What defines Mitt Romney's Republican Party? In his keynote address to the Republican convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie argued that this is the party of "hard truths," ready to tackle our debt and deficits. Washington lobbyist and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum proclaimed it the party of life, hailing the platform's pledge to ban abortion with no exceptions, even for the health of the mother, incest or rape (what Paul Ryan calls the "method of conception"). Tea Party zealots celebrated the harsh immigration stance premised on hunting down 11 million undocumented workers until they "self-deport."
But in fact, Mitt Romney's Republican Party isn't passionate about reducing deficits. A candidate that promises to hand out another $900 billion in tax breaks a year by 2015, mostly to the already wealthy, isn't focused on deficits. And telling "hard truths" is not a trait of a candidate who promises to pay for those tax cuts by closing loopholes he won't identify, and pledges deep cuts in spending but refuses to reveal what he would cut. While Tea Party and Christian Coalition activists may be the base of the party, Romney already has walked away from the extreme position on abortion. And a Romney administration won't waste much time or political capital trying to carry out the platform's draconian immigration posture or its anti-abortion promises, knowing Democrats will mobilize to stymie such efforts.
What this Romney-Ryan ticket represents in fact is clear: a preferential option for the rich and a punitive imposition on the poor.
Romney and Ryan don't hesitate to detail the taxes they would cut and the loopholes they would preserve. A 20% tax cut across the board above the extended Bush taxes, will hand millionaires an average $175,000 a year tax break. Corporations will get not only a cut in tax rates, but a "territorial corporate tax" system that exempts companies from U.S. taxes for anything reported as earned abroad, giving multinationals a million dollar incentive to transfer jobs and report profits abroad. They'll abolish the estate tax that applies only to multi-million dollar estates of the top 1%. And they vow to defend the favorite loophole of the wealthy: the 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends and on "carried interest" (the obscene tax dodge that enables Bain partners and other private equity guys to treat their fees as capital gains rather than income). This is the tax break that enables Romney to pay a 14% tax rate on $20 million in income, and Warren Buffett, one of America's richest men, to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. Much is still secreted from the voters, but the preferential option for the rich is detailed for donors to see.
Romney and Ryan also pledge to cut government spending dramatically, but won't say what they will cut. They do promise to lard even more on the Pentagon, already burning through more money than it did at the height of the Cold War in comparable dollars. And they put off cuts in Social Security and Medicare for a decade, because they don't want to disturb today's seniors who vote in large numbers. The cuts thus must come almost entirely from the 15% of the budget that pays for the domestic services of government -- everything from education to FEMA, the agency Republican Governors are calling on to assist in response to Hurricane Isaac.
Ryan's budget passed by the Republican House is marginally more detailed than Romney's plan. It reserves the harshest cuts for the programs of the most vulnerable Americans -- particularly Medicaid and food stamps. Medicaid would be cut by 1/3 over a decade. In all the Center for Public Policy estimates that 62% of Ryan's cuts of $5.3 trillion over the next decade would come from programs for the poor -- from child nutrition to aid to schools in poor neighborhoods to Head Start.
So behind the multi-million dollar stage in Tampa, beneath the glittery "reintroduction" of Mitt Romney as a pragmatic business guy, lies this "hard truth." With the US suffering Gilded Age levels of inequality, Romney will fight for more tax cuts for the very wealthy and the corporations. And with record numbers in poverty, Mitt's promise is to savage vital programs for the vulnerable. Forget about the Tea Party's ersatz anti Wall Street populism or the Christian Coalition's war on women. This is the candidate and the party of privilege, intent on lavishing more benefits on the few while savaging the already inadequate support for the poor and the vulnerable. That's the "hard truth" Chris Christie didn't bother to mention.
This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.
HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at the persistence of poverty in America August 29th and September 5th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.
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