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Brian J. Siebel

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Mitt Romney Is the Inequality Candidate

Posted: 05/30/2012 7:28 pm

America is an unequal society, and our inequality is growing.  Wealth and income disparities today are higher than they were in the Gilded Age of the 1920s, right before Wall Street's crash and the Great Depression.  But America's inequality goes beyond income and wealth.  It affects nearly every part of our society.  On every front Mitt Romney and the Republican Party support policies that would exacerbate our inequality.  Simply put, Mitt Romney is the Inequality Candidate. Consider the following 10 areas.  Mitt Romney's policies would increase inequality in every case.

  1. Inequality of income and wealth: America ranks as among the most unequal societies in the world when it comes to income and wealth.  For example, the 400 wealthiest Americans now own more than the 150 million people at the bottom of our society.  This disparity has been growing since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.  Mitt Romney would make it worse.  His plan is to cut taxes by 20 percent, eliminate the estate tax, repeal the alternative minimum tax, and cut corporate taxes.  All of these would help the richest Americans the most.  As this chart shows, when top marginal tax rates decline, income disparity increases.
  2. Inequality of taxes: We theoretically have a progressive tax system, taxing the wealthy at higher rates.  In reality, loopholes in this system allow Mitt Romney, who has about 230 million in net worth and an income of more than20 million per year, to pay an effective tax rate under 14 percent, while middle-income Americans are taxed between 25 and 28 percent.  One loophole is the capital gains tax rate of 15 percent, which is equivalent to the marginal tax rate for Americans earning between8,000 and35,000 a year.  This disproportionately helps the top 1 percent, who control more than half of our stocks and securities.  Another loophole treats income by hedge fund managers like Mitt Romney as capital gains instead of ordinary income, thereby lowering his marginal rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. Mitt Romney would make it worse. Romney's tax plan would cut the top marginal rate and corporate taxes from 35 to 25 percent, eliminate the estate tax, which affects only the top 0.3 percent of all estates, and eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to keep the highest earners from avoiding taxes altogether.  At the same time, Romney would increase taxes on people at the bottom by eliminating certain credits they now receive.  Vice President Biden has called it The Romney Rule.
  3. Inequality of power in the workplace: One of the causes of rising income and wealth disparity has been the huge and growing imbalance of power between working people and corporate owners.  When unions comprised a higher share of the workforce, we enjoyed what Robert Reich has called the Great Prosperity, where wages rose with productivity.  CEOs earned "only" 42 times more than the average employee.  During Ronald Reagan's presidency, when he broke the air traffic controllers union, unionization dropped below 20 percent and has declined ever since.  It is now at a 70-year low.  Globalization, employer strategies, and laws that make it harder for workers to organize have all tilted the playing field against working people.  The result is CEO pay more than 300 times the average worker's pay.  Mitt Romney would make it worse.  His record at Bain Capital makes it clear that Romney favors absolute corporate power over working people. For example, at Ampad, Romney's Bain fired every union worker at one Indiana plant as soon as it was acquired.  He also cut working people's profit sharing, wages, health insurance, and/or pensions at other companies Bain bought, and after Bain extracted its profits, he left many of these companies bankrupt.  Even Mitt's Republican rivals were appalled by his tactics.
  4. Inequality for women: Women do not receive equal pay in our society. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is larger the higher up the pay scale you go.  The gap is also larger for African-American and Latino women.  The Equal Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Obama signed, have helped, but not nearly enough, which is why Democrats seek to enact the Paycheck Fairness Act, against Republican opposition.  Women's reproductive rights are also under attack, as is access to health care, while House Republicans voted to weaken the Violence Against Women Act.  Mitt Romney would make it worse.  He has applauded Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who signed a law repealing Wisconsin's Equal Pay Act. Romney's budget is worse than the Ryan budget, which cuts Pell Grants and Medicaid, most of whose beneficiaries are women. Romney has called for the elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood, supports allowing employers to avoid providing insurance coverage for contraceptive products to women, and would kill Obamacare's many benefits for women from day one.  He opposes a woman's right to choose and favors overturning Roe v. Wade.  Robert Bork, who famously said that women's rights were not recognized in the Constitution, heads Romney's Judicial Advisory Committee.
  5. Inequality for racial minorities: Despite having a black president, we are not close to achieving equality for racial minorities.  Paul Krugman has linked racial and economic inequality, noting that racial minorities stopped gaining ground around 1980, when income disparities began to widen. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of African-American households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.  There are also wide gaps between whites and racial minorities in home ownership, education levels, unemployment rates, imprisonment, and poverty.  Our schools have resegregated, and many of our civil rights laws are under attack.  Hispanics face discrimination from laws targeting immigrants.  Mitt Romney would make it worse. From an income and wealth inequality standpoint, Romney would exacerbate the growing divide and continue policies that make it harder for people to rise from the lower rungs of society.  Romney also has the harshest view on immigration of any of his Republican rivals.  And, as with women's equality, Romney's choice of Robert Bork to chair his Judicial Advisory Committee indicates he favors judges who would turn the clock back on the progress gained from affirmative action, school desegregation, and civil rights laws.
  6. Inequality for LGBT people: LGBT Americans continue facing discrimination and hatred on a broad scale.  Twenty-nine states do not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Forty-four states have laws or constitutional amendments that deny the rights of gay people to marry.  Despite the ending of "don't ask, don't tell," there remain many discriminatory policies toward gays in the military.  The federal Defense of Marriage Act continues to foster inequality, even as more federal judges rule the law unconstitutional.   Mitt Romney would make it worse. He not only stands firmly against marriage equality, but he opposes civil unions if they confer the same rights as marriage, and he supports the first constitutional amendment that would expand discrimination -- by declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.  He left his gay foreign policy adviser twisting in the wind while he was being assaulted by homophobes within his party.   He also acts like he's God in his pronouncements on the issue.
  7. Inequality of political voices: American elections more than ever are governed by money, thanks to the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.  Their 2010 Citizens United decision and the idea that corporations are people has unleashed a tsunami of money from wealthy individuals and corporations, who can now spend unlimited amounts backing or opposing candidates.   This tips the scales in favor of Mitt Romney, who is backed by right-wing billionaires but cannot compete with the level of small contributions from everyday Americans that President Obama has received.  It threatens to turn American democracy from one person, one vote into one dollar, one vote.  Mitt Romney would make it worse. The Super PACs backing him spent tens of millions on negative ads to tear down his Republican rivals and will likely spend hundreds of millions against President Obama, pushing political discourse to new lows. Mitt "Corporations are people, my friend" Romney would also appoint a new Supreme Court justice in alignment with Citizens United if given the chance.
  8. Inequality among voters: Republicans have also waged a war on voters by passing numerous state laws that make it more difficult for millions of voters to cast ballots if they do not have drivers' licenses or photo IDs.  Most of them are young, old, poor, or minority voters, a large percentage of whom would vote for Democrats.  One thing standing in these Republicans' way has been the Obama Justice Department, which has blocked restrictive laws from taking effect in several states.  Mitt Romney would make it worse. By controlling federal enforcement and the arguments made in court, Romney could allow conservative states to ride roughshod over voters rights.
  9. Inequality of health care coverage: Before Obamacare, about 50 million Americans lacked coverage, could be denied insurance based on preexisting conditions, faced lifetime caps, and could not carry children on parents' policies after age 21.  Women could be charged more for health insurance than men.  Health care coverage was rife with inequality.  Obamacare, once it takes full effect, will largely eliminate these problems.  Mitt Romney would make it worse. By vowing to kill Obamacare, all the inequalities that existed before Obamacare would quickly return and grow, with no one to counterbalance the power of insurance companies.
  10. Inequality and the federal budget: The federal budget can reduce or expand inequality based on the priorities it funds.  A large part of the budget is designed to provide a social safety net through Social Security and Medicare.  The next largest part is spent on the military.  But there are hundreds of other programs that help everyday Americans: Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, job training, veterans benefits, education, environmental protection, housing, transportation, food safety, and infrastructure investment, to name just a few.  Changing these priorities can have enormous impacts.  Mitt Romney would make it worse. As he has said, he's "not concerned about the very poor," or the rest of us, either.  Because he wants to increase defense spending and balance the budget, he would have to cut non-defense discretionary funding, including Medicaid, by7 to10 trillion, or 59 percent.   Romney's cuts would be several trillion dollars deeper than Paul Ryan's draconian budget.  This would shrink non-defense discretionary spending to between 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent of GDP, when it has averaged 3.9 percent in the last 50 years.  These cuts would be made to fund a huge tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans.

Can we really afford a president who seems dedicated to increasing inequality in America?

 

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