Point of View Columns

It’s That Vision Thing

Too many people have been treating the presidential debates like some kind of “American Idol” episode where the contestant with the best performance wins. This is particularly troubling when there is an enormous difference in the vision being presented by President Obama and Governor Romney. The Romney/Ryan team is striving mightily to distract the public from their ultimate vision and that is understandable considering the very bleak future that it encompasses.

Mitt Romney has spent a lot of time walking back his infamous trashing of 47% of Americans by claiming that the statement was simply a regretful slip of the tongue. He has gone on to proclaim that his lifelong demonstration of compassion for the less fortunate should erase his momentary poor choice of words.

While Mitt Romney is a child of privilege, he does not possess a free pass on whatever he says. His 47% diatribe described a political strategy and a personal philosophy that was something more than a Rick Perry “oops” moment. Mr. Romney clearly stated that the 47% of the country that does not pay federal tax “has no interest in taking personal responsibility”.

Mr. Romney can moonwalk all he wants, but there are too many veterans, retired social security recipients and working poor who will not be satisfied with the thin gruel of apology that he is serving up. And Mr. Romney insults the intelligence of all of us if he expects us to believe that when he says that he “can’t worry about” that 47% that he was only describing a political strategy in an inelegant fashion.

But what is more important than the debate reviews or Mr. Romney’s 47% two-step is the vision that the Romney-Ryan team is serving up to the American people. A vision of smaller government and lower taxes for the wealthy looks good on paper, but it doesn’t play out so well in real life.

Various non-partisan research groups have concluded that the budget and tax plan envisioned by Paul Ryan and substantially endorsed by Mitt Romney would indeed result in federal tax increases for middle class Americans. What also must be noted that the reduction of federal government spending will result in fewer federal dollars for state and local governments.

That will, of necessity, require states and localities to cut vital services (not just Big Bird). A further consequence of this plan will be state and local tax increases not only for middle class Americans, but for virtually all Americans.

And, in shrinking the size of government, Mr. Romney engaged in a bit of rhetorical prestidigitation by focusing on one set of initials, PBS, as a target of his budget cutting. Some people may have shared a laugh with Mitt Romney targeting Big Bird, after all, how important could Big Bird be?

The answer is that Big Bird and Sesame Street and PBS are pretty damn important. Indeed, for children who do not dwell in the environs of the 1% or even Romney’s 53%, Sesame Street can be the only source of pre-school education. Considering that the Romney-Ryan vision will also eviscerate Head Start and other educational assistance programs, there is nothing funny about targeting PBS.

But Mitt Romney sought to turn attention away from other initialed, federally-funded programs that would be eliminated or shrunk to drowning size in Grover Norquist’s budget. Some of the initials – EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency which has been on the frontlines protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink; FDA – the Food and Drug Administration which has guaranteed the cleanliness of the food chain in this country; CDC – the Center for Disease Control which is Ground Zero in the fight against infectious diseases and epidemics which could easily become a part of the American way of life without proper, and well-funded, efforts by CDC.

The list of agencies and programs that would be targeted as a result of the Romney-Ryan budget is gruesome in its length. And as far as vision is concerned, does anyone think that programs that created the Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the G.I. Bill, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security could ever see the light of day in the Romney-Ryan vision?

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Teapublicans are quite clear on this point. The answer is a resounding “No”, and that is not a misstatement.