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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/23/12

The Many Problems with "Romnesia" and Why It Still Works

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In the race to analyze polls and money raised, the media has lost the basic narrative of identity and character. Willard "Mitt" Romney personifies the mentality of a cheating athlete, the habits of a religious sinner, and a life story that is anti-American.

Anti-American, Anti-Religious Mitt Uses
Anti-American, Anti-Religious Mitt Uses 'Performance Enhancing' Lies
(Image by Gage Skidmore)
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Anti-American, Anti-Religious Mitt Uses "Performance Enhancing" Lies by Gage Skidmore

The sordid details of Lance Armstrong's doping ring -- and subsequent loss of sponsors and titles -- absorb us, but we ignore Romney's adaptation of these techniques for politics. A group led by Romney developed "performance enhancing" lies aimed at earning him a first place finish. Armstrong was unwilling to bet on outcomes earned through honest work, so too was Romney. After the Republican platform and post-convention attacks lost him support, his team accelerated the deceptions of "Romnesia" . Poll gains demonstrate he competes effectively only when his campaign's centerpiece is frequent policy reversals, lies about the president's record, and numbers that don't add up. In our sports obsessed country, he deserves to be shamed by the press and hauled off the presidential field. 

The media also seems to forget that Barack Obama embodies the American dream -- a minority raised in difficult circumstances whose diligence earned him an outstanding education and the presidency. Republicans spent years trying to destroy this clear narrative. They called him a Muslim while blasting him for Christian Pastor Jeremiah Wright's words, and promoted crazy birth certificate theories. They've decried him as a socialist, while applauding an "exceptionalism" that leaves America in the dust of all developed countries which have universal health care, and the many which surpass us academically. The president's policies reflect his prototypically American background and corresponding commitment to the common man.

In contrast, the man touted on the "Restore America" (?!) signs used his huge advantages -- the Romney name, immense wealth, and a trust fund --   to negative effect. He underachieved in school, organized the bullying of a poor teenager, and elevated himself to a position where he bankrupted companies and pioneered Chinese outsourcing. His resulting $250 million are invested, in part, in private equity funds with elaborate tax avoidance strategies. He supports voter ID laws that may keep 10 million Latinos from the polls . Unable to deal with normal people and international dignitaries , Romney's only comfortable with the rich and powerful who stand to gain from his presidency. That's prototypically American? 

Beyond the identity story and sports metaphors, the media forgets that Mitt obsessively violates a precept across religions: tell the truth. The "devout" Mormon's campaign is fueled by lies far from the Jews-are-hiding-in-the-attic-and-the-Nazis-are-coming deceptions sanctioned by many religions; they're the-Republican-platform-is-cr*p-and-I-really-want-to-win whoppers abhorrent to all. These aren't accidental slips that might come from memory overload but carefully rehearsed lies repeated in debates and speeches, even after being debunked. These aren't epiphanies reached through experience retold, but calculated misstatements inconsistent with basic morality. A universal religious sentiment is expressed in the Bible's ninth commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor". It should remind all Americans of the despicability of such tactics.  

It's impossible to keep up with his lies, but let's revisit a few:

Romney exaggerates basic numbers associated with the "job crisis".   About half of people he describes as unemployed work but favor more compensation, hours, or highly skilled labor. This truth is one more casualty of his presidential quest.

He was ardently pro-choice til Roe v. Wade became one of "darkest moments in presidential history". Earlier this month he's said he doesn't know of abortion legislation that would become part of his agenda, two hours after the story was posted a spokeperson said "of course" he would support such legislation. Ironically he's also favors policies limiting access to birth control and Planned Parenthood. A new hard-hitting 30-second video by Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johansson reminds women of the reasons to vote.

Mitt's wielding his budget-cutting hatchet for PBS but hasn't developed a viable plan to pay for his $5 trillion tax cut. Moody's Economist Mark Zandi has decried it and Bill Clinton shows it doesn't work. Plus tax cuts for the wealthy will worsen inequality which is already higher than people want in a country that has less equality of opportunity than any advanced industrial nation.

Romney's 12 million new jobs match the number predicted by some economists for the next four years of an Obama presidency, but his job growth would take place over a longer 10 years , despite a recent deceptive ad and debate assertions.

So how could this charlatan get support? Because the stakes are huge. Companies generating profits draw private equity like a moth to grain; and America's sizeable resources are even more irresistible to the rapacious rich. Eliminating the estate tax alone would yield the rich more than $1 trillion dollars over just the first decade. For Walmart heirs who have $89 billion in wealth, estate taxes at a 0 -- vs. virtually 35 percent -- appear to be worth a whopping $31 billion.  Those six heirs' wealth -- equal to the bottom 41 percent of Americans -- could easily fund billions in contributions. Corporations of all stripes are generally thriving due to predatory practices and low taxes. Profits have soared to a 8-decade high as a percent of GDP, and taxes have dropped, as a percent of profits, to a 4-decade low . Companies also sit on $1 trillion overseas, hoping for a tax holiday will let them pay zero or a few, rather than 35 percent. It's clear Romney should use the flush wealthy and corporations as a revenue source to pay down debt, but instead he plans to slash their taxes.

His viability is due to a right-wing agenda that demonizes "taxes" and likens federal "debt" to "credit card debt". We shouldn't buy out Forever 21 just as we shouldn't purchase unnecessary Navy ships . But the concept of investment is central to the American dream lived individually and writ large. Personal loans for housing and college often yield huge benefits, as do national investments in education, infrastructure and health.  Pretending the government has a debit card but no credit card is pure folly.

For a media obsessed with ratings, a strategy of complex falsity pays. Instead, the media should use what they know best -- sports, religion, American values and basic terms -- to illuminate the presidential race.   It's a compelling story.

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Veena Trehan is a DC-based journalist and activist. She has written for NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg News, and local papers.
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