Suppose that President Obama were to say the following: “Mitt Romney believes that corporations are people, and he believes that only corporations and the wealthy should have any rights. He wants to reduce middle-class Americans to serfs, forced to accept whatever wages corporations choose to pay, no matter how low.”If there were any justice in the world, this farce that passes for politics would quickly lead to the complete collapse of America. Instead, the Republicans have been pulling this fraud for 30+ years and the only penalty has been a slow decay within America and a slow collapse of their economy. And the electorate continues like sheep to the slaughter. They don't complain. They keep electing these liars to positions of power, to positions that let them enrich the top 1% at the expense of the bottom 99%.
How would this statement be received? I believe, and hope, that it would be almost universally condemned, by liberals as well as conservatives. Mr. Romney did once say that corporations are people, but he didn’t mean it literally; he supports policies that would be good for corporations and the wealthy and bad for the middle class, but that’s a long way from saying that he wants to introduce feudalism.
But now consider what Mr. Romney actually said on Tuesday: “President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others.”
And in an interview the same day, Mr. Romney declared that the president “is going to put free enterprise on trial.”
This is every bit as bad as my imaginary Obama statement. Mr. Obama has never said anything suggesting that he holds such views, and, in fact, he goes out of his way to praise free enterprise and say that there’s nothing wrong with getting rich. His actual policy proposals do involve a rise in taxes on high-income Americans, but only back to their levels of the 1990s. And no matter how much the former Massachusetts governor may deny it, the Affordable Care Act established a national health system essentially identical to the one he himself established at a state level in 2006.
Over all, Mr. Obama’s positions on economic policy resemble those that moderate Republicans used to espouse. Yet Mr. Romney portrays the president as the second coming of Fidel Castro and seems confident that he will pay no price for making stuff up.
Welcome to post-truth politics.
So here’s my forecast for next year: If Mr. Romney is in fact the Republican presidential nominee, he will make wildly false claims about Mr. Obama and, occasionally, get some flack for doing so. But news organizations will compensate by treating it as a comparable offense when, say, the president misstates the income share of the top 1 percent by a percentage point or two.
The end result will be no real penalty for running an utterly fraudulent campaign. As I said, welcome to post-truth politics.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
The Sleaze that Passes for Politics in America
Here are some bits from a NY Times op-ed by Paul Krugman exposing the cynical manipulation of truth by Republicans, Romney in particular: