Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Sameness

There's a statement I've heard recently that perplexes me, and gives me pause on a couple of levels.  The statement goes something like this:  "Barack Obama is destroying our nation's economy and working to dramatically change the nature of our government."  The first thing that bothers me is, assuming the above is true, is that we have allowed the Executive branch to become so powerful that we believe a single person can "destroy" or "ruin" a nation that has been around for two hundred plus years in a couple dozen months.  I've heard similar remarks about previous presidents.  Maybe, instead of looking for an all-knowing candidate with whom we always agree, we should reduce the power of the office so one person can only do so much damage, but I'd like to say more on that another time.

The second part about this statement that bothers me is usually what follows.  The remark about Obama is continued with "and that's why we need Mitt Romney (or someone like him) as President."  Why does that bother me?  Because saying Mitt Romney is the cure to the problems caused by Obama presupposes something I find hard to believe, namely, that they are actually different in any substantial way.

But they are completely different, you might protest.  Hear me out on this as we examine some of the similarities.

Let's start with the obvious, their respective views on health care.  Both the health care plan credited to Mitt Romney and the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama contain an individual mandate.  Romney argues that what he did was at the state level so it's entirely different, but I think the principles are the same.  Both believe, that the government, at some level, state or federal, can require people to purchase services from a private organization.

When it comes to government involvement in the economy both supported the bailout of the banks, or TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).  Romney now says while he supported the idea, he didn't like how the money was distributed.  The principle is that government money being given to poorly run businesses is okay, as long as it's done 'responsibly.'  (As an interesting quid pro quo side note, Wall street millionaires are big donors to Romney's campaign.)

Obama has been criticized recently as being in violation of the War Powers Resolution for failing to receive Congressional authority for continued action in Libya.  He contends that it does not apply, as the action is 'limited in scope.'  I guess that makes sense, if you change the meaning of words like 'war' and 'approval'.  When asked in 2008 if he would need Congressional authority to take the country to war, Mitt Romney responded, "You sit down with your attorneys, and [they] tell you what to do, but obviously the President of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States."  Although both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution are explicitly clear on the matter, maybe Mitt could sit down and talk about it with an attorney, perhaps a Constitutional lawyer, like Barack Obama.

I could continue with how both the President and Mitt Romney have defended Ben Bernanke and upheld or ignored the policies of the Federal Reserve.  There are other similarities, but my point is this:  why don't we really have a choice?  With Obama as the incumbent and Mitt Romney as the media anointed front runner, what are they who believe government is headed in the wrong direction to do?  The size of government has grown.  The debt has grown.  American involvement oversees is constantly increasing.  'Mainstream' candidates have done nothing to slow or stop either.  Here's the problem, better than I can say it:
Fundamental questions...are off the table in our mainstream media, which focuses our attention on trivialities and phony debates as we march toward oblivion.  This is the deadening consensus that crosses party lines, that dominates our major media, and that is strangling the liberty and prosperity that were once the birthright of Americans. Dissenters who tell their fellow citizens what is really going on are subject to smear campaigns that, like clockwork, are aimed at the political heretic. Truth is treason in the empire of lies.1
To conclude, I'm not saying don't vote for Obama or Romney.  Just don't vote for them expecting anything to change.  If you think America is fine, let's stay the course.  Or maybe, just maybe, it's high time to engage in some treasonous truth.

1- Paul, Ron.  The Revolution:  A Manifesto  Grand Central Publishing, 2008.

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