Let me say first that I don’t like politicians. When one of our elected officials of either party is on the TV I usually change the channel. I read the news on the Internet, where I can read transcripts of what was said on television. That way I don’t have to watch these people, and reading what they say tells me more about them.
The inevitable conclusion I have reached is this: Mitt Romney is a pathological liar. In fact one has to wonder if this man even knows that he is lying. He has a salesmans approach to campaigning – say anything to close the deal, even if what he says is a flat out contradiction of what he said a few days or weeks ago. During the primary debates Jon Huntsman described Romney as a “perfectly lubricated weathervane,” a politician who will point in whatever direction the political winds are blowing at the moment.
Yes all politicians distort, they stretch the truth, they leave out essential details that can change an argument, they take things out of context. That is nothing new. Mitt Romney treads on ground where the vast majority of politicians are reluctant to go. He makes up things without even the most tenuous association with facts.
One example. A Romney ad claimed that the president had a plan for dropping the work requirement for welfare. “Under Obama's plan you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check." It’s a lie. The administration agreed to allow some states to develop their own plans for placing welfare recipients in jobs, per the request of governors of those states, most of them Republican. Romney’s claim that welfare requirements have been waived is a lie cut out of new cloth.
Paul Waldman does research on political ads and has followed every campaign since 1952. He says “I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.”
A little background here. Mitt Romney was a moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts. He worked with Ted Kennedy to develop a public health care plan for the state, a plan that is strikingly similar to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In order to make himself more palatable to the Republican base, which in this day and age has become a group of rabid ideologues, Mitt reinvented himself as a “severe conservative.” The party’s base never really believed that Mitt had truly seen their light . Mitt won the nomination by 1) having better funded SuperPacs that outspent the other candidates 2) having the backing of the power brokers in the party (Rove) and 3) because the other candidates were more deeply flawed.
Now it’s time for Mitt to shake up the Etch a Sketch and reinvent himself once again, which he did in the last debate. He said earlier he would repeal Dodd-Frank, all of it, because you can’t impose those awful burdensome regulations on our noble lords of finance, regulations that impair their magical job-creating abilities, can you? But in the first debate with Obama he found nuance. There are parts of Dodd-Frank that make sense said the new moderate Mitt. Which parts? He’ll tell you later.
The only thing that can be said conclusively about Mitt Romney’s beliefs is that we have no clue what they are. He is a cipher, a candidate who has been on both sides of every issue so many times that you cannot get through the fog and discover where he stands from what he says. He wants to be all things to all people, a perfect chameleon. It seems that he doesn’t know or care that he contradicts himself repeatedly, it’s all just part of closing a business deal.
Take taxes. Mitt says he will cut income taxes by 20% across the board. The loss in revenue, estimated at almost $5 trillion, will be made up by closing deductions. High income earners will not pay less or more he says. According to Mitt the new tax structure will be revenue neutral, that is generate as much revenue as the old structure. This begs the question, if the tax revenue does not change then what does changing the structure actually accomplish? Apparently this is too much wonky detail for Mitt to burden us poor commonfolk with, but never fear, we will find out once he is in the Oval Office.
What deductions does Mitt plan to eliminate to make up for the lost revenue? He won’t say. That’s right he won’t tell us. Apparently we the people are on a need to know basis, and we don’t need to know. Just trust him, we’ll find out after he’s elected. Meanwhile some smart people tried crunching the numbers to see if you really did not lose $5 trillion in revenue over ten years and they found out that you can’t make two plus two equal five in any standard mathematical framework. Unless you made some really unlikely assumptions in the genre of “then a miracle occurs.” So when the $5 trillion dollar loss in revenue issue came up during the debate, Mitt deftly handled that by calling Obama a liar for pointing out that a tax reduction results in reduced revenue. He won the debate by trying to make it a “I know what you are but what am I?” spitting match.
That brings me to the flip side of Mitt’s blatant lying. That’s in essence saying nothing at all, just making hand-waving allusions with no specifics, a smokescreen to cover one’s real strategies. Trust us they say, we’ll flesh out the details once in power. Mitt Romney is emblematic of today’s financial royalty, a businessman who used every gimmickry financial invention to amass millions, and had no qualms about taking advantage of tax loopholes like the carried interest exemption to pay lower tax rates than most middle class workers. This is a guy whose business model was to buy a company with other people’s money, saddle it with huge fees (a Bain innovation), offshore jobs when possible, take advantage of a capital gains tax loophole to pay a very low tax on gains made with other people’s money, hide his money in offshore tax havens and somehow amass $100 million in his IRA. And you might wonder why he doesn’t want to release any more tax returns?
At one point in the first debate Mitt said this: “Look,the reason I’m in this race is because there are people who are really hurting in this country.” If anyone believes that this guy actually gives one fig about the number of unemployed Americans, I’ve got a million dollars in a Nigerian bank account but first I need you to send me ten thousand dollars then we can both get rich. . .