Point of View Columns

“Free Stuff” – An American Fairy Tale

The recent appearance by Mitt Romney at the NAACP convention was wrong on so many levels. In retrospect it seems that his sole reason for appearing was to demonstrate to his base that he was capable of strutting into an arena full of black people and telling them what they needed to hear – the Truth According to Mitt. That this was Magic Mitt’s Sister Souljah moment is pretty clear.

Any doubt about whether Mitt Romney was emulating Bill Clinton circa 1992 when then-candidate Clinton sought shore up his center and right flanks by publicly dissing the outspoken black entertainer were dispelled when Romney appeared at a fundraiser to gloat about the hostile reception that he received at the hands of black people. He actually told this private gathering of a distinctly lighter hue than he encountered in Houston that he told the NAACP membership “if they wanted a president who was giving out “free stuff” he wasn’t their man”.

Of course, he never actually said anything about “free stuff” at the convention itself (unless he said it under his breath), but safe in the more comfortable environs of tasseled loafers and St. John dresses, he found his courage to speak plainly and from the heart – at least that part of his heart that isn’t sequestered in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. And, emboldened by his surroundings, Magic Mitt revealed his thinking when it comes to matters of history, justice to say nothing of the role of government in creating a sane and fair society.

The insult uttered by Mitt Romney is truly off the charts. To begin with, the membership of the NAACP is largely educated and middle class and more likely to being paying more taxes on a percentage basis per capita than Mitt Romney and most of his Bain Capital alumni. For Magic Mitt to suggest that because they are black, the convention attendees were mostly interested in “free stuff” is outrageous. The mentality that gives rise to such a comment is born of the most racist and vicious stereotypes.

Moreover, Mitt Romney should be very careful when speaking to any black audience about “free stuff”. The historical reality is that black Americans are the descendants of people who gave over two centuries of free labor through slavery which played a major role in building the economic infrastructure of this country. Black Americans are the descendants of people who were economically disenfranchised during the post-Civil War Reconstruction. Black Americans are still on the wrong side of every economic disparity table in this country from wages to cost of living.

Mitt Romney should be real careful when speaking to any black audience about “free stuff”. The life expectancy for black males is substantially lower than that of their white male counterparts. As a result, millions of black males in this country work for three decades and more, paying into the Social Security system only to die before receiving little if any of the benefits to which they are entitled. Their white male counterparts end of with the “free stuff”.

And what is “free stuff” anyway? Would “free stuff” include food stamps, public housing and medical care? In the Mitt World would “free stuff” include loans for higher education, Head Start and job training?

Or would “free stuff” include the trillions of dollars of tax cuts that billionaires and millionaires have received this country during the past decade? Would “free stuff” include laws that entitle the wealthy to legally shield their wealth from taxation in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland? Or, would “free stuff” include the historically gigantic subsidies and tax relief given to the energy and agricultural industries?

It would seem that Mitt Romney believes that services that the government provides to feed and housing and educating its citizens is not derived from some societal obligation. “Free stuff” is so insulting and derisive that it is clear that Magic Mitt’s perception of social services is at odds with the basic social contract that created and sustained a country that provided him with the environment and opportunity to become a wealthy man.

Like too many wealthy residents of the right wing of the right wing, Mr. Romney believes that he has amassed a great fortune solely by reason of his brilliant self and nothing more. And he obviously thinks that anyone who has not tasted from the cup of success is undeserving of that success and also undeserving of any assistance or support.

It is a mean, nasty and self-centered vision of self and the world that Mitt Romney articulated with his “free stuff” comment. It might have been off the cuff, but it was from the heart.

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Point of View Columns

Read ‘Em and Weep!

There is very little to misunderstand about the G.O.Tea Party agenda when it comes to the federal budget. We have been subjected to a non-stop barrage of statements claiming that balancing the federal budget and eliminating the deficit should be the two most important goals of Congress and the President.

Other priorities like education, infrastructure, the environment and a reliable social safety net have been rendered invisible. The are The Priorities That Shall Not Be Named.

If the Republicans were truly serious about reducing the budget deficit there is no way that they could logically support extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans – who are among the wealthiest people on this planet. But their unblinking and unbending and unending commitment to keeping extraordinary wealth sacred was never clearer than during the tax bill negotiations with President Obama in December of last year.

And now the battle for the heart, soul and wallet of America begins in earnest. Keep in mind as you read on that a balanced federal budget is not mandated by law, the Constitution or all economic theories.

Many would argue that the size, growth and vibrancy of the American economy are more important to the future of the United States. But consider what the Republican budget proposals would accomplish:

1. Virtually eliminate federal funding for the National Public Radio and the Public Broadcast System.

2. $1.3 billion will be cut from community health centers around the country and estimates are that more than 3 million people will lose access to health care.

3. Nearly $1 billion would be cut from programs providing food and health care assistance to mothers and children.

4. By cutting funds for Head Start more than 200,000 will lose invaluable access to pre-school programs.

5. By cutting federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood there will be fewer resources available for that organization to provide cancer screenings and other women’s health care services.

6. Tragically, it is estimated that the proposed Republican budget cuts that propose to reduce by half the number of veterans who get housing vouchers and it is estimated that 10,000 veterans will be homeless as a result.

There might be argument over exactly how much pain will be suffered by the American people, but there can be no doubt that there will be pain. And, by the way, whatever happened to the notion of shared sacrifice?

Remember that the tax compromise in December of 2010 reflected a stubborn, adamant and unshakeable stance by the Republicans that tax cuts would have to be extended to the wealthiest Americans in this country.

These are Americans who don’t have to worry about getting housing vouchers and they wouldn’t be caught dead in a public health care clinic. There is no sacrifice being contemplated for the wealthiest Americans who can afford to send their children to chic pre-schools and don’t worry about the cost when their housekeeper goes to the gourmet supermarket.

Now there are Republican doomsayers roaming the countryside claiming that, without a balanced budget this country cannot survive.

Certainly reckless and wasteful spending should be eliminated. And just as certainly the United States is not a private corporation – a balanced budget does not determine the fiscal health of this country or the quality of life of its people.

The economy will not grow and become more robust and vibrant if these cuts – and the many more that are threatened – become a reality. We are being hoodwinked and bamboozled by right wing of the right wing G.O.Tea Party hucksters who are using the Trojan horse of a balanced budget to attack every single aspect of government that helps, assists and aids.

They are determined to create a federal government that no longer serves but only enables the rich to get richer, everyone else be damned.

Right now its winter in America – we need to make sure that this season doesn’t last.

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