Conservative friends, maybe you can enlighten me. I would really like to know if, and if not why not, these things disturb you:
Romney's constant lies. Mitt Romney, as has been detailed here and elsewhere, is the most consistently, blatantly dishonest major party presidential candidate in my lifetime. He continues to say things that are just flat-out untrue, long after they've been pointed out as untrue. He knows that to a large extent he's speaking in a bubble--his sound bites will be carried on FOX News and on local TV stations without being revealed as untrue. The people who seem them there won't read the Washington Post or the New York Times or Politifact or whatever, so won't see them laid bare as lies. Enough repetition, masters of propaganda and Madison Ave advertisers have learned, can make things that are not true appear to be true. Utter dishonesty seems to me like it should be a disqualifier for the presidency, but to you, it does not seem to be. Why not?
The Republican Party's attempt to dienfranchise voters. Ever since we've been a country, the voting franchise has always shifted toward more inclusion. Originally you had to be a land-owning white man to cast a vote. Since then, we've expanded the franchise to include people of color, people who don't own land, women, younger people. This is as it should be--voting is the single most important act a citizen can perform in regards to the electoral process, and everyone who is affected by government should get to have a say in what that government is. But the Republicans--and only the Republicans--are attacking that franchise, passing laws making it harder to vote. Those laws are aimed at certain groups (who, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic): students, minorities, the elderly. They claim to be attempts to block voter fraud, but most of them--ID laws in particular--attack the fraud committed when one person goes to the polls claiming to be somebody else. That problem essentially does not exist (or does, but at a rate lower than 1 vote per 15 million voters--in other words, so statistically insignificant that it might as well not exist). In the meantime, these laws will prevent hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have legally cast votes for decades, from voting this year. Why is it okay to take away the right to vote?
I've been trying to figure out how Republicans can support someone who they know with absolute certainty is lying to them, about important issues. I haven't arrived at any certainties yet, which is why I'd like the input of Republicans on this. But I am beginning to develop a theory.
Ronald Reagan is one of the conservative movement's true heroes. Never mind that his policies were largely disastrous, leading to an absurd military build-up that nearly bankrupted the country and began the trend of piling on deficit spending, all of it meant to counter a Soviet threat that didn't exist, since the Soviet Union was falling apart before he was even elected. Never mind that his administration was the most corrupt in modern times, and the Iran-Contra scandal a truly heinous abuse of presidential power that should have resulted in impeachment (given that it was frankly, unmistakably illegal) and long prison terms for people like Oliver North. The fact is, he lied to the American public and Congress all the time.
Don't take my word for it. Here's fellow conservative icon John Wayne, in a letter to Reagan, about the issue of the Panama Canal treaty (which is where Reagan first achieved national prominence, threatening Gerald Ford for the presidential nomination, and, I suspect, where he learned that telling lies doesn't matter if people want to believe what you're selling):
''Now I have taken your letter, and I'll show you point by goddamn point in the treaty where you are misinforming people. If you continue these erroneous remarks, someone will publicize your letter to prove that you are not as thorough in your reviewing of this treaty as you say or are damned obtuse when it comes to reading the English language.''
Reagan was a known liar, on a grand scale. Conservatives idolize Reagan. Therefore, conservatives don't mind when a politician lies for purposes of political gain. Lying to win elections is simply one more tool in the toolbox, and because the cause is all that matters, the lies are disregarded. Plus, government itself is largely evil so why does it matter if someone in government, or trying for an elected office, tells lies in that pursuit?
That's how I see the thinking, anyway. I'd love to be better informed by someone on the inside.
As for this week's big Mitt Romney lie (and Governor Romney has more than inherited the crown of King Liar from Reagan), it's about the topic du jour, Medicare.
In Ohio on August 14, Mitt Romney said this: "One of the things the president did which I find extraordinary, something he never mentioned when he was running for office. You see when he ran for office he said he'd protect Medicare. But did you know that he has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare Trust Fund? He's raided that trust fund. And do you know what he did with it? He's used it to pay for Obama care, a risky, unproven federal government takeover to health care. And if I'm president of the United States, we're putting the $716 billion back."
Running mate Paul Ryan, I think, used the word "robbed," saying Obama "robbed" Medicare. RNC chair Reince Priebus (if I misspelled that, blame his parents) used the word "stole" last Sunday on TV, saying Obama "stole" $716 billion from Medicare.
Of course, these claims are lies.
The fact is that the Affordable Care Act slows the growth of spending on Medicare by that much. And it does it not by touching benefits that seniors receive, but by cutting payments to insurance companies and some providers, reducing waste and fraud. Those providers agreed to the cuts because they like the fact that they'll get more customers who have insurance and fewer who don't.
That $716 billion is a savings to the taxpayers. Paul Ryan, in his budget plan, kept essentially the same number in Medicare savings, though he arrives at it in some slightly different ways. But it's in there, no matter how many times Romney says it isn't. And Romney has endorsed the Ryan plan several times, even though he now says it's not exactly the plan he would put forward. He has not actually put forward a plan himself, because he prefers to not lay out specific policy proposals, instead preferring a "trust me, I'll do it right" approach that is short on details and long on nonsense and bad math.
Look at the end of the quote where Romney said, "We're putting the $716 billion back."
In other words, Romney is proposing an additional $716 billion in government spending, all of it devoted to Medicare. All while claiming (with no mathematical basis for the claim) that he will cut spending and cut taxes, but spend more for defense and more on Medicare and not raise taxes on the middle class.
Look, we know a few things about Medicare. Conservatives have always hated it. Liberals have always protected it. Does it really make sense that President Obama would, as they say, "gut Medicare?" Or that the most conservative candidates in history would try to protect it, even to the point of $700+ billion in new spending that one of those candidates has already indicated could be cut without affecting benefits to seniors? Really, these candidates love socialized medicine so much that they're going to throw more money at it than is necessary?
That claim is especially nonsensical when one considers the real Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare, which is to replace some or all of it with a voucher system. Those vouchers would be given to seniors to buy private insurance, according to the plan. Except increases in the vouchers, year by year, would be tied to inflation, which has always risen more slowly than health care costs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scored Ryan's version of this plan and determined that seniors would be looking at an additional $6400+ of costs that they would have to find in their own fixed incomes.
Plus, we know that carving up a program like Medicare will eventually result in its destruction. The point of Social Security and Medicare is that we all pay in and we all benefit. That's why it's socialized. It's also why it works. If we start excluding some groups then the whole thing falls apart. Now, you might not like Medicare, although it's remarkably efficient, and you might hate the sound of anything that smacks of "socialism," although throwing away a good idea because of a label somebody applied to it is the height of foolishness.
But to argue, given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the Romney-Ryan ticket is more socialist than Obama-Biden, more concerned with protecting something their party has hated since its inception, is the height of denial.
We know that the Affordable Care Act has already delivered new benefits to seniors, including reducing the prescription drug "donut hole" (on the way to eliminating it altogether. We know that Romney has vowed to repeal it, and Ryan has voted for its repeal something like 33 times. Repealing it, without having something in place ON THAT DAY to replace it, would take away the benefits seniors are already enjoying. Repealing the whole act, combined with Ryan's proposed cuts to Medicaid, would throw close to 50 million people off affordable health insurance. People would die from that. That's really what's at stake here, and what Romney is lying about. People would die under his plan who will live longer and healthier lives under Obama's. That's indisputable.
But Romney, and now Ryan, are lying about who cuts what from Medicare, because they don't want voters to make informed decisions. They aren't spinning, they are lying to disguise the fact that they don't like Medicare and want to change it in a way that will result, down the line, in the program's elimination (or, if it survives at all, in a program that gives more to the insurance companies and less to America's elderly).
And if you still don't believe me, ask Governor Romney where he's going to come up with the $716 billion in unnecessary spending he says he'll put into Medicare. I'd really like to know.
UPDATE on 19 Aug: The New York Times published a piece yesterday on the Medicare debate, that is probably the best brief rundown I've read on the Medicare debate. It includes this bit of wisdom that echoes what I wrote above: "Both men [Romney and Ryan] have also twisted themselves into knots to distance themselves from previous positions, so that voters can no longer believe anything they say. Last week, both insisted that they would save Medicare by pumping a huge amount of money into the program, a bizarre turnaround for supposed fiscal conservatives out to rein in federal spending."
If you're interested in the facts, give it a read.