Blaise Pascal, PenseĆ© 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney and Mother Jones

As Charles Krauthammer said with regard to President Obama's "You didn't build that clip," a political gaffe occurs when a politician actually says what he thinks. I like "gaffes" for that reason. They are at least refreshing moments of candor. The video clip that is said to have the Romney campaign "reeling" contains a lot of truth. The 47% / 47% split that Romney talks about is right on the money. The election will be decided by about 6% of the people. And yes, people who get the most assistance from the federal government are the ones most likely to vote Democratic. Is this a big surprise? The problem is that Romney implies that half of Americans are unproductive by choice, "entitled" to live on the dole. There may be a significant percentage of people that is true about, and it may be getting higher, but I doubt if it is true of 47% of the people, and if it is, there is nothing anyone can do to save this country.

The main truth is that most people's expectations of what the government ought to provide are way out of proportion to our willingness or ability to pay for them. The desire to get some free lunch--if only through out of proportion Social Security and Medicare benefits--extends throughout the population, and any solution requires a general lowering of expectations. No politician is talking about that in a straightforward way (although Paul Ryan comes close) because it would spell electoral death. They'll all be talking about it after the election, whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

At the beginning of Obama's first term, when the first stimulus package was being put together and debated, Rahm Emmanuel expressed this attitude toward Republican dissenters: "We've got the votes. Fuck 'em." That explains as much about the political failure to address the debt and recession as any comment of the last 4 years.

The 47 / 47 split is real, but when the campaign is over, and somebody has to govern this country, compromises will have to be made. The Democrats in 2008 thought they had such a huge mandate that they could dictate an agenda, and they tried. It seemed to work for two years, as they progressively alienated moderate Republicans. All the Republicans dug in, in response. Then came the mid-term elections and gridlock. As a result, our debt problem got worse and worse. Obama seems to hate business and the phrase "fat cat" has become a staple for him. Now this from Romney. What we need is a leader with the confidence in America of Ronald Reagan and the political skills of Bill Clinton. We need senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Congressmen like Gerald Ford.

Where are these people?

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