Perhaps the most un-appealing element of a Mitt Romney presidency is his blatant detachment from reality as experienced by a vast majority of the working and middle classes in America. In a time where the economy is slowly recovering from a collapse perpetuated by corporate-rigged financial, tax and regulation systems, Mitt Romney is a no-holds-barred vision of fully corporatized America.
While Romney’s vision of government as functionary of business is bad news in general for an American community still reeling from the last few decades of corporate plunder, his generally vague demagoguery comes into ugly focus when we look at what his banalities mean for actual people when they become realities.
For example, one of the shameful omissions in this election season has been significant talk about soldiers, veterans, their families and their needs (from economic to medical). A Romney-Ryan regime would surely mean worsening conditions for soldiers both when they’re deployed and when they return. The duo is a startlingly bad choice for the entirety of the soldier and veteran community—many of whom are precisely among the 47% Romney has basically admitted he has no interest in.
1. Veterans and Soldiers are Simply not a Priority for Romney and Ryan
Perhaps Romney’s distance from the realities faced by regular folks who actually serve in the military can most generally be traced to his class, cultural placement and the limited sphere of people he has authentically interacted with. Or maybe it has something to do with fact that during the Vietnam War Romney lived in a mansion, with a butler in South France, while hundreds of thousands of American lived through hell in South Asia.
The son of a very wealthy family, whose father was nearly a Republican nominee for president, Romney got a very convenient draft deferment to do missionary work in the French Countryside (where The Church of Latter Day Saints was not actually yet recognized as an official religion) while working-class kids from across the United States either served in the military or became effectively illegal human beings (facing jail time, refugee status or life under the radar, for dodging the draft).
And Ann Romney recently shared the family’s impression that Romney-type “missionary” work was similar to wartime “service to our country.” In case you were wondering what the Romney’s consider a comparable experience to what our soldiers faced in Vietnam, this must have come as quite a bit of a revelation.
Mrs. Romney went on the The View yesterday, and among other things was asked why neither her husband Mitt, nor any of her five sons, had ever served in the US military.
Mrs. Romney replied that her husband and sons served Mormon missions abroad… She went on to explain that doing a Mormon mission in a place like Paris – where Mitt lived in a mansion (with his own own butler and houseboy who prepared all the meals); a mansion so posh that it went on to become a foreign embassy – is a similar “service to our country” as those who fought and risked their lives, and died, in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
These are two very different perspectives on what war means to 99 percent of us. Perhaps that detachment from how the rest of us experience reality is why Romney was one of the few people to actually protest in favor of the Vietnam War.
Perhaps that detachment is also why soldiers, veterans and their families got not a single mention from Romney during his acceptance speech at the GOP convention. Even staunch right winger Bill Kristol was aghast. Romney stood for the first time before a captive national audience, but veterans, soldiers or even the wars they’re currently serving in–simply didn’t come to mind when Romney talked about his priorities for America. Even our decade-long war in Afghanistan didn’t make Romney’s priority radar.
Later, Romney had no urge to apologize for his omission, instead clarifying, “you talk about things you think are important.”
Good. I’m glad that’s clarified. Our war in Afghanistan, our troops, their families: these things do not go into the “things you think are important” column for Romney.
2. Romney’s Ideas for the Military Budget are Right-Wing Gimmickery–that the Military doesn’t Want.
Instead of offering up a wide collection of ideas for both our nation’s military challenges and our veterans’ challenges on re-entry, Romney offers cheap gimmickery and dog-whistle shout outs to traditional right-wing themes that don’t amount to an inch of a better situation for soldiers, veterans or their families.
Yes, Romney does ask for a sizable increase to the military budget–but it’s beyond optimistic to believe any of that extra 2.1 trillion dollars over the next decade would end up in the hands of our troops (outside of the occasional weapon being rammed down some newly invaded country’s Main Street). That money’s going right to his military contractor friends (and maybe a few more stupid, imperial wars). For example, veterans won’t see the rust on a shiny dime from the billions that Romney admitted he wants to spend on building up the Navy to Cold War Era levels. In fact, as we might come to find out, the troops and their families would probably have to face serious cuts so that Romney’s pals, not just on Wall Street, but also in the weapons-peddling industry can make a fatter profit. Romney, without explaining how he’d pay for it, in effect promises to outspend even the absurd amounts our military was spending of The Cold War.
And that additional $2 trillion increase in military spending–the military hasn’t even asked for.that, and they don’t want it.
In fact, leaders in the Pentagon actually support the nearly half a trillion in savings enacted by the Obama Administration. Sure, hardcore rightwingers are supposed to ignore all that debt and deficit inflation that Romney’s runaway military spending would cause, but veterans (who would be sacrificing a helluva lot more than tax money) should see that Romney’s numbers don’t add up for either their leadership or for their lives.
There’s also a finer, but important, point here on military issues being illuminated for us by this situation. If Romney’s willing to ignore the advice of even non-political military men in favor of scoring his political points, what should give our active duty women and men the confidence that he’d listen to his top military minds if he was elected president. In 2008 a frenzied population talked about what would happen if Obama got that 3 a.m. phone call that an attack happened on American soil. If Romney got that 3 a.m. phone call, how can military personnel have any faith that he would listen to his top military minds?
Let’s leave the myopia of the political season for just half a minute.
We’ve been exactly here before, just think back. The son of a powerful political family of multi-millionaires, surrounded, not by the best minds, by even right wing standards, but by the leading political operatives. We’ve been exactly at this moment before. We’ve already lived through the example. We’ve seen what happens when the military minds (like Richard Clarke) warn a numb commander in chief (like George W. Bush or potentially a President Romney) than an attack on U.S. soil is imminent (like Clarke did before 9/11) and is met by a cabal of right-wing apparatchiks with a political agenda in mind. If Romney so easily ignores military leaders for political points now, what makes us believe he won’t do the same in a moment of crisis?
3. War with Iran
Much like the Bush Administration, there are already strong early indicators a Romney administration would pursue an aggressively neo-conservative line in his foreign policy, one that generally means serving as the security and acquisitions division of Corporate America.
Among the early signs of this heavy tendency in a potential Romney-Ryan regime is the twisted cabal of billionaire servants, profitjunkies and pulse-less neo-conservative sycophants amassing around Romney for another potential looting of America. In fact, 17 of Romney’s 24 foreign policy advisers–are straight out of the Bush Administration.
You can also tell the present political genealogy of a leader through the variety of unlimited corporate sponsors sprawling across their platforms like so many motor oil stickers on a NASCAR funny car heading furiously into a fiery crash somewhere in the cheap seats. And the funny car that is the Romney campaign sure does have a lot of Israel’s own mini-Murdoch, Sheldon Adelson sprawled all over it. Adelson’s got an estimated $100 million invested in warping this election (an “investment” of less than 5% of the savings in taxes he’d receive from a Romney tax plan).
Much like the Bush Administration, one of the particular frustrations of Adelson’s career is that he never really got to reap the profit from a nice bloody war with Iran, replete with ethno-centrism, nationalistic self-righteousness, justifiable genocide and looting of resources.
In potential war with Iran, Romney embodies a particularly nice dovetail for the Islamophobia of the far right (both in America and in Israel, both places where Adelson also makes his millions and distorts the public discourse to the corporate advantage) and the profit-hunger that blindly drives the American Right’s free-market fundamentalism (one, that like all fundamentalisms, has reserved massive hypocrisies for the leaders’ benefit). Within this dovetail, Romney has enough media, corporate and even racist grassroots support to launch an attack on Iran.
And in fact, Romney hasn’t been afraid to start some early marketing for his campaign for another corporate-pirate expedition–this one into Iran. Before he ditched Romney, Tim Pawlenty was his campaign co-chair, proudly supporting a war with Iran. Romney himself said he’d support Israel starting a war with Iran.
And while recently Romney has (shocker) changed his tune on straight up war with Iran, (“clarifying” yet again only minutes later that while military strikes against Iran aren’t a “must,” they must remain on the table) we should remember that the only consistency in his Iran policy has been this peculiarly consistent vow that the military option must remain on the table. In fact, Romney has managed to attract millions of dollars in campaign donations (aka, a bloody new dimension on “investment capital”) through his hawkish talk on Iran.
While a poll last month found a majority of American oppose a military strike on Iran, we find Romney on the other hand ignoring even the advice of top military minds, like our top naval commander in the Persian Gulf region, Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, who said a potential war with Iran would be “disastrous.” Much like his policies on the military budget, Romney’s ideas on foreign policy are mostly the product of right-wing gimmickry and corporate privilege.
In another under-mentioned policy point of the Romney campaign, a 2011 policy memo from the Romney camp revealed that his top advisers were actually in favor bringing back the inhumane and pointless policy of using torture as an intelligence gathering technique.
Once more of course, Mitt Romney has turned shifty as election day has drawn near, saying rather generally in September (rather to the opposite of what his policy adviser were promising from a Romney presidency) that he would “not authorize torture”–clarifying only minutes later that actually that doesn’t include waterboarding, because technically he doesn’t consider waterboarding a form of torture.
In fact, Mitt’s policy of supporting torture was too much for even former Bush lawyer Jack Goldsmith, who served as head of the Office of Legal Council under Dubya. Goldmisth called it “indisputably illegal.”
This bodes terribly for soldiers, veterans and their families who will be the first hand recipients of the rage such techniques often motivate in occupied populations whose “hearts and minds” we should be winning. First off, from the history of torture rendered intelligence to the failed science behind it, torture is one of the worst, least efficient and most inhumanely brutal methods to acquire intelligence. Put simply, torture doesn’t work, it’s not worth it for what it means about our national community’s values and it’s not worth it for the way it increases the amount of danger faced by our own soldiers in the theater of war.
Even the FBI, which seems like it would know for investigations and intelligence, strongly opposes torture, decrying the abuse they’ve witnessed at our wide variety of military prisons. In fact, many of the intelligence and military’s leading bodies have strongly opposed the use of torture fo nearly a decade now. Sound military advice, once more, is trumped by the need to score political points in the mind of corporate automaton Mitt Romney.
5. Romney’s Hollow Promises on Tri-Care and Out-of-State Tuition are Empty Distractions from his Plan to Sell out Veterans Health to his Corporate Buddies
Recently, Mitt Romney told a military crowd that he would freeze a scheduled increase the fees charged for the Tri-Care health care system. He also told them he would fight to have all veterans using the GI-Bill be charged in-state tuition, regardless of the university they’re going to.
First off, these promises, like all sounds emanating from Romney’s head when his mouth is open, should be received with the greatest of suspicions. In fact, here’s a list of over 800 lies Romney has told so far during this campaign. Secondly, the scheduled increase has been in the works for a few administrations, well before the Obama Administration, and Romney is once more being quite “un-factual” when he says he would stop the increase in Tri-Care fees so that veterans and soldiers don’t have “to pay more for their health care to pay for Obamacare.” In fact, as the Army Times noted,
There is no direct link between the Tricare fee increases sought by the Defense Department — and mostly rejected by Congress — and funding for the Affordable Care Act that is commonly called Obamacare, but the promise still drew loud cheers from the American Legion crowd.
The fee increase themselves will be either 3% and 17% (depending on the program participants’ entry into the program) and both, as never mentioned by Romney, are within the last year’s cost of living adjustment. As detailed by ArmyTimes.
For those who enrolled before Oct. 1, 2011, annual fees will increase for individuals from $230 to $269.28, and from $460 to $538.56 for families.
Those who enrolled after Oct. 2, 2011, and all new beneficiaries will pay $269.28 a year for individuals, up from $260, and $538.56 for families, up from $520.
The increases fall in line with legislation passed in 2011 restricting the amount the Pentagon can increase annual fees to the military cost-of-living adjustment. The Tricare fee increases are equal to the cost-of-living adjustment in military retired pay made Dec. 1, 2011.
Romney’s first big idea would amount to a savings of either $39.28/year or $9.28/year per individual participant (depending on when they enrolled), or $78.56/year or $18.56/year per family participant. In all, that means, the most Romney’s first big appeal to veterans, soldiers and their family is a savings that at its maximum would add up to, at maximum, less than $80.
His second idea, that of making colleges accept in-state tuition rates for even out-of-state veterans isn’t a terrible idea. Actually, it will take a bit of regulation, but that’s a pretty good idea, especially considering the number of times veterans who need to move to pursue better career and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney has no credibility on the matter. Besides those 800+ lies, there’s also the problem that his running mate Paul Ryan, whose economic and budgetary outlooks Romney has often praised and supported, was one of the few legislators not to support the New GI Bill of Rights. And in the Ryan budget so loved by Right Wing, praised by Romney and generally refuted by America’s military leaders, veterans would have seen a projected 17% cut, representing a loss of $11 billion for things like veterans care and support. In June of this year, Ryan further proposed $6 million in cuts to Veterans Affairs, costing a projected 1.3 million veterans their VA care.
But there’s another third point to MItt Romney’s very simplistic platform when it comes to America’s troops. He rarely mentions it, knowing that the Ryan voucher scheme to enrich wall street in the insurance giants is already starting to make seniors nervous. So one thing he and Ryan will in no way mention publicly between now and election day are their consensus that veterans health care should also be transferred into a voucher program that ultimately enriches wall street and the insurance giants.
Romney would turn veterans healthcare into a voucher program. He may not talk about it now, but he tried unleashing the private industry goons on veterans healthcare once before in Massachusetts. As explained by one of the mayors who resisted the scheme, this attempt to sell out veterans’ health to his industry friends followed in a long pattern of Romney’s disinterest in the well-being of troops and their communities:
“I know firsthand how out of touch he has been with Veterans. He tried to cut Veterans’ programs by 11 percent in his first budget proposal and he even proposed turning the VA healthcare system into a voucher program. Bottom line, we need to take care of our Veterans when they come home.” (“Romney’s Proposal to Cut HUD Hits Homeless Vets”, 4/19/12, Truman National Security Project)
In fact, Romney used to be more open about his plan to voucherize veterans health care. In November of last year, he unveiled his plan to turn veterans healthcare into a voucher. Those who followed his career were unsurprised outside of the fact that Romney actually suggested something so blatantly corporate while trying to capture the presidency. For veterans and their families, a conversion to a voucher system would mean a considerable drop in service delivery to veterans who need it most. Long-term, it would also drive funds out of the VA/VHA system by giving tax money over to health insurance giants who provide health services at far higher overhead than public alternatives.
So when Romney and Ryan promise to save veterans families up to $80 dollars in savings from frozen Tricare costs, don’t forget that he’ll be compensating for that by cutting $11 billion worth of veterans services. When he promises to make sure that colleges will accept lower in-state tuition for out-of-state GI bill money, just remember that his running mate Paul Ryan went so far as opposing the new GI Bill of Rights.
6. Food Stamps
With Ryan on the team, never have veterans, soldiers and their families been more assured that a Republican ticket would significantly worsen their day to day lives.
Consider this ugly bit of economic reality that all new enlistees can relate too.
Is living below the poverty line considered poor or very poor? Because if it’s very poor, veterans families (1.5 million of whom receive SNAP benefits — “food stamps”) and active soldiers alike should not kid themselves about a Romney presidency prioritizing their needs or voices. After all, as Romney himself said, he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”
And numbers indicate that veterans and their families are increasingly showing up on food stamp rolls as they come back to an economy Republicans won’t allow anyone to fix. In 2011, $88 million worth of groceries were bought through SNAP benefits at military commissaries in 2011, nearly tripling since 2007, according to a report by Stars and Stripes in June that year.
One year later, June 2012, The Huffington Post found the number climbing to $110 million worth of groceries being purchased with food stamps by families at the commissaries–an increase of $22 million in the last year alone.
Not only is Romney not concerned about the very poor (which too often include our troops and their communities), but he’s running with Paul Ryan, whose budget threatened even the food stamp program that so many soldiers’ families have come to count on after the economic collapse of 2008. Ryan’s budget included among other things
“Ryan cuts nearly $1.4 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years…30 million people could lose their health insurance.
Ryan repeals the Affordable Care Act…another 15 million people without health insurance.
Ryan’s budget cuts $134 billion from food stamps, which is enough to kick 8-10 million people off the program…
…remember that Romney’s budget is much, much more aggressive than Ryan’s. It’s less specific, so it gets less attention. But it’s much more aggressive.” (Ezra Klein, WaPo)
Ryan’s budget clearly lays out his own political priorities and when Romney, who vociferously supported that budget, says vaguely says he’s “not concerned about the very poor,” he means it quite seriously. And considering that the vast majority of new recruits couldn’t keep their family above the poverty line on their pay, that would naturally seem to include soldiers, veterans and their families.
7. Romney has no actual plan for helping veterans find gainful employment.
This one comes with a real simple litmus test. Ignore all that empty RomneyTalk about how he’ll prioritize job growth for veterans. He’s got absolutely no plan for helping veterans enter better education and employment opportunities in a still-recovering economy. How can you tell?
Cut through the rhetoric and go straight to Romney’s 160 page “Plans for Jobs and Economic Growth” (which you can find here). Out of the the 59 points Romney makes in his extensive plan not a single point mentions soldiers, veterans or their families. In fact, the words “veteran” and “soldier” and “troops” are nowhere at all to be found in this near-book-length exposition of Romney’s most important economic plans. When it comes to Romney’s economic focus, Veterans are simply not a part of the picture.
You can also bet that Romney’s not afraid to cost veterans the jobs they do have or the jobs of their care-workers if it means scoring some points with his far right sponsors (and possibly lowering their taxes). Consider for example Romney’s complaint in the early summer that Obama had added an additional 145,000 government workers. He wanted those jobs eliminated. But those jobs he was specifically referring to were from ”defense (80,000 additional jobs), veterans affairs (38,000) and homeland security (20,000).” (WaPo).
In short, Romney is what he’s always been: a political operative with little motivation besides power and profit. Where a soul should be there is an algorithm working on ever-newer ways to privatize profit and socialize cost. Veterans, soldiers and the communities that support them should be painfully aware that in Romney’s vision of America, they get not so much as a mention. There is little in Romney’s background, in his politics or in his world-view that would connect him to the very serious challenges faced by today’s veterans. When voting this November, soldiers, veterans and their communities will be faced with a Republican nominee who pays no mind to to top brass, who would place the profits of Wall Street over veteran health or military advice, and most personally for military communities, an empty suit of a man who couldn’t even fake giving a damn about our troops.