kept. Has Al Gore -- did Al Gore make promises in 1992? Absolutely. Did he deliver? Big time. Let me put it that way. That’s the record. Look at the 20 -- look at the 22 million new jobs. Look at the 4 million new businesses. Look at the lower interest rates, low rate of inflation, high rate of growth. I think if you asked most people in America today that famous question that Ronald Reagan asked, “Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?” Most people would say yes. I’m pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers that you're better off than you were eight years ago, too.
     CHENEY: I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)
     MODERATOR: This question is to you.
     LIEBERMAN: I can see my wife and I think she’s saying, “I think he should go out into the private sector.”
     CHENEY: I’ll help you do that, Joe.

As we can see, Dick Cheney won that exchange. How? By lying, of course. First, let’s examine the record of Halliburton and its dealings with the government.

Following the end of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991,the Pentagon, led by then defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root Services over $8.5 million to study the use of private military forces with American soldiers in combat zones.Halliburton crews also helped bring 725 burning oil wells under control Kuwait. In 1995, Cheney was rewarded with a position at Haliburton: Chairman and CEO.

Halliburton was a fine company. In the early 1990s, Halliburton was found to be in violation of federal trade barriers in Iraq and Libya, having sold these countries dual-use oil drilling equipment and, through its former subsidiary, Halliburton Logging Services, sending six pulse neutron generators to Libya. After having pleaded guilty, the company was fined $1.2 million, with another $2.61 million in penalties.

In 1998, Halliburton merged with Dresser Industries, which included Kellogg. Prescott Bush was a director of Dresser Industries, which is now part of Halliburton; his son, former president George H. W. Bush, worked for Dresser Industries in several positions from 1948 to 1951, before he founded Zapata Corporation.

Starting in the first year of Cheney’s tenure at Halliburton, and continuing through the first year of his vice presidency, Halliburton KBR was awarded at least $2.5 billion to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations, as part of the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP).

The extent of their services included a vast array of logistical operations historically under the jurisdiction of the military. Such operations included laundry services, meal services (dining halls), entertainment (Internet and cable access), and recreation (basketball courts and gym equipment).

During the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, Kellogg Brown-Root (KBR) supported U.S. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and HerzegovinaCroatia and Hungary with food, laundry, transportation, and other life-cycle management services.

When Cheney quit Halliburton to run for vice-president, the company gave him $20 million walking money. Twenty million dollars may not seem like much to a guy like Mitt Romney, but for you and me, in means that if you can earn a modest 5% interest on it, you would be set up to live on a million bucks a year in perpetuity, which is legalese meaning “forever.”

With the foregoing in mind, Lieberman could have won the debate, or at least won that exchange simply by saying something like this:
“Bullshit! You made your fortune on government contracts with a company that you established ties to when you were the Secretary of Defense, in return for which they made you CEO when your party was kicked out of government. And then they gave you 20 million more so that you could go back into government where you could really help them out. And when I say them, I mean their shareholders, which, of course, means you, Dick Cheney.”
Remember, all Lieberman had to do was switch 268 votes from Republican to Democrat. If he had done that, we would have been spared a George W. Bush presidency.

The fact is that right now, the topic of conversation that Obama wants to have is about Romney’s refusal to release more of his tax returns. Romney hasn’t even filed his 2011 returns, so obviously we haven’t seen that. Also, we are learning that his publicly disclosed versions of his 2010 returns are incomplete. It’s a shit-storm for Romney and why would a Democrat try to change the topic?

 But someone has to go tell Romney that this line of bullshit about what the President said, and his lame response to it won’t fly.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

No comments: