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Romney or Obama: And so it becomes a simple choice, of critical importance

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Smart v. Stupid

Romney or Obama: And so it becomes a simple choice, of critical importance

  • President Obama accepts his party's nomination for a second term.
    DNC PhotoPresident Obama accepts his party's nomination for a second term.

The worst time to be a politics junkie is the last 90 days of any race. Scurrilous lies gather like yellow jackets at the dump. Things just get worse until Election Day. This conventional wisdom applies: Never rely on one candidate to inform you about the other.

The only high points in the home stretch are the conventions and the debates. This is when each candidate presents his own vision. The differences have never been clearer.

Mitt Romney argues for Pure Capitalism, the economic theory, almost as if it were a system of government – or perhaps a religion. In his view, the self-worship that captains of industry heap upon themselves is well-deserved tribute not to be questioned.

Romney appears to argue for a society organized around pure capitalist principles – free markets, unregulated commerce, and caveat emptor. Simply put, to each according to his ability to take. In Mitt Romney’s America, the best worker is a hungry worker, or better yet a desperate one.

This kind of primitive, jungle equality is easy to mistake for fairness when you started life up in the tree canopy. But down on the jungle floor it still looks like chimpanzees biting each other’s fingers off.

Romney’s exception, of course is defense. Here government should meddle incessantly. Defense procurement is our government’s greatest fire hose of corporate welfare and Mitt believes no amount of spending on it is too much. But Free-market Capitalism didn’t win World War II. In fact, there was no period in our history when commerce (whether it was selling, buying, wages or rationing) was more regulated.

Romney’s vision is for government to get out of the way of people who “built it,” deserve it and ought not to pay for it. As others have noted he (along with his wife) believes that success is measured in dollars, not a surprising metric for any pure capitalist but kind of a weird way of looking at life for any regular human.

It is worth pointing out that Romney’s worldview implies that your father was a failure unless he could give you the money to start a business. I’m reminded of the author Tom Clancy who once said that anyone who doesn’t get paid $100,000 “hasn’t done anything with his life.” Even that would be a low number for Romney, but it is still more than what 93 percent of Americans make. One could guess quite a few Republicans make less than $100K. Perhaps you are one?

And then we have Obama. The president’s worldview derives from the traditional Democratic view that the purposes of government are to organize cooperative activity and to regulate commerce.

From the Democratic viewpoint, Democracy is our form of government and Capitalism is our economic system. Notice the bright-line differences. Democracy is organized to benefit people, not in the interest of profits. Government organized for business actually has another name. It is called Fascism. That’s not meant to be provocative. Read up on it.

In a Democracy we row together. We rise together and we fall together. If poor people are getting poorer while rich people are getting richer, our Democracy is broken. We may start out richer or poorer, but if we don’t find ourselves prospering (or declining) together, our Democracy is broken. We can’t pick up every straggler, but if we’re not trying to leave no man behind our Democracy isn’t really a fully functional one.

Romney’s Pure Capitalism argues that trade regulates itself. This was Bush-the-Younger’s theory too. It is the flawed logic that led to the Great Recession, the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s and even the Great Depression. These were all disasters caused by unregulated Capitalism. There is no example of a country governed by free market Capitalism that has ever had a prosperous people; none.

Still Capitalism is an important aspect of what makes the United States a success. Its role – and even the role of competition – should not be underestimated. But in order to function well, Capitalism requires a system to regulate its honesty and ethics. Trade between members of a Democracy must be based on value, quality and transparency, not on dishonesty, superficiality or con-artistry. When it fails we get toxic toys, or maybe a financial industry meltdown.

Democracy is how we cooperate and Capitalism is how we compete. Both together are how we prosper. But make no mistake; Democracy is the people’s “big dog.” Capitalism is simply a successful method for trade.

So on the one hand we have a candidate who argues the principles of the jungle: every man for himself, dog eat dog, and you are welcome to whatever you can take from some other American. On the other, we have a community organizer, who believes in Democracy, regulated commerce, giving a hand up to the most needy and opening the doors of opportunity wide enough for everyone to walk through.

For anyone who works hard but still brings home less than $100K, who has raised a good family, who volunteers to make a better community or who had a father – a good father – who couldn’t afford to set you up in business, the choice couldn’t be simpler.

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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