I continue to be irritated by Mitt Romney's apparent strategy to turn himself into the worst kind of Tea Party demagogue with this "entitlement" nonsense. Coming from a rich kid who parlayed his name into hundreds of millions as a front man for a Vulture Capitalist firm, it's especially sickening.
Thomas Edsall had a nice piece on it yesterday, called "The Anti-entitlement Strategy"
,(which is funny in itself):
Romney and his aides have designed his rhetoric to define pretty much all spending on entitlements, including provisions for the injured, unemployed, sick, disabled or elderly as benefits to the poor who, Romney implies, are undeserving. And it doesn’t matter whether the money to pay for these programs comes from employer and employee contributions and not just tax revenue — they are all under suspicion.
In an op-ed published Dec. 19 in USA Today, Romney described the 2012 election as a battle between the partisans of entitlement and the partisans of opportunity:
Will the United States be an Entitlement Society or an Opportunity Society? In an Entitlement Society, government provides every citizen the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk. In an Opportunity Society, free people living under a limited government choose whether or not to pursue education, engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy.
Romney’s formulation exploits public distrust of programs that explicitly serve the poor. In 2010, about a fifth of the federal budget — $786 billion or 22 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — went to programs that “kept an estimated 15 million Americans out of poverty and reduced the depth of poverty for another 29 million people.” These programs include Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, earned-income tax credits, cash payments to eligible individuals or households such as Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor, unemployment insurance, food stamps, school meals, low-income housing, child-care and programs for abused and neglected children. 2010 spending for Pell college grants for low-income students was $21 billion and spending that year for Head Start was $7.2 billion
Without the underlying belief many voters hold that programs serving low-income beneficiaries perpetuate poverty and discourage work, Romney could not have banked on voter support for his answer in this exchange between the candidate and Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday the week before Christmas.
Wallace pressed Romney to explain how poor recipients of government entitlement programs would fare under his campaign’s plan to “cut Medicaid, health coverage for the poor, by $700 billion. Cut food stamps by $127 billion. Cut Pell Grants for low- income college students in half.” Wallace then pointedly asked, “You don’t think if you cut $700 billion in aid to the states that some people are going to get hurt?”
Romney replied without hesitation:
In the same way by cutting welfare spending dramatically, I don’t think we hurt the poor. In the same way I think we cut Medicaid spending by having it go to the states, run more efficiently with less fraud, I don’t think we’ll hurt the people that depend on the program for their health care.
In attacking the “entitlement society,” Romney is not breaking new ground; he is following in the path of conservative talk show hosts and Tea Party leaders who think social insurance spending is destroying America.
Elements of the conservative intelligentsia see it the same way. An editorial last year in The Wall Street Journal charged, for example, that the Obama administration’s health care reform bill was designed to become another element of the Democratic “cradle-to-grave entitlement citadel.”
A sign held up prominently at Tea Party rallies reads, “You Are Not Entitled To What I Earn.”
Maybe the people holding those signs are as rich as Mitt Romney, but I doubt it. Assuming they aren't among those poor deluded souls who are collecting SSI and holding up those signs, they are probably average working people who believe that government spending goes disproportionately to people who don't "deserve" it. (Each one has to answer for him or herself what that means.) And the very, very entitled Mitt Romney is exploiting their grievances and prejudices for his own enrichment and ambition, knowing very well that it's his class --- the 1% --- who are getting a greater return on their lobbying and campaign donations than they ever could have dreamed. That doesn't let the believers off the hook, of course, but it does make Mitt Romney a very special sort of asshole.