Thursday, August 30, 2012

Prime Time Theater

Willard M. Romney caught in a meditative moment

I am so glad that I don't watch TV, 'cause if I did, there's always the off chance that I might stumble onto Repub convention coverage. Imagine a perfectly good dinner, hurled to the floor. Ughhh!

The terrible fact about this election is that the nation faces unprecedented problems, but by unspoken mutual agreement, neither side can speak candidly about them. So we are faced with the spectacle of the candidates dancing about, vilifying and demonizing the other while implying that each has what it takes to deal with the (mostly unspoken) problems.

The economy is, as usual, a prime topic. Of course the challenger is going to focus on persistent high unemployment and try to nail it on the incumbent. Unfortunately, the Repubs have offered no ideas on how to get people back to work, other than more tax cuts for the uber-rich 1%. Supposedly, this will create such a  warm glow among the capitalist barons, that they will be inspired to move some of their wealth from offshore havens into investments for new plants and businesses.

Blaming the economy on Obama really rings hollow, since the severe recession began on Bush's watch. Repubs attack Obama's stimulus efforts as wasteful and ineffective, unless they happen to target their own constituents (as Congressman Ryan was forced to admit). In fact, the massive stimulus and Federal Reserve intervention (began under Bush) probably forestalled complete collapse for a few more years. Everyone understands that, but politics is a game and empty rhetoric is the strategy of choice.

Dealing with the Debt Monster really brings out a creative dance act. Obama is "bad" for running up the deficit, but Bush and Reagan did it too, and the economy really fell through the floor in 2009. Whoever is president in 2013 will face the "fiscal cliff" caused by Congress having punted difficult budgetary decisions and requiring draconian "sequestration" of spending in the absence of a comprehensive budget agreement. As everyone knew, the chances of that happening in an election year are less than zero.

So how will Romney/Ryan attack the Debt Monster after first digging an even deeper hole with their beloved tax cuts for the rich? When this comes up in the debates, it should make for interesting theater.

Obama's approach seems to be to muddle through and try pushing doomsday back as far as possible, which sounds positively brilliant when compared to the Repub's forward charge over the cliff.

The allegation that Obama is a socialist doesn't stick. Taxes have not been raised under his watch, (although they should have been). For all its flaws. Obamacare is essentially an attempt to broaden the base of those paying into the insurance system. In his past incarnation as moderate Republican, Gov. Romney pioneered this concept in Massachusetts. Now he is trying to sprint away from this record with the tenacity of an Olympian marathon runner.

What is the Republican alternative plan for health care? Buy insurance if you can afford it. If not, then shame on you - you're clearly not one of us, so who cares.

The issue that neither party will face is that the nation is spending an unsustainable proportion of income on health care. What politician will propose that we spend less? Who would support that? Not big Pharma. Not big insurance providers. Not big hospitals and health care chains. These aforementioned vested interests contribute heavily to both parties. Their lobbyists wrote the Obamacare legislation, and will likely write whatever Republican bill gets passed in a Romney administration.

How about a simple extension of Medicare for the general population, with equitable haircut applied to Big Pharma and Big Health Care providers? How about using the existing Medicare payroll tax structure, with no increase in bureaucracy? How about cutting Big Insurance out of the picture entirely? Now that's "socialism" - can't have that!

So enjoy, if you will, the absurd theater as the Romneys present themselves at the convention as average, down-to-earth folks. Hear Ann talk about the challenges of being a mother despite having a few loose millions in the household checking account. Hear Mitt talk about his grinding days at the Bain Capital CEO suite while Ann struggled with housewife duties. Perhaps Ann will come up with a photo op featuring her shoveling manure at the horse farm. Mitt could take a page from Reagan's publicity book by purchasing a ranch so he can pose in plaid shirt and jeans while chopping firewood. Just regular folks!

No one has a clue what to do with the Debt Monster, but we can't admit to that. Perhaps the PTB plans to just let everything blow up and melt down after the election. All the posturing and rhetoric prior to that is meaningless. So enjoy the theater while you can!


No comments:

Post a Comment