With the wrapping up of the Republican National Convention and the upcoming Democratic National Convention offering us a bevy of long-winded speeches filled with rhetoric to poke, prod, and criticize, it becomes easy to focus so hard on a singular candidate and forget about what really matters: choice. And for many years, it has been a choice clouded, disguised, and turned into an illusion.
This year, we are being fed an illusion that is almost impossible (keyword: almost) to correctly hide. But, as always, political spinsters and hack pundits have managed to hide the commonalities and feed us yet another false choice. Romney and Obama are, at the base message, exactly the same.
But it’s not enough to just say it; to be effective one must prove it. So, in the spirit of proving the illusion exists and arguing for its extinction (and causing a slight uproar in the process, no doubt), let us pick apart, piece by piece, the issues and the stances of one Mitt Romney and one Barack Obama.
1. On Health Care:
This one should be a no-brainer. Long before Obamacare tore this nation a new one and caused more internal strife than the Civil War, Mitt Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts.
During his tenure, he wrote and passed a piece of legislation that would later be called Romneycare. This law created a universal health care system, and imposed a tax on anyone who didn’t want to participate (or, in most cases to this day, still can’t afford to participate).
Fast-forward to today. Romneycare inspired it’s new, national cousin, Obamacare, complete with taxes on those who can’t, or won’t, participate. The Democrats, and Obama, fought tooth and nail to pass it, including Nancy Pelosi’s infamous quote “We have to pass it to see what is in it,” and now suddenly Mitt and the GOP think it is the worst idea ever, vowing to “repeal and replace” it.
Just what, pray tell, are they going to replace it with, when Mitt’s own idea was basically copied-and-pasted to create Obamacare? This is a case of rhetoric disagreeing with history, and we’re still buying it.
2. On Individual Liberty:
This one has a lot of rhetoric behind it, and none of it makes any sense. Obama, before signing the NDAA, requested that the president be given the authority to detain American citizens on American soil without a trial and without bringing them up on charges of any kind.
Some contend that his signing statement of “I will never use it, and I have serious reservations about it” comes with a caveat: Section 1022 removes the requirement of military detention, but still leaves the option up to the state. So, there is a strong possibility that he only has reservations about this waiver of requirement, and not the detainment of citizens.
So what does Romney think about this? He loves it! Several times, even when answering to a chorus of boos, he has reaffirmed that the NDAA in its entirety is a great piece of legislation and he would have signed it exactly as Obama did. Tim Brown of FreedomOutpost.com sums both men up very clearly when it comes to this rather dubious power grab, when he says “What’s not being said is that if he were president he would do the same thing that is in NDAA without ever having to prove his claims that someone actually was or did what he said. This is exactly what Barack Obama is currently doing.” Illusion-0, Reality-2.
3. On the Economy, the Federal Reserve, and Monetary Policy:
This is possibly the toughest one, mainly because both sides have been so secretive, and what has come out of each camp has been wrapped, cloaked, and smothered in rhetoric designed to make the stances indecipherable. But, in the interest of continuing this little adventure, let’s take a look at what each camp has said over the last 6 months. Romney is the murkiest when it comes to this, so we’ll start with him.
During the first GOP debates, Romney said several times that “the stimulus didn’t work,” but looking into his platforms, it becomes clear that “it didn’t work” needs to have the “because it wasn’t big enough,” added to it.
He agreed with the bank bailouts, the auto industry bailout, and the stimulus that has since robbed each dollar bill of its value. Then, in a vain attempt to garner libertarian support, he backed a call for an audit of the Federal Reserve, and at one point even called for it to be added to the party platform.
Shortly thereafter, he dropped the language, and again supported the bailouts. He even went, as far as to say that under his administration, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would return as his Fed Chairman. Throw all this together, and you quickly realize that Mitt Romney is a subscriber to NeoKeynesian economic thought (Keynesian policy at least put a damper on just how much was spent, and took into account how damaging deficits were to consumer confidence).
Obama, not surprisingly, is also a champion of NeoKeynesian policy, as is the entire Democratic Party. Even his calls for increasing taxes on the wealthy are a sign that he believes that the government is not spending nearly enough, and his lack of concern about debt, deficits, and the value of the dollar are keeping in line with the rest of the Democratic Party. If he were concerned in the slightest about deficits and debt, he would quickly come to realize that the increase in taxes on the wealthy would fund the government for something like 8.5 days. Woeful at best, no matter what you believe. Illusion-0, Reality-3. But don’t worry, it gets worse.
4. On Gay Marriage:
Both candidates look a bit like fish out of water on this one. So, let’s gut ‘em and see what is really going on.
Prior to 2000, both believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. Then, in 2004, Obama said that, while he still thought it was between a man and a woman, it was up to the states to decide. Meanwhile, Romney still stood firm. Then in 2006, Romney followed suit, stating that the definition of marriage was for the states to figure out. Then (sigh) in 2008 at the start of his first attempt at the presidency, Romney reverted to his original stance. At the same time, Obama upgraded to the “civil unions should be treated the same as marriage, and that should be good enough” line, which he kept until the infamous Biden slip that forced Obama to go full support of gay marriage.
So, basically, both men will change their position depending on whom they are catering to and how much pull they think they will gain by changing their opinions. Illusion:0, Reality-3.5 (it’s kind of hard to award a full point when neither candidate has been willing to stick to their guns no matter what pressure comes their way).
5. On Foreign Policy:
The only real difference is the impact that rhetoric has on the opinions of the general populace. So, with that in mind, let’s dissect until we are elbow deep in diction.
Obama ran in 2008 on a very anti-war rhetoric filled platform, and still maintains much of that rhetoric today. Did he end the military occupation of Iraq? Yes, but with a caveat: The number of contractors and associated mercenary security forces has more than doubled. Did he agree to end the occupation of Afghanistan by 2014? Again, yes, but he fought tooth and nail for another decade of “peacekeeping and stabilization force occupation.” The verdict is still out on that, or it might be covered up with increased talk of Syrian conflict and what we should be doing there.
Now for the not-so-fun part (at least for most Obama sympathizers): Military actions in Libya, drones over Pakistan, and the piling of sanctions on Iran. While we did not commit ground forces to Libya, we still spent a substantial amount of money and risked the lives of pilots bombing the daylights out of Libyan military targets. When you consider that a single cruise missile costs $1.41 million, and the cost of creating 20 “bunker busting” 30,000 pound bombs cost $330 million, it quickly becomes apparent that what it blew up over in Libya was no small matter.
As for the Pakistani drones, at a cost of $4.5 million each (several of which have gone down over Pakistan and Iran over the last 2 years), as well as the media frenzy over the killing of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son — not to mention the multiple civilian and military deaths as a result of their use, and well… anyone who sees the effect of this sees that he is just being sneaky in his attempts to increase the American Empire. Even the sanctions on Iran are poorly (or not so poorly) placed, and have only increased tensions between Iran and the lone Middle Eastern ally for America — the very aggressive country of Israel.
Romney has taken a very different rhetorical stance on the world, and it is the one thing he has always been very clear on. He has never made his intentions with Iran, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Pakistan unclear, whether it’s the infamous “I will do whatever it takes to ensure Iran never gets a nuclear bomb,” or the continued bashing of Obama for not going into Syria already, or for not having committed ground forces to Libya. Make no mistake, he is a war hawk. If you had any more doubt, just take a look at who is on his foreign policy advisory board. It is a proverbial cornucopia of Neoconservatives and warmongers, each with ties to various defense contractors who stand to lose a lot of money if we were no longer at war with the Middle East. While Obama hides his intentions with counter-offensive rhetoric, Romney throws the idea of war in the faces of Americans every time he speaks. Illusion-0, Reality-4.5.
A two-party system cannot accurately represent the will of the people. However, when the core ideologies of the two parties are essentially the same, the voice of the people becomes muted. So remember, come this November, don’t be swayed by empty words and massive promises. Sit down, and really look what you believe, then compare that to what each candidate believes. Ignore the spin, ignore the rhetoric, and look at the very basics ... you may just be surprised at how much you disagree with both sides.