In my piece Why the 'Fiscal Cliff' is Much Steeper than You Think I made the case for how the massive budget cuts that Republicans want in the name of deficit reduction will cause irreversible damage to our economy and mire the US in a rolling recession for years to come. Yet despite that, readers keep responding with cries of how they will pay any price for their freedom. At least some of those readers, I will bet, are unemployed or struggling financially, which makes me wonder how those people could possibly support policies that run counter to their interests.
Are Americans who support gutting the government and allowing the largest corporations and wealthiest individuals to exploit the nation for the sake of personal profit selfless patriots? Do they love the ideal of freedom so much that they are genuinely willing to pay any price for it? I highly doubt it. The reality is that most people are swayed by propaganda and theoretical ideas that make attractive, if false, promises about the future. It's the illusory brass ring, the American Dream, the promised land, and unfortunately a lot of people fall for it.
A few months ago, while the healthcare debate was raging in advance of the Supreme Court ruling on Obama's Affordable Care Act, a bartender complained to me that the President was trying to take his healthcare away. I was mystified. Millions of Americans don't have healthcare at all and of those who do, many do not have adequate or affordable coverage, so how is the President taking away this man's healthcare (which, even if he has it, is probably pretty crappy)? The answer is that the man has been so brainwashed by the rhetoric of the right that he cannot recognize his own best interests any more. The Republicans and the Tea Party have done such a good job of scaring and fooling ordinary Americans that a lot of them have simply given up their hope for a better today in exchange for a false hope for the future.
That is the gift of the GOP to America. From healthcare to fiscal discipline to jobs, Romney and his party are using people's trust, economic angst, and deep love for the Constitution to sell a vision that is pure gloss with nothing behind it. If the Republicans actually carried out their so-called business-friendly policies, the poorest and weakest members of our society would suffer tremendously, and that is the worst obscenity of all. It's one thing to be fiscally conservative but another to mislead the very people who fiscal conservatism would hurt the most, and take advantage of their vulnerability to get their votes.
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you that Mitt Romney is not the least bit interested in solving it. Romney is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. You gather a group of middle age, working class, middle or low income voters who remember with longing an easier time, you talk to them about family and American values and character, you lie to them about how your policies will make their life better, and you paint a picture that appeals to their emotions rather than logic; and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.
Does that sound familiar? It should, because it's the final speech (with some editing) from the movie The American President, and it captures the essence of where our political process is today. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do. Then maybe you will realize why voting for Romney is voting against yourself.
Sanjay Sanghoee has worked at leading investment banks and hedge funds and is also the author of a financial thriller, MERGER. Please visit www.sanghoee.com for more details and to sign up for updates.