They Built It

It was hard for me to learn about government while I was growing up. How it worked, who was right, who was wrong; it all made so little sense to me. I grew up in a liberal household, so that’s all I really knew about politics. “If my parents are Democrats,” I thought, “then I’m going to root for the Democrats!”
But it stopped being that simple. As I grew more, and began to realize I lived in a town full of conservatives, I began to question my own parents’ stance on government. I tried to be, “centrist” as they call it.
And then I stopped growing up, and I started to mature. I stopped listening to everyone around me, and I started to do my own research. It wasn’t long before I struck a major, but very basic, realization: when it comes to government, conservatives think selfishly, and liberals think compassionately. Now, before all the conservatives out there blow a fuse, I’ll admit there are certain obvious exceptions to both those rules. But for the most part you (the fact-checking version of you) will find they rein true.

And right then, when I realized that, I knew who I wanted to be.

Today, I absolutely resent the conservative politician. And if you know the facts, how could you not? It’s a political party that, more than anything, is just that… political. They do not speak of substance. They do not specify policy points for their constituents. They simply look for ways to win people over by pointing out that our economy has failed to recover, and so that clearly must be Obama’s fault. Not Wall Street’s, who crafted a securitization food chain so diluted and corrupt that it came to the point where debt was more valuable than equity. Not the Bush administration’s, which entered office with nearly a 300 billion dollar surplus. Not the republican members of congress, who during Obama’s administration set the all-time record for House attempts to filibuster (though it should be noted Harry Reid’s senate isn’t shy to do so as well). And certainly not the golden boy himself, Ronald Reagan, whose deregulation policies are indeed what opened Pandora’s Box in the first place.

Nope. Obama. Obama. Obama. Like a broken record with a free-market mentality and a really bad haircut.

Now, with that being said, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to listen to conservatives speak. In fact, it’s become one of my favorite pastimes. This past week was the Republican National Convention (RNC), and I literally haven’t stopped drooling since. I know I’m a little late to the game, but here’s my take.

Ron Paul – Contrary to what you might believe, Ron Paul is actually not a republican. He is a libertarian (think fiscally conservative but socially progressive), and a respectably true one at that. He merely runs as a republican because of the two-party system.
For those of you unfamiliar with how political conventions work, it can get kind of messy. For this purpose all you need to understand is that in a republican state convention, delegates from each precinct are represented. Despite who won the caucus, the amount of delegates that show up to the state convention will be proportionally represented at the National Convention, unless they agree otherwise. This happened with Ron Paul in Maine (and Nevada), where he took ten delegates that ideally should have gone to Mitt Romney. During the credentials committee report at the RNC, individual states have the opportunity to overrule the RNC’s delegates, and seat their own. Theoretically, if enough states do this, they can overrule the party and appoint their own nominee.
But, the RNC chose to ignore this right… literally. After the credentials committee report was moved and then seconded, the committee chair states “Without objection, the previous question is ordered.” Brent Tweed, chair of Maine’s delegates, objected loudly and clearly from the convention floor, but he was totally ignored. The bulk of Maine delegates then left the convention in protest.

Ann Romney – A common theme of the convention was the GOP’s desperate attempt to humanize Mitt for the sake of ignorant votes. Very reasonable goal, considering how robotic he comes off as. Ann Romney’s speech epitomizes that attempt rather genuinely. She is not the greatest public speaker, but she’s a very charismatic woman. That’s where the effectiveness of her speech, if it affected anyone at all, would come into play.
On a bizarre side note, I now have this strange combination of a crush and total resentment towards her. Is that weird? Probably.

Chris Christie –  Very good public speaker. He began by summarizing some personal antidotes and arrived at the punch line, “There are times in your life, when you have to choose between being loved and being respected.” He said the current government is “paralyzed by our desire to be loved.” To a conservative, that’s exactly what you want to hear. To the rational, things are not quite that simple. But I’ll leave it at that with Christie. Got to save some for 2016.

Paul Ryan – My new favorite politician. Surely, Mr. Ryan has become a fact-checker’s dream. His first false claim implied that it was Obama’s fault the country’s credit rating had been downgraded. Standard and Poor, who issued the rating, retorted that the downgrading was in fact a result of Paul Ryan’s, as leader of the House Republicans, refusal to raise the debt ceiling if spending was not cut.
He also continued his lies about Medicare, which he bizarrely claims to be in support of (don’t republicans want entitlements to be cut?). He presented that notorious 716 billion dollar cut as, that alone, a cut. It’s true. This is part of the Affordable Care Act. What he fails to mention however is that those cuts were taken out of subsidies that go to insurance and health companies, not taxpayers.
And then finally, just when the smoke was starting to clear, he let off a bomb. He presented the story of a General Motors plant in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin, that Obama appeared at in February of 2008, claiming that if he was voted president the plant would not close. Well the plant did close in December of 2008, and according to Ryan that means Obama failed to follow through with his promise. Seems reasonable enough. Wait… December 2008? Wasn’t that before Obama took office? Eh whatever… it will make people clap.

Clint Eastwood – I’m going to take it easy on the clearly senile Clint Eastwood. From what I understand (which was certainly not his speech) he is a staunch Ron Paul supporter and Libertarian. Cool. The real shock of this speech, for me, was that the RNC even let it happen. It was, by all accounts, an absolute disaster. First of all, it should offend anyone when someone who has no business partaking in political discussion is given a twenty-minute time slot to ramble. It turns the event into a publicity stunt rather than a political convention. And second of all, how dumb is the RNC for even letting this speech go down? Did they read it? Did they talk to him? Did they do both of those things and still think it would garner a positive reaction? This should not only worry liberals, but conservatives for how down right stupid of a choice this was.

Mitt Romney – The economy will be, and should be, priority one come election time. Yet, Mitt Romney has failed to give any details about how he plans to cut the budget deficit. His fifty-nine page PDF titled “The Romney Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs” is filled with sweeping generalizations, at times advocating deficit reduction, other times advocating tax cuts. Paul Ryan’s budget aims to lower tax rates without losing tax revenues by closing exemption loopholes. Again; no specificity, all generalization. As The Economist phrased it in this past week’s issue “Mr. Romney’s Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs” is like “Fifty Shades of Gray” without the sex. He’s also said that he plans on repealing Dodd-Frank, but has failed to offer any sort of replacement regulation, which implies he believes things can return to the way they were in 2008.
So did Mr. Romney fill these gaps in his campaign? No. He talked about Mormonism.

John Huntsman – Most of you probably won’t be familiar with Huntsman, the former US Ambassador to China and Governor of Utah. This is reasonable, considering his Super PACS have just a fractional amount of support compared to other campaigns. Mr. Huntsman has been present at every RNC since 1980, until this year. This year, he was asked by his party to go to New Orleans during that period of time. Why would they do that? Well… quite honestly, because he’s a reasonable man.
The night of Mitt Romney’s speech, Huntsman had his own version of a coming out party. But he wasn’t on Fox News. He was on the Colbert Report; the epitome of liberal television. Why would he do this? Well of course I don’t know for sure, but it seems like both he and Colbert were trying to show liberals that somewhere out there, conservatives exist who are focused on real, detailed solutions.  Not just campaigning.

“(The Republican party) needs to be a little more inclusive, and broaden the footprint a little bit,” he said, “with a larger optimistic view for the future of this country based on real solutions.”

He spoke out against super PACS, calling them an “abomination” at one point. He spoke about something he termed the “trust deficit”, of course referring to the lack of trust constituents have in their representatives.

“People talk about the fiscal deficit. Something much more corrosive is the ‘trust deficit’,” he said. “Now why do we have a trust deficit? Because we’re not getting the straight scoop from our elected officials. And because of that, I’m here to tell you that (this country needs to) take steps towards addressing the trust deficit, like term limits for elected officials, like dealing with campaign finance, dealing with the revolving door that allows people to leave Congress and then become a lobbyist. And we’ve pretty much just created this.”

He spoke highly in regards to infrastructure investment, and when asked if he thought government should play a big role, he said yes.

“Well I guess we know why your not down (in Tampa),” replied Colbert.

It should be noted that, in his senate race against Ted Kennedy in 1994, Mitt Romney too was socially progressive and a similarly personable speaker. He wasn’t shy to speak his true feelings, and even worked with Senator Kennedy to reform healthcare in Massachusetts. My point is that despite how forward thinking John Huntsman appears to be now, there’s no telling what effect the GOP base might have on him once it would be his time (which isn’t very likely). Still, it’s refreshing to hear a conservative speak in such a way and he’s a great role model for… young republicans (I cringe every time I say that).

We Built It! – The RNC had a changing day-to-day theme. Monday’s was “We Can Do Better.” Tuesday’s was “We Built It.” Wednesday’s was “We Can Change It.” Thursday’s  was “We Believe in America.”
How inspirational, right? Wrong. Let’s talk about what exactly they built.
Of course it should be made clear first what exactly they were referring to on day two when they chanted “We built it!” In reality, they are responding to this speech President Obama made in Roanoke, Virginia this past January:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

To the reasonable man, that’s some pretty sound rhetoric. To the hostile man, that’s an invitation for a political ploy. So the GOP super PACS did what they do best, and presented a message based off of one totally out of context phrase. And if the republicans at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this past week are any sample of American conservatives (at least I thought that’s what the idea of a delegate was) they clearly have no idea about any of this. Because they erupted in this chant time and time again. “We Built It! We Built It! We Built It!” I let it sink in good, and then I suddenly realized, maybe they aren’t so wrong.
Not about President Obama of course. They are clearly lacking the facts there. I’m talking about the mess we have today. Listen, GOP, I get that Obama has been a disappointment. You’ve reminded us every single day. But how are you planning on fixing it? Through repealing Dodd-Frank but offering no replacement that lifts the burden off small businesses? By repealing Roe v. Wade? By tightening up on voter fraud? By utilizing Paul Ryan’s brilliant budget of slashing Medicaid, cutting taxes on corporations and people with very high incomes, and replacing Medicare with a voucher system that places unreasonable caps on even the elderly?
“These concrete proposals would, taken together, actually increase the deficit for the first decade and beyond,” said Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman on his nytimes.com blog. “All the claims of major deficit reduction therefore rest on the magic asterisks. In that sense, this isn’t even a plan, it’s just a set of assertions.”
So congratulations GOP, you’re right. You began the thirty years of deregulation that triggered the housing bubble. You appointed the judges that passed Citizens United. You made it your sole objective to make sure Barack Obama made no progress by filibustering everything that came your way.
You did build this, and now you can’t even tell me how to fix it.

Dave Sweet
Pierce Arrow, Editorials Editor

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