by Ted Manna
AR Political Correspondent
Merritt Island, Fla.
July 22, 2012
THE ELUSIVE TRUTHS OF THE 2012 CAMPAIGN
MERRITT ISLAND, Fla., July 22, 2012 -- The suspension of political campaigning this weekend brought a respite as refreshing and sudden as a tropical squall sucking the heat and humidity out the Florida air. It was a welcome relief from the negative, misleading messages flooding the airwaves and the Internet.
Even if only temporary, this cessation of hostilities in deference to the victims of the tragic shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, the symbolic synergy of a nation coming together to honor and mourn the fallen innocents felt like a cool ocean breeze.
It is just a temporary moratorium, but a deafening silence nonetheless. The brute force of negative advertising, fueled by hundreds of millions of unaccounted-for dollars from the "super-PACs" of the 2012 Presidential campaign will not be denied, and threaten to drown out the search of millions of voters for some honesty and truth.
Despite the Republican message that the current state of the economy falls solely on the shoulders of President Barack Obama, the truth is that he inherited the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression. He took office in the midst of an economic meltdown of unprecedented proportions. The economy was bleeding jobs - 800,000 in one month: 4 million jobs lost before he took office. By all accounts, the housing crisis alone reduced Americans' wealth by more than half.
The truth is that this happened after a series of government stimulus packages passed by former President George W. Bush's Administration, including $29 billion that went to JP Morgan Chase, $25 billion to the Big Three automakers, $200 billion for Fannie May and Freddie Mac, and $700 Billion to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out banks "too big to fail."
And the truth is that the economy started to improve on a brilliantly brisk, hopeful day in Denver, Colo., after the President signed into law the 2009 Recovery Act. He endured a stiff wind on the roof of the Denver Museum of Natural history to view their newly installed photo-voltaic electric panels before using a series of pens to sign each letter of his name to the bill in the second quarter of 2009. It was a stark contrast to his visit to the Aurora, right outside of Denver, today.
Economic growth started in 2009's third quarter, as private-sector layoffs saw a rapid decline.
The economy started adding jobs in early 2010 and continues to do so today, even in the teeth of massive cuts in government spending and hiring. Since the President took office, 4.1 million jobs have been created. Hence the infamous sound bite from the President, "the private sector's doing fine," repeated ad nauseam by ads paid for by those very same super-PACs, meant to show that the President is out of touch with the American people.
And when President Obama bluntly - and courageously, I believe - said to small business owners "you didn't build that,"he referred to the fact that successful business owners, inventors or innovators who get rich in this country do not get there entirely on their own. They have the help of a government structure that creates strong incentives for business to flourish. We have decidely become more business-friendly in the last 30 years, not less.
When he asks that Americans making over $250,000 a year pay more in taxes, he is not punishing or penalizing anyone; he is saying "times are tough for everyone and now you have to pay your fair share for all the help you used to get where you are," a position supported by most of the public, polls show.
By a margin of 44 to 22 percent, a recent Pew Research Poll showed that voters believe that ending tax cuts on incomes over $250,000 would help the economy. They also believe, by 41 to 21 percent, that it would be fairer.
America is worse off than 30 years ago, however, in investment in infrastructure, education and research. We are falling behind fast, a trend the President has futilely fought his whole first term and that a miserly GOP White House would accelerate. The economy tanked not because of an increase (or perceived future increase) in taxes and regulations but a decline in investment in human and physical capital.
Take, for example, spending for research and development in this country, compared to other industrial nations. As a percentage of gross domestic product, or GDP, the United States spends 5.8 percent. South Korea, where elementary school children are encouraged to become engineers, spends 9.6 percent. Singapore and China both outpace that highly developed country by wide margins - 14.5 and 21.9 percent, respectively.
Republicans would have us believe that government regulation has strangled business and that rules to protect workers and the environment prevent new hiring. The truth is that, flush from the success of the Tea Party revolt in 2010, and bent on recovering the White House, Republicans have thwarted the President at every turn, blocking his jobs bill, voting 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and disparaging the President's efforts as anti-business.
Republicans would have us believe that left to its own devices, business will create jobs. They will, but not in this country. Current business leaders, including the apparent Republican nominee for President, oversaw the biggest desertion of decent-paying American jobs to outsourcing in the history of this country.
A robust stock market is not necessarily good for American workers. Business is hoarding cash, hesitant to expand not because of uncertainty in the government but because Americans are more cautious about spending on Chinese junk and are saving more than ever.
Meanwhile, the Republican message to uninsured Americans couldn't be clearer: Drop dead.
We now have a President who has the courage and conviction to take up unpopular positions even if it costs him the office, just like those courageous Democratic US Senators and Representatives in 2009 who supported him, knowing it would cost them their jobs in 2010. They knew it was the right thing to do.
This is where all that money and negative advertising comes back around to bite the prospective Republican nominee. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win the nomination not because he is the best candidate, but because he outspent the weakest and most inept group of candidates ever fielded by the GOP.
Romney's opponents were under-financed, poorly organized (some didn't even get on the ballot in states where they are residents), and ill-informed about all but what the ultra-right wants to hear. They spent hours trying to out-conservative each other. In the case of Newt Gingrich, when he did get a cash infusion from Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelson, he beat the pants off Romney in South Carolina.
Romney told this reporter in Denver during the 2008 campaign, "I will not turn left. I'm going to win." A few scant months later he was out of the race, conceding to Arizona Sen. John McCain. He spent the next four years accumulating a massive war chest, distancing himself from decisions made during his tenure as Governor (including signing a health care bill that was the model for "Obamacare" into law), proving to the religious right that he was "Christian" enough and to the Tea Party he was conservative enough.
Labeled by opponents as the master of the "flip-flop" on issues crucial to whatever constituency he happens to address, Romney now is an expert at political-speak. The latest example is his description of his time at the helm of Bain Capital, where he prospered at the expense of American companies and jobs.
During a period when SEC documents listed him as Bain Capital's sole owner and employee, chairman and CEO, the company engineered takeovers and sales of companies resulting in thousands of worker layoffs, established off-shore accounts to pay less tax, and encouraged outsourcing to increase profits to make companies taken over by Bain more attractive to investors.
Romney claims he wasn't "actively involved." His aides call the 1999-2002 period his "retroactive retirement." Too bad more Americans can't look at their layoffs and jobs losses that way! Too bad more of us can't earn a $100,000 salary for doing nothing, as Romney claims he did.
A new report on political contributions lists Romney's biggest sources of cash: Goldman Sachs, $902,000; Bain Capital, $995,000; Elliot Asset Management, $818,000. Donors routinely write checks of $40,000 or more.
The question is, will we let big money and big business turn us into a nation in which a few prosper at the expense of many, or will we re-elect a President who stands up for what he believes is right and has the record to prove it?