Dear conservative friend:
There’s a few things I’d like to ask you about. Seriously. Just between us.
For example, fiscal matters. You say you’re worried about our federal budget deficit and our national debt. I’ll take you at your word. But where was that concern just a few years ago when your guys in Washington were voting for huge tax cuts that weren’t offset by corresponding spending cuts? Ditto with two wars, Medicare part D and the TARP bank bailout? It’s weird to me that it was only when Obama took office that charges of “socialism” began to leave your lips. In any case I’m not sure why you thought the auto bailout was a bad idea, as it seems to have worked. I’m not sure why you think the American Reinvestment Act was a bad idea–it seems to have saved us from a second Great Depression (even if it hasn’t spurred the kind of hiring and economic growth we need to fully recover). Besides, they were one-time, temporary expenditures. In the grand scheme of things they don’t really change our future debt outlook much. Not so with the Bush tax cuts or the unfunded Medicare expansion. Those were structural changes that exploded the deficit and, in the case of the tax cut, continues to do so far out into the future.
In my more cynical moments I suspect that you don’t really care about these fiscal issues at all, that you simply use them as a way to attack Democratic initiatives that you don’t like. Perhaps this isn’t true. But you’ll have to admit the record looks suspicious.
Maybe you can help me with some of my health care questions, too. Costs have risen so dramatically over the past few decades that we’re now paying more per capita on health care than any other nation on the planet–double what most other prosperous democracies pay. On top of that, tens of millions have no health insurance. Even those who do have insurance often find themselves financially ruined by one serious family illness. The president put forth a plan to cover everyone which was not only fully paid for, but was actually a plan invented by Republicans. Your response? Death panels! Socialism! Government takeover of healthcare! And not a single one of your congresscritters voted for it. Even the ones who previously supported the idea. Even the Republican who famously implemented the exact same plan in his home state of Massachusetts–the very Republican you’ve nominated to run against Obama–vows to repeal it. Why? Help me understand.
Speaking of Mitt Romney, could you explain why you nominated him? You claim to be interested in job creation, but his record as a job creator in Massachusetts is pretty poor. You claim to be interested in things like abortion, but prior to his current political aspirations he was staunchly pro-choice. You claim to be against gay rights, but he once said he was to the left of Ted Kennedy on such issues. You claim to be against Obamacare, but as I’ve mentioned, Romney’s only real claim to fame in politics is that he put an entire state under the same exact reforms. Some of you harbor fears that Obama isn’t a Christian (horror!), but Romney is a Mormon. You claim to hate elitism, but you nominate a Harvard-educated lawyer to run against…a Harvard-educated lawyer. You claim to be all about self-made men, but you nominated a guy who was born into wealth and power to run against a man who was raised decidedly middle class. And, while perhaps not an ideologue, Romney seems remarkably opportunistic and chameleon-like, even for a politician. You see something different?
I’m confused about your position on taxes, too. Top tax rates have gone steadily down over the course of my lifetime. They are now half what they were when I was born. (The tax burden on the rest of us has been lowered, too, although not by nearly as much.) During periods when taxes were higher (post-WWII, the 90s), the economy grew like crazy. I admit that it might not have done so because of higher taxes, but I think it certainly proves that raising the marginal tax rates of millionaires by a couple of percentage points isn’t going to turn America into the Mad Max-style economic hellscape like you sometimes claim it would do. It would really help that deficit you claim to be so worried about. And I think asking middle class earners, students, the disabled and the elderly to cut back might sting a little bit less if they also knew millionaires were giving a little, too. Why do you resist the raising of any additional revenue as part of a deficit reduction package? You not only resist any tax hikes, you want to cut them more. I’m not a mathematician, but your plan worries me. I hope you can understand why.
Fun fact: Romney paid income tax at a rate of 13% on an income of around $10 million. That’s lower than the rate I paid on an income of…somewhat less than his. Additional fun fact: Paul Ryan’s tax reforms would have Romney paying less than 1% on that same income. This seems good to you?
About the campaign. The lying is starting to get to me. Surely we can agree that the whole “Obama took the work requirements out of welfare” thing is grade-A bullshit, right? Between us? Because it obviously is. I’ll go further and say that it’s awfully dog-whistley and maybe racist besides. And the $716 billion dollar Medicare savings thing? The one your boys criticize Obama for even though they had the same thing in their own plans? The savings that are mischaracterized as benefit cuts that undermine the financial health of the program when actually the president is expanding benefits and has put the program on a more sound financial footing? That shit is too much. It’s so dishonest that fact-checkers are going to have to invent a new way to categorize it. Maybe they’ll have to resort to coming up behind the candidate and actually light his actual pants on actual fire just to express the depth of the mendacity on display here. I realize that campaigns of all political stripes have long histories of distorting reality. But they usually at least still maintain some tenuous relationship with it. Is this bugging you the way it’s bugging me?
Speaking of lying liars who lie, why Paul Ryan? I mean, I get that he gave the base a boner. But do you seriously think you’re going to win Florida with the “kill Medicare” guy on the ticket? Seriously? The way I understood it, Romney was polling poorly with minorities, young people and women. Really poorly. When older people are the only ones supporting you, it probably isn’t a good idea to fuck with Medicare. See what I’m getting at?
Look, I know that you’re not voting for Obama. There’s plenty of room for criticism there. Unemployment’s still too high. The economy isn’t growing fast enough. Maybe you just don’t like the man’s style, I don’t know. But your candidate is weak, his proposals are frightening and his campaign is deceitful. Surely you can do better.
Or maybe you’ll just have to resolve to do better in 2016. Zing!