As promised, a little something on the subject of redistribution, a word which in the Republican lexicon seems to rub shoulders with terms like Marxist-Leninism. So what’s the big deal here – after all isn’t redistribution something that all governments do in one way or another and not necessarily from the rich to the poor? Straightforward redistribution could be from the healthy to the sick or from the young to the old. Lesser known ways include the tax exclusion for people who get employer-provided healthcare – money is redistributed from individuals buying insurance to those getting it from the workplace.
So, just what is Mitt’s beef with this issue? Well, it seems he sees redistribution from the wealthy to the poor, from the multimillionaire to the unemployed, from the healthy to the sick as some form of fundamentally evil big government theft. This sems to be saying to me that being poor, unemployed and sick really means you’re a bit of a loser and therefore unworthy of sharing in the American dream. Find fiftty cents pal – phone someone who cares… What’s with this attitude that a much needed increase in social welfare programs equates to rewarding freeloaders and penalising the successful? Guys, I love the can-do spirit I see in most Americans I’ve met, their hard work and optimism. But I wouldn’t want to live there – not with an attitude like that in charge.
No-one (including me) can seriously say that rewarding people who refuse to take responsibility for their lives is an economically viable or morally right action. We certainly don’t belive in that here in the UK. If you lose your job here (as a lot of us have recently), you only get your Job Seekers allowance (about $350 a month) if you have an accurate and checkable diary of your attempts to find work. I’ve no problem with that and certainly don’t see it as rewarding failure.
It’s not just about ensuring there is a safety net (funded by our taxes) to catch us if we fall. Redistribution also means taxation going on defence. So if Romney and Ryan want to take on Iran then it will be American tax-payers’ dollars they use to do it. Of course if Mitt wants to recruit and arm his own private army out of his personal fortune and lead it himself that’s a different story. Some Iranians might die…laughing.
As a UK citizen I find the Republican link between redistribution and socialism puzzling, if not plain absurd. If anyone out there feels like explaining it to me feel free. I may not agree with you, but I’ll certainly listen. One thing I’ve not covered here is the possible origin of Romney’s ideas – but that’s for next time.
An old friend who moved to the States six years ago and now lives in Birmingham Alabama tells me (and I quote), that with an economy breathing out of its ass as badly as theirs is, Romney ought to be able to ‘snowboard the landslide wave’. Outside the real diehards of the GOP, I wonder how many Republicans really see him doing that? (I’ll deal with the Tea Party another time – those guys operate on a totally different wavelength). Obama may not have cleared up the economic mess but it’s important to realise that it wasn’t his party that caused it. Obama’s been struggling with the aftermath of eight years of Dubya. Minimal regulation allowed the banks to go crazy and start gambling with other people’s cash. On top of that, the regulatory agencies who could have helped put a brake on this were starved of the money, manpower and resources necessary to make a difference. Romney knows all this, but he and his GOP backers seem unable to step beyond the usual adversarial two party politics to come up with a credible solution. It’s far easier to throw obstructionism, lies and innuendo at Obama (the so-called ‘birther’ issue for example) and hope enough of it sticks. And I thought UK politics was adversarial…
My Alabaman contact tells me that however much Obama may have screwed up, it’s difficult to see how he could have succeeded. In fact, no other president since Roosevelt has taken office in economic conditions quite so dire. FDR got three goes at the Oval Office and a world war to assist in revitalising the economy. Neither Obama nor his successor will get the former and as for the latter – well, it’s kind of hard to revitalise mounds of irradiated rubble…
Which brings me nicely to foreign policy. ‘Do what we want or we’ll send in the troops’ no longer really qualifies Mitt. Neither does giving Israel an unequivocal guarantee of US support or promising to build that Polish based anti-missile ‘shield’. Russia may indeed be America’s top geo-political rival as Romney recently asserted, but his stance on Russia is way too strident for us Euros to feel anything other than nervous about it. ‘Everything we try and do globally they try and oppose’ says Mitt, citing Russian ‘obstructionism’ on the Iranian nuclear program and the Syrian Civil War. Hmm – the logistic support provided by Moscow for the allied intervention in Afghanistan seems, amongst other things, to have slipped his mind.
The world has too many problems for America to adopt a confrontational foreign policy – unless of course it has no choice. Obama seems to understand the need for dialogue better than Romney and while I don’t doubt that he’ll use force if he has to it is far more likely to be as a last resort. In addition, Obabma knows that America no longer has the resources to play world policeman on its own. China and Russia possess the geopolitical connections to do things America cannot – dialogue with them is essential if the world is to get through the next century or so in one piece.
Next up – Redistribution – is it really a dirty word?