The national debt is 14 trillion dollars and the unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, the federal budget has been unbalanced since 2001, but America is still the greatest country on Earth.
It would be a syllogistic flaw to draw the conclusion that America is “the greatest” after having recited all the facts that contradict the conclusion. And yet our political leaders do it all the time.
In fact, juggling contradictions is the job description of presidential candidates. On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney, or at least the polished presidential candidate version of Mitt Romney, likes to sing “America the Beautiful.” Mr. Romney loves America, or so he keeps reminding everyone.
He tweeted, “I am running for president because I know my vision will help strengthen the middle class & restore America’s promise.” 140 characters are as succinct and vague as a politician gets nowadays. So Mitt Romney has a “vision” and the supposed beneficiary of that vision is the American middle class.
But imagine the brain power it must take to care for the middle class so much and still say, “there are 47 percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” Just imagine the juggling!
Forty-seven percent of Americans are “victims.” Romney wants to help them out of victimhood so that they no longer feel entitled to health care, food or housing. The conservative base believes entitlements foster “victims” who will not join the workforce if the government provides for them. Does Romney have a 47 percent detection meter? We can be certain he does not sing “America the Beautiful” for those 47 percent of Americans.
On the other side, President Obama believes the rich have been getting a bigger piece of the pie for a long time. Debbie Bosanek is employed as a secretary by Warren Buffet, the second-richest man in the United States. The latter’s tax rate is 17.4 percent; the former’s is 35.8 percent. The President intends to change that by “asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes.”
The contradiction for President Obama is that his campaign funds are replenished by the rich. What’s more, the President himself is a lot more charismatic when he campaigns a lot less than when he governs. Obama’s political consultant David Axelrod, said, “If your party serves the powerful and well-funded interests, and there’s no limit to what you can spend, you have a permanent, structural advantage.”
But the President is not doing much to change the structure. He abandoned his principled stance against Super PACs because structural advantage is a lot better than structural disadvantage.
President Obama is aware that capital and free elections interact like two chemicals forming a corrosive compound, but the president contradicts with the Obama campaign. And this time around, even that is a little tame. Obama’s 2012 election slogan is “Forward.” It’s a lot less forward than “Change,” but it’s “Forward” nonetheless.
Republicans believe that democracy and capitalism cannot survive with Obama in office. Democrats believe that democracy and capitalism cannot survive without Obama in office.
Bob Dylan sang, “Half of the people can be part right all the time / some of the people can be all right part of the time / but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.”
Unfortunately, nowadays if you believe you are right all the time, no amount of fact-checking can convince you otherwise. If Sean Hannity calls Obama “the worst President we have ever had,” Lawrence O’Donnell is there to even the score by calling Mitt Romney “stupid.” We have become so eloquent in stating the problems facing this country that solutions are not didactic enough for discussion.
Mitt Romney ought to sing the last few lines of “America the Beautiful” : “America! America! / God shed his grace on thee. / till nobler men keep once again / thy whiter jubilee!”
Does God ever run out of grace?
Sumeet Singh is a third-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.