The Romney v. Obama economic smack down in Ohio last Thursday failed to deliver half the punch of remarks the men made earlier in the week.
President Obama said the nation must focus on the public sector, which continues to lay off thousands of teachers, cops and firefighters, even while the private sector has recovered sufficiently to consistently add jobs. Romney said he would fire more teachers, cops and firemen.
This gets to the dispute between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP has contended for 30 years that the primary function of government is to serve corporations and the 1 percent, and that when they thrive, the 99 percent may receive hand-me-down benefits. Democrats believe the principal function of government is to serve the majority of people and that when they benefit, the economy thrives for everyone.
For all the fancy talk in Ohio on Thursday, it comes down to this: Do Americans want a government of the people by the people for the people, one conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal? Or do Americans want a government of the corporations by the corporations for the corporations, one dedicated to the proposition that the rich are better than everyone else?
For the rich, like Mitt Romney, the proposition that they are better than everyone else is a given. Romney believes that he, the son of a wealthy car company executive and governor, the youth who attended exclusive private schools and wallowed in every privilege, is a self-made man.
That is basic Republican philosophy: Every wealthy person and every successful corporation achieved that all by themselves. They didn’t inherit; they didn’t benefit from taxpayer-funded infrastructure like roads, schools and patent enforcement; there was no luck involved. They achieved it alone by virtue of their own grit, hard work and dedication.
Anyone can do it, the GOP believes, if they would just buckle down, work hard and follow all the rules. As a result, in Republican world, anyone who isn’t rich has only himself to blame.
Therefore, in GOP-logic, the poor and middle class are inferior beings. Government should not serve them. The government, Republicans think, should bow to the successful, who earned service. The government must not, according to the GOP, reward shiftlessness by providing benefits to middle class scallywags who have failed to do what it takes to get rich.
This doctrine of primacy for corporations and the 1 percent has set back the middle class. And the nation’s economy. Middle class income has stagnated. Meanwhile, the wealth of the top 1 percent and corporations has skyrocketed, so that now as much wealth is concentrated at the top as was during the robber-baron age immediately before the Great Depression.
A report issued by the Federal Reserve Board early last week showed that both the income and net worth of the average American family declined so drastically between 2007 and 2010 that nearly two decades of accumulated family wealth was wiped out. Seventy percent of those losses occurred in the years while Republican George W. Bush was still president.
By contrast, on the 1 percent end the scale, corporate executives raked it in last year. Forbes calculated that the CEOs of the nation’s top 500 corporations got an average 16 percent pay increase. The 2011 paycheck for each – a cool $10.5 million.
Also, corporate balance sheets are back in the black, with profits now shooting above pre-recession levels. Rather than investing in America or creating jobs with that money, corporations are hoarding more than $2 trillion in reserves.
And they are stuffing $10 million checks into GOP SuperPAC funds to ensure that Romney keeps his promise to lay off teachers, cops and firefighters while cutting taxes even further for the rich and eliminating any and all regulations that annoy corporations.
No air or water pollution controls on factories. No food safety inspections. Repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Law that was enacted to prevent the reckless Wall Street gambling that crashed the economy. Repeal ObamaCare that was enacted to end abusive practices by health insurers.
Romney reiterated last week that he opposes the provision of ObamaCare requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. So if a child is born with asthma and his working-poor parents don’t have employer-provided health insurance or the money to buy coverage, too bad for the kid. Let him die gasping for breath. The toddler should have had more grit, hard work and dedication and earned himself some insurance. Or he should have picked better parents. Like Romney did.
Democrats, like Obama, believe in the primacy of the majority, as did the founders of the United States. The revolutionists wrote in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . .” The 1 percent, CEOs the lucky, the super-smart and the well-born are not more equal. The government was created to serve the needs of everyone.
And when it does, the economy fairs better. After the Wall Street crash of 1929, the great Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman instituted changes that supported the majority, including establishing collective bargaining rights. World War II, paid for by high taxes on the 1 percent, created a massive employment program, after which veterans benefits provided higher education for a generation. The result was lower concentration of wealth at the top and the greatest economic boom in the history of the world.
Then came Republican Ronald Reagan who gave the doctrine of corporate primacy a cute name — trickle down. America must end his spell of voodoo economics or Romney and the Republicans will continue to stick it to the middle class.