Mitt Romney And Starving The Beast

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[The View From Washington]

A recently released secretly recorded video captured Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney candidly speaking to potential donors at a $50,000 per plate fundraiser. 

He answered questions about immigration, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict; expected benefits from his anticipated victory, and other issues.

When asked about immigration Romney is now on the record as saying, “[If] you have no skill or experience…you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life.”

Regarding peace in the Middle-East Romney said, “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway…and I say there's just no way."  An audience member asked, “For the last three years, all everybody's been told is, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of you.' How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you've got to take care of yourself?”  

Romney replied, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. (People)… who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement…. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”  

Romney’s honest replies to the questions asked are being characterized as “inartful” by some spinmeisters or a “gaffe.”  Romney himself has stated the comments were not "elegantly stated" and were spoken "off the cuff.”  Yes, the comments were “off the cuff” but a “gaffe” they were not.

A gaffe is defined as a clumsy social error; a faux pas, or a blatant mistake or misjudgment.  For Romney this was no faux pas.  He was speaking openly and honestly to a group of wealthy, White, ultra-conservatives, who were very comfortable with the message and explanations that he was providing.  He was comfortable, amongst friends; he was “home.”   

The only mistake or gaffe was made by his host, private equity mogul Mark Leder.  Leder’s misjudgment was in trusting that all of those in the room were of the same ilk.  His social error was failing to search those in attendance for recording equipment.

Americans should be grateful.  Finally, the electorate clearly understands that a President Romney would have disdain and contempt for the Palestinians and “would not worry” about the 47 percent of people who would vote for President Obama.  An intelligent electorate is an informed electorate.  

Democracy can only work when the people are informed about the issues and the candidates.  Now, after hearing the real Mitt Romney live and uncut, people know exactly where he stands.  This is a good thing; democracy in action.

What’s important to understand and what most analysts and pundits are failing to examine is the source or premise of Romney’s positions.  His perspective regarding the people “who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them…” is not his alone.  That’s the basis of the ideology and politics of the political and social neo-conservatives --Tea Party-- who are holding sway in the Republican Party.

In recent history one source of this ideology can be found in the Powell Memo --a 1971 memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce written by Richmond, VA corporate attorney Lewis Powell, two months before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard M. Nixon.  

Powell believed that business must exert its influence over the political process. “Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance …Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation…”

Romney’s positions are also consistent with former President Reagan’s myths and lies regarding “welfare queens”.  During his 1976 Republican presidential campaign Ronald Reagan told the story of a Cadillac driving Chicago woman who “…has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands…And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”  

The problem is this story, as with Romney’s narrative, was not true; they both play to the stereo-types many in this country have about those receiving social benefits.

Later, President Reagan’s budget director David Stockman went on to create the political-economic strategy called “Starve the Beast”. A strategy employed to limit government spending by cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force the federal government to reduce spending and cut entitlement and other social programs.  This is the same strategy employed by President Bush 43’ and being proposed by Mitt Romney and other Republican’s today.

Romney’s problem is that his words were not run through the Frank Luntz “crafted talk” political spin machine that changed President Reagan’s tax increases on the middle-class to “revenue enhancements” and enabled President George W.  Bush to convince middle-class American’s to support cutting the inheritance tax by calling it the “death tax.” This made middle-class American’s think it applied to them upon their deaths when it actually only applied to the wealthiest 1-2 percent.

Romney is articulating an ideology and agenda that ultra-conservatives have been espousing and trying to implement since the New Deal. Romney’s honesty was no gaffe it was real clear politics.

Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Go to or email:
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