Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Presidential Politics: The New WWE

I won't say I watched with great interest but I did watch most of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's acceptance speeches (at the Republican National Convention).  I missed Clint Eastwood which - if reports are accurate - was probably a good thing.  I will watch the Democratic Show but I suspect my usually higher level of enthusiasm will remain in my underwear drawer.

To be upfront, let me state that I am an Independent.  I define myself as a social liberal AND a fiscal conservative.  What that means, simply, is that I do not object to social programs that provide assistance, security or a leg  up as long as the government also takes the time to pay for them.  I am usually disappointed with the latter.  A case in point: the Prescription Drug Plan to benefit seniors passed during President George W. Bush's administration.  I think it's great (in theory!).  At the time it passed, I was the eldest son of two elderly parents one of whom had significant pulmonary problems.  I knew how much they suffered - and how they sometimes skipped a medicine - under the weight of prescription costs.  So, yippee to a prescription drug plan.  The problem: the plan presented the Conservative Bush Administration with another large, federally mandated entitlement program.  To encourage Conservative support, two things happened.  One, the cost was grossly underestimated (the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office pointed this out soon after it was passed) and two, the Federal Government - which was about to become the largest single purchaser of prescription drugs in the world - was precluded under law from negotiating price with drug suppliers.  Both are idiotic.  (other adjectives might be insane, incompetent, disingenuous and downright stupid!)  In both cases the government failed to meet its fiduciary duty to the American people.  The legislation goes out of its way to hamstring the public with out of control spending.  Think of it: Walmart can negotiate and bring its customers lower prices but the United States cannot.  That would be interfering with business and we all pay the price - over and over again.

Back to Romney-Ryan-Obama-Biden...

Back in the 70's, my father ran as a candidate for the New York State Assembly.  He ran on the Conservative line and financed his campaign out of his own pocket - taking a second mortgage on the family home.  He lost, in an overwhelming Democratic district, to a candidate who never hung a single poster.  My father was a terrible politician but his one defining moment was to campaign against his opponents, casting them as "Republicrats".  That's not bad editing.  His artwork morphed the symbols of the Democrats and Republicans (Elephant and Donkey) into a single critter.  It might not have mattered because he lost but, giving the man his due, he was right.

Presidential Aspirant Romney, in his speech, spoke the truth if speaking the truth is like slicing a loaf of bologna extra thin.  Has the deficit exploded under President Obama?  Yes.  Did the deficit explode under President George W. Bush? You betcha but history isn't important during a nomination acceptance speech.  Mr. Romney went on to mention the grand daddy of all Republicans, President Ronald Reagan.  I can still remember those absolutely entrancing demonstrations: Reagan dropping a handful of coins on a table - this is what a dollar is worth today - or maybe Reagan describing the national debt as dollar bills stacked up to reach the moon.  Those were great images.  The only problem: at the time the national debt stood at one trillion dollars.  When President Reagan left office the debt had ballooned to a whopping four trillion.  Mr. Romney, for whatever reason, did not mention the most successful Republican fiscal manager in recent years - the first President Bush worked tirelessly to stop the bleeding and, by the end of his term, the bleeding had slowed and the debt had risen by only another trillion (give or take a few hundred billion). It was  a masterful job but President Bush lost his reelection bid; you don't mention losers.  And, finally, Mr. Romney didn't even offer passing recognition to the one president who actually lowered the National Debt.  That would be singing the praises of the other side and we don't do that any more.

Before I am called a partisan or an apologist for the Democrats, let me add President Obama will do exactly the same thing at his convention.  My father, to give him a little more praise, used the bemoan the fact that the only goal of politics was to elect the President.  He said it so often that we - his family - hated hearing it but, again, he was right.  Paul Ryan, in his own speech, chided and berated President Obama's success (saving GM) because he failed to save the GM plant in his home state of Wisconsin.  Did the plant close? Yes.  Were jobs lost?  Yes.  Was revenue lost? Yes.  Was Obama president at the time?  You might think that's a silly question but, in the current environment, it's not.  For the record, the answer is NO.  The Wisconsin GM plant closed at the end of the Bush era.  The sadness: this is business as usual.  Issues no longer matter.  Democrat and Republican, left and right, no longer care about talking to each other - or even doing the nation's business.  Bashing the other guy is the only plank in the platform.  If President Obama suddenly agreed with John Boehner and pledged tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans would call it irresponsible and find reasons to object.  It happens all the time.  It was the Man Who Would Be President, for instance, who chastised the Man Who Is President for being in Afghanistan.  If that's not reality down the rabbit hole, nothing is.

It is safe to say that I am having difficulty ending this piece.. The reason: I need a solution and I can't find one...

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