Friday, July 20, 2012

Neither Romney Nor Obama Should Quote Teddy Roosevelt

Conor Friedersdorf provides a different view on President Obama's social contract comments. In addition to building roads and providing security, government also "funnels so many tax dollars toward Wall Street bankers, Blackwater mercenaries, and the Orwellian infrastructure of the Transportation Security Administration." Friedersdorf points out that these negative consequences happen because its easy to profit from the system:
It is beyond dispute that there is a huge amount of rent-seeking in the American system, that lobbying yields truly stunning returns on investment, that the complexity of our tax code benefits very rich people who employ extremely intelligent tax attorneys to reduce their tax burden, and that certain policies (like the Wall Street bailout) redistributes toward moneyed interests.
 Friedersdorf goes on to point out some of Obama's failures:
Having railed against the ill-gotten gains of lobbyists in 2008, Obama hasn't really found a way to tame them. Obama's inclination to micromanage the economy with subsidies to specific firms all but guarantees capital will keep flowing to the wealthy and well-connected rather than the most efficient uses. There's been no real attempt at reforming Wall Street in a way that gets rid of the incentive for financial transactions that create neither efficiency nor value to anyone other than traders. And Obama generally favors policies that make America's tax, regulatory and health care systems more complicated and reliant on the discretion of corruptible bureaucracies.

All of this is to say that there are a lot of ill-gotten riches in America. But there is little focus on reforms that would remedy that huge, seemingly intractable problem. Instead, public upset over the perception of ill-gotten gains is used in service of efforts to raise taxes on the rich generally. If that effort succeeds, more serious inequities and inefficiencies will remain unaddressed. . . .
Obama failed, but it's a near certainty that Romney will do nothing make lobbying less profitable or make it more difficult to redistribute money to Wall Street interests. In fact, his record at Bain indicates he will perpetuate a system with "neither efficiency nor value to anyone other than traders." Were I a betting man, I'd bet that Wall Street and it's lobbyists will see a better return on their investment under Romney than they have under Obama.

In short, neither Obama nor Romney will ever believably be able to quote Theodore Roosevelt:
We who stand for the cause of the uplift of humanity and the betterment of mankind are pledged to eternal war against wrong whether by the few or by the many, by a plutocracy or by a mob. We believe that this country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. The sons of all of us will pay in the future if we of the present do not do justice to all in the present. Our cause is the cause of justice for all in the interest of all. The present contest is but a phase of the larger struggle. Assuredly the fight will go on whether we win or lose; but it will be a sore disaster to lose. What happens to me is not of the slightest consequence; I am to be used, as in a doubtful battle any man is used, to his hurt or not, so long as he is useful, and is then cast aside or left to die. I wish you to feel this. I mean it; and I shall need no sympathy when you are through with me, for this fight is far too great to permit us to concern ourselves about any one man's welfare. If we are true to ourselves by putting far above our own interests the triumph of the high cause for which we battle we shall not lose. It would be far better to fail honorably for the cause we champion than it would be to win by foul methods the foul victory for which our opponents hope. But the victory shall be ours, and it shall be won as we have already won so many victories, by clean and honest fighting for the loftiest of causes.

We fight in honorable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless of the future; unheeding of our individual fates; with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes; we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.

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