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In this election season, the "hits" just keep coming-and by "hits" I mean "lies." Some have been told for years but have now been repeated and emphasized by the Romney-Ryan and Republican congressional campaigns. Mitt Romney's "47 percent" speech, dismissing nearly half the country as moochers on the dole, has overshadowed some of the blatant lies, but they remain at the core of today's Republican politics.
The Romney-Ryan team blamed President Barack Obama for the nation's credit downgrade in August 2011 after Republicans threatened to allow the government to default on its debt for the first time in history. However, Standard and Poor's explicitly blamed "Republicans saying that they refuse to accept any tax increases as part of a larger deal."
Romney and Paul Ryan also have repeatedly claimed that Obama has amassed more debt than almost all other presidents combined. Sorry, but the math does not add up. George W. Bush left office with a national debt of $10.6 trillion. Since Obama took office-during the Great Recession-less than $5 trillion has been added and our annual deficit is in the neighborhood of 7 percent of GDP.
On the campaign trail and at the Republican National Convention, Ryan even said Obama broke a promise to save the local GM plant in his hometown, Janesville, Wis. Not only was that promise not made, but the plant was shut down in December 2008 before Obama took office.
Romney and Ryan also have repeatedly claimed Obama did nothing with the report of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson debt commission. In fact, Ryan was on that commission and voted against its report-his pledge to Grover Norquist overriding all-and then led House Republicans in voting against it.
I may be in a distinct minority because I believe calling the Bowles-Simpson plan "bipartisan" is sad irony. Two millionaires, Alan Simpson, who has called seniors "spoiled crybabies," and Erskine Bowles, a former executive of a Wall Street firm bailed out with tax dollars, headed a debt commission called bipartisan simply because one is a Republican and one a Democrat.
It's hard to determine the biggest whoppers, because they keep coming, but Romney and Ryan's claim of a $716 billion cut in Medicare, which is actually the elimination of inefficiencies and overpayments to providers, is absurd. Their claim that they will save Medicare also has to be right up there. It was the Wall Street Journal that said Paul Ryan's plan would destroy Medicare as we know it. It took generations to pass Medicare, and since its passage in 1965, the GOP has been trying to cut or destroy it, as well as weaken Social Security. And when called on these and a number of other falsehoods, a Romney-Ryan official responded that the campaign refused to be run by "fact checkers."
Is it any wonder that recent surveys of Republican voters continue to show that one-third to one-half of them believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Obama is a Muslim and not a citizen, and Obama has raised taxes instead of cutting them? Sadly, the Party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt has become the party of the lunatic fringe.
The question in this campaign is not whether we are better off than four years ago. It's whether we are better off than we were 30 years ago. Since 1980, Republicans have had the White House for 20 years and Democrats for 12, yet more than 20 million more jobs were created under Democrats. Since 1978, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the productivity of the American worker has tripled, but 93 percent of the wealth from this productivity increase went to the top 10 percent, with a majority of it going to the richest 1 percent.
In the last three years, Europe has cut its deficits as markets demanded, and unemployment has increased; our deficits increased and unemployment went down. There is no historical data to establish that tax cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves or create jobs. Consumer demand creates jobs, and we have a depression of consumer demand.
America will not improve with the Romney-Ryan plans and a Congress led by fringe characters. Unemployment at 10 percent or higher, a shrinking middle class, ever-increasing wealth inequality and a plutocracy in which money is speech and corporations are people will be the new normal.
Romney and Ryan say the trillions they wish to spend on high-end tax cuts and increases in military spending are revenue-neutral because they will close tax loopholes. This is a joke. Bankers, the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson are not spending millions to lose their tax loopholes. Besides, that would be a tax increase, according to Norquist, and both Romney and Ryan have signed the Norquist pledge.
One cannot seriously address long-term deficits without addressing both health care and trade deficits. Health care is now 17.9 percent of GDP, and Obamacare is a conservative reform that only slows the increase. Whether by cost or outcomes, for-profit health care is a failure. The bad old inefficient government programs of Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs are $700 billion a year more efficient; half of that is private-sector administration costs alone. Our trade deficits, financed by the Treasury, add billions a month to the deficit, a majority of it with China. How anyone thinks we can create jobs in a consumer economy when almost all items we purchase are made offshore is beyond me.
Now there are some Democrats who are voting for Obama but who think Romney is a decent, religious man who gives a lot to charity and his church and has shown himself to be very successful in business. I just can't buy any of it. He is not Henry Ford or George Eastman or, to pick another local example, Bob Wegman. He is not the person who started a law practice, real estate office or any other small business, working hard to provide a product or service, and built it up. The principal activity of Bain Capital was and is the leveraged buyout. Using mostly borrowed money, they bought a majority of the stock to acquire control of a company, encumbered them to pay the loans, sucked out profits and collected fat fees, often at the expense of workers' pensions, their health care and their very jobs.
Brookside Capital Partners Fund, part of Bain, invested in Global-Tech, a sweatshop manufacturer in Dongguan, China, from April 1998 to August 2000. Workers got 25 cents an hour and lived 12 to a room in company housing with one bathroom for 10 rooms, routinely working 12- to 16-hour shifts and six- or seven-day weeks. Romney convinced himself that this was good because many Chinese wanted to work there, but the fact that more than a billion Chinese live in abject poverty gives them few options.
Today Global-Tech has changed. It now has about 800 "student interns," exhausted teenagers working up to 16-hour days with no overtime pay. Wages are all the way up to a dollar an hour.
Romney, of course, gives a lot to charity and the Mormon Church. How wonderful. The rich guy buying a stairway to heaven is as old as organized religion. Personally, the only vote I would ever give to Romney, Mr. Sweatshop, is a juror's vote to convict him of enormous greed and falsehood.
James Bertolone is president of the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He also is president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 215.10/26/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.