"It's not my job to worry about those people," declared Willard M. Romney. Incredibly, this man born with two silver feet in his mouth was speaking ABOUT almost half the population of the United States, the 47 percent of Americans who, because they're too poor, disabled, unemployed, or students, or retired on a pittance, or for some other reason, don't pay any federal income taxes. These people, Romney says, automatically vote for President Obama.
Romney was speaking TO a far different group of people: a small collection of wealthy Republican donors, perhaps one-one thousandth of the one-tenth of the one percent of the population he really cares about. Mother Jones, the magazine that obtained the secretly-shot video, said it was taken at a private fundraiser at a Boca Raton, Florida home last May, after Romney had clinched the GOP nomination in the primaries. The donors were, of course, the same kind of folks that a tuxedoed George W. Bush described at a fancy dinner a dozen years ago as: "The haves and the have-mores," adding congenially:"Some people call you the elite. I call you my base."
And so they remain, the real Republican base. The rich, who roil up and finance Tea Party and righteous religious anger against sex and women and blacks and Latinos and Muslims and gays and (ugh!) Europe. And promote the Almighty God; and the Almightier Gun (preferably a semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine); promoting also (almost forgot) lower taxes for Willard M. Romney and his fellow multi-millionaires and billionaires, not to mention their companies.
Those are the people -- including the companies, because, as he has assured us, corporations are people too -- that Willard worries about. And because he doesn't have to worry about almost half the population, it's easier to be concerned about the relatively fewer "makers," as Republicans are fond of calling them. The rest, the "takers," Romney says, "believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
Just who is it who says the government is there to serve the people? So what if the first sentence of Article I Section 8 of the Constitution boldly asserts that among the first four of the more than 20 enumerated powers of Congress is to "provide for the... general Welfare of the United States."
Now what does that "general Welfare"mean? Americans have been debating that since James Madison asserted that term should be narrowly interpreted and Alexander Hamilton argued for broadly. But Madison's beliefs haven't prevented the government from bailing out the banks. Or insuring $139 billion of General Electric's debt. Or forcing U.S consumers to pay double the world price for sugar on average over the last 30 years. Or stopping the feds from subsidizing the oil industry for about $5 billion a year and the nuclear industry for more than $3 billion.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily arguing that any of that federal help to business is a bad thing. And much of it can likely be justified elsewhere in the Constitution. But if it's OK to serve the corporations, then what's wrong with the government's helping out average Americans when they need health care or food for themselves or their sick, hungry kids, or aid with college expenses or a helping hand out of foreclosure? What's so terrible about that? Would you please explain that to me, Willard?
Average people in (ugh!) Europe, even some in Asia, expect their governments to provide them such services, and even such additional extravagances as paid parental leave and government-subsidized vacations! But all that is a sin to Republicans like Romney who argue that would make us all more dependent on government -- just like American business is now.
But isn't at least part of that what "the general Welfare" in Article I Section 8 is all about? Didn't the Founding Fathers think so? If not, why'd they put those words in? Didn't they want to help average Americans? Apparently some did and some didn't.
Nevertheless, under the "general Welfare" clause or elsewhere in the Constitution, the Federal government has managed to provide Americans with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, minimum wages and a host of other benefits over the decades.
But Willard M. Romney certainly doesn't want to include the poorer half of the population. Remember: "My job," he told his rich donors, "is not to worry about those people."