Saturday, January 17, 2015


Mitt Romney is rebranding himself again, this time as a poverty fighter:
In his first public appearance since his surprise announcement that he will seriously consider a third campaign for the White House, Romney offered an economic message that represented a dramatic departure from the themes he sounded in losing the 2012 campaign to President Obama.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

... He added, “People want to see rising wages and they deserve them.”
Washington Monthly's Mark Kleiman regards this rebranding as a positive sign, but Kleiman misinterprets what Romney's saying:
I notice that progressive bloggers and Tweeters are pointing and laughing at poor little Mitt Romney for his sudden outburst of populism. But it seems to me that, as pleasant as laughter is, what’s really called for is a smile of grim satisfaction....

The Red team - up until today - has believed, or at least said, that market-driven inequality reflects natural differences in economic contribution and is therefore just, while taking from “producers” and “job creators” and giving to the “47%” is unjust, and that the great inequality of outcome maintains incentives and thus contributes to efficiency. They love to criticize redistributive policies as “class warfare” and emphasize the importance of making the pie bigger rather than carving it up more equally, along with (formal) equality of opportunity rather than equality of result.

So when Mitt Romney describes rising levels of disparity - the rich getting richer while the number of poor people increases - as “income inequality getting worse,” he is making a major rhetorical concession to the good-guy side.
But Romney's not conceding anything -- he's not conceding that liberals have it right and he's not conceding that it's necessary to redistribute some wealth from the haves to the have-nots.

Just the opposite, in fact:
He cited former president Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty half a century ago. Johnson’s intentions were good, he said, but his policies had not worked. He argued that Republicans must persuade voters that conservative policies can “end the scourge of poverty” in America.
So he's saying that the same policies the right has always advocated are still the best policies -- and those, of course, would be huge cuts in social programs, tax cuts (primarily benefiting the rich), and significantly curtailed government regulation. For the good of the poor!

That's what conservatives believe, or at least what they're arguing lately: not that inequality under Obama is the result of conservative aspects of his economic approach (such as favoritism toward the big banks), and not that the rejection of greater amounts of stimulus or other anti-poverty programs (such as infrastructure development) by conservatives in Congress is harming the poor, and not that increasing inequality is a long-term trend, greatly exacerbated by changes that began in the Reagan era and have never truly been reversed (such as huge shifts in the tax burden away from the rich and corporations).

No, what conservatives are telling us these days is: liberalism = inequality. Social spending causes inequality. They're never quite clear on how this is supposed to happen, but they're certain that, given the fact that Obama is (as they're always telling us) the most left-wing president ever (Franklin Delano who?), and given the fact that (as they're also always telling us) he's had unchallenged, absolute, dictatorial control of the American government for six years (Senator Mitch who?), then if we have increasing inequality, it follows logically that it's 100% the failure of pure, undiluted, hard-core liberalism.

So, no, Mark, the right isn't conceding anything. It's just finding a new route to the same old endpoint: Cut taxes, cut spending, cut regulation, repeat ad infinitum.


Yastreblyansky said...

Exactly what I thought the minute I saw the words: and that it's a classic Romney lie as well, he's acknowledging rising inequality to blame it on Obama.

Ken_L said...

"They're never quite clear on how this is supposed to happen"

They give it a shot. Giving people money for doing nothing creates welfare dependency and kills the competitive spirit that made America great. People have to be forced to get out there to compete with each other in the labor market whether they like it or not. Today's casual fast food worker is tomorrow's middle manager, having proved to employers what a great work ethic he's got.

It's all bullshit but it makes for a nice plausible narrative and I'm sure they'll stick with it. Plus the Paul Ryan "Married couples aren't poor and raise great kids" stuff too of course.

Ken_L said...

BTW the "Getting something for nothing destroys your incentive to work" argument is only applicable to poor people. The incentive effect actually works in the opposite direction with respect to inherited wealth. Thought I'd better make that clear.

Unknown said...

This is why they don't want Romney to run again. Republicans have only had one idea since about 1978; every candidate says the same thing. They need new names and faces so they and the Chuck Todds of the world can pretend they're saying something different this time around.

Victor said...

"He cited former president Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty half a century ago. Johnson’s intentions were good, he said, but his policies had not worked."

Oh, for FSM's sake!

That's demonstrably untrue!!

That's '5 pants-on-fire,' 5 nose is growing, and 5 that's not a world record marlin, that's a guppy, UNTRUE!!!

But, of course, like the proverbial tree in the forest, when a blatant lie gets told to the MSM, can they hear it?

Sadly, no...

Ten Bears said...

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance baffle them with bullshit.

william wesley said...

all organization seek to grow to maximum size. The welfare department is no exception, so when a person seeks to get on their feet and shows progress of any kind the welfare department cuts off their welfare forcing them back into crippling poverty, instead of investing in people seeking jobs or businesses they do everything in their power to prevent that this way they can justify the largest possible budget. The prison system is the same, any inmate seeking to reform and seek employment is steadfastly sabotaged by being labeled a felon so so they are prevented from doing so, this way their is maximum recidivism and therefor maximum budgets. Corporations being organizations do the same, they make products they know will break forcing customers to buy again, medical institutions engage in practices certain to make people sick so as to keep them in the payment loop. The only way to stop these practices is for the people to demand that they stop but bread and circuses keep the people safely distracted.

Greg said...

The GOP really hasn't had anyone since Reagan who could sell that Disneyfied vision of merely needing a smile, shoeshine and dream to make it in a Republican-led "free market." And they don't really need someone as talented as Reagan anymore, just someone who can meet the huge propaganda apparatus halfway.

Romney's not that guy, I don't think; nor are Jeb or Christie. (GW Bush was, at best, close but no cigar.) But when they find that person -- and chances are, they will before the supposed "demographic apocalypse" kicks in -- look the hell out.