Romney will be good for the rich, bad for the poor

The Toronto Star
America’s bizarre election campaign heads for a muted ending
Published on Monday October 29, 2012
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Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally in Ohio. (Oct. 29, 2012)
By Richard Gwyn Columnist

When this presidential election is finally finished, as it will be in a week, it will pass into history as one of the most bizarre ever.

What could be more politically bizarre than that Mitt Romney would not be a presidential candidate at all today had he, while running for the Republican nomination, said what he’s now saying.

Back then, Romney positioned himself far to the right to appease the populist Tea Party. He denounced President Barack Obama for committing himself to pulling out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and for failing to intervene in the Syrian civil war. Today, he agrees with Obama on Afghanistan, and on Syria, and on just about all of his foreign policy.

As bizarre, but this time encouragingly, if entirely by accident, the dominance of money in American politics has been severely dinted.

Money still matters. Combined, the two parties will spend close to an unbelievable $6 billion. But it no longer buys much.

Corporate leaders and bankers have poured money into Super PACs to win support for tax cuts and to smear Obama as a socialist. But not a scrap of evidence exists that their outpourings have changed a single vote.

Instead, the only time votes have changed in any numbers during the entire, absurdly prolonged, contest was when Obama performed so poorly in the first TV debate. In lockstep, Romney has moved himself as far as he could from Wall Street, constantly saying he will cut taxes for the middle class and make sure the well-off pay the same share of taxes as they did before.

The encouraging consequence of this, if entirely accidental, is that the polarization of American politics, so worrying to commentators, has largely evaporated.

Only temporarily. If Romney does win, he will of course go right back to where he once was — doing good for the rich, bad to the poor.

That will just multiply the meaninglessness of the whole affair. The real truth, which no one can bring themselves to say, is that slow economic growth is the new norm for the United States.

Romney, as president, therefore will struggle in exactly the same way Obama has throughout almost all his presidency.

Romney’s tax cuts won’t generate any new economic activity — corporations already have more money than they know what to do with. And slow economic growth and the resulting slow revenue growth will make it as difficult for him to reduce the deficit as it has been for Obama.

In short, for all Romney’s chatter about “real change,” itself a steal from Obama’s call four years back for “change,” as president he would be almost indistinguishable from Obama.

Amid this gloom, there is one shaft of light. The pundits keep saying that the reason Obama is in trouble is because jobs are scarce.

Not so, or far less so than is widely assumed. A recent CNN poll found that 54 per cent of Americans put the principal blame for today’s economic misery upon George W. Bush and the Republicans. Ordinary Americans are a good deal smarter than they’re given credit for.

So what’s deciding everything? Simply, and obviously, that first TV debate when Obama was so listless, almost seemed irritated he had to sing for his supper, while Romney, even though lying through his teeth, came across as moderate but also as engaged and energetic.

That’s a pretty thin reed for Americans to use to make the most important decision any citizen can make about their country, namely who should run it. This is true most particularly because there is so little difference between Obama and Romney and because, anyway, neither can make much difference to the way the U.S.’s future will unfold.

Mind you, I’d still for vote Obama. He’s so much the smarter of the pair.

Richard Gwyn’s column appears every other Tuesday.

Categories: United States

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