First, our old friend and everybody's favorite animal loving Mormon, Mitt Romney. Now, sure, it's not a terribly high bar, but one could easily make the case that Mitt is the smartest and, perhaps more saliently, the least truly foaming-at-the-mouth insane of all the GOP Presidential candidates. But if this is the case, then it hardly serves as a ringing endorsement, because it demands the conclusion that he is also the most outrageously dishonest among them. Does anyone, at this point, actually question Rick Santorum's sincerity when he expresses his loathing for human sexual behavior? After all the books and speeches and a Congressional term that included the Contract on America, the impeachment of a sitting president for getting a blowjob and a full Congressional shutdown of the American Government, can anyone truly question Newt Gingrich's bona fides? But instead, here we have the establishment Republican party promising everyone that Romney's just saying crazy stuff to get the nomination, he's really not insane.
I dunno. There's really no place for crazy in a position that includes the power to release nuclear weapons, but if I had to make a choice, I think I actually prefer crazy and honest over some kind of algorithmic calculation of the appropriate application of crazy.
But, as I say, that discussion has played out day in and day out since this Primary campaign began back during the Napoleonic wars. It has been discussed to the point where nobody on earth is left with a shred of respect for Romney's integrity or dignity. That's not what I need to speak about today.
Romney's primary campaign message is that he is a Businessman, and as such will do a better job of managing the American economy than Barack Obama. Well, let's think about that. Setting aside the KIND of businessman that Romney was, and overlooking the unfortunate fact that it is Congress, not the President who make economic policy, the assumption here is that the economy would be doing better if America was run more like a business and less like a government. And I wonder: Why do you never see that assumption challenged?
The purpose of the government is to raise revenues and deliver services. The purpose of a business is to make a profit. A government should spend all its revenues delivering services, because those revenues were raised from the governed, and there would be no reason for the government just to keep them. A business, when run properly, should have more money at the end of the fiscal year than it did at the start. I'm not sure how expertise at one translates into competence at the other. Do we want the US Government to become a for-profit entity? The only way I can see that working is to start charging market rates for services. Build roads and bridges on a cost plus basis, and then negotiate a maintenance agreement for them. Sell citizenship to the highest bidder. Charge Japan and South Korea market rates for the American Military presence in the Western Pacific. But then, what would the government DO with those profits? Would the US acquire Mexico? Perhaps a hostile takeover of Iraq - oh wait.
This is just silly. Governance is hard - you know that because you see so few nations doing it well - and the expertise that is necessary to provide effective government services is nothing like the expertise required to buy stuff, add value and sell it at a profit. What Romney is actually doing is making a powerful case that he is poorly qualified to serve as President, and would very likely make a dog's breakfast out of it.
Ok, we already knew that. But still...
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It's actually kind of an interesting exercise to try and imagine the consequences of this kind of radical, draconian spending limitation. One can easily imagine an urban dystopia, with very little in the way of electricity, people dying in the streets from easily cured diseases and pandemics no longer monitored and managed by a public health infrastructure, sanitation facilities breaking down and going unrepaired as clean drinking water becomes harder and harder to find, gangs in the streets as first responders have to triage the calls they get because of a limit on manpower and fuel, while independent for-profit "security" organizations offer neighborhoods a kind of safety based on frontier justice - for the right price.
Here's the problem. The American political right loves to frame deficit spending as robbing from the next generation. But by refusing to pay for necessary government services like energy security, infrastructure maintenance, education and basic R&D, THEY are the ones bequeathing something awful and frightening and unsustainable to the generations to come. THEY are the ones who are letting personal greed prevent the government from building a nation and protecting its citizens. And if that's not the role of government, then I'd like to hear them explain what is.