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Monday, September 17, 2012

David Brooks, "Thurston Howell Romney": Or How Romney Lost the 2012 Presidential Election

During his first term in office, Obama proved himself a failure even by his own standards. He was unable to resurrect the economy notwithstanding trillion dollar budget deficits, he perpetuated American involvement in Afghanistan at a frightening cost of lives and money, and his outreach campaign to the world's tyrannical regimes and his craven wishy-washiness in the face of challenge have alienated American allies around the globe. Offering no vision how to mend the train wreck for which he is admittedly not entirely responsible, the president has long since buried his calls for "Hope" and "Change" six feet under.

Even Obama's condescending "You didn't build that," coming from a millionaire community worker who made his fortune writing books about himself, did not sink his 2012 re-election campaign. Why? Because Romney failed to provide answers how to bring America back from the edge of the abyss. You see, winning the presidency away from an incumbent, no matter how bad the economy, is not a matter of entitlement.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Thurston Howell Romney" (, David Brooks excoriates Romney for dividing the US during a recent fund-raiser into two groups, "the makers and the moochers" and for declaring that the forty-seven percent who are "moochers" will never vote for him. Brooks tells us that Romney doesn't understand who is receiving the lion's share of federal aid:

"The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor."

Brooks concludes:

"But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney."

David is correct. The entitlements that are bleeding the US white are also the most popular: Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. In addition, much of the funding problem involving these programs has little to do with "blame." Rather, Americans are simply living longer. As observed by former Senator Robert Bennett of Utah (

"In the 1930s, when Social Security was passed, we were a very young country where people died early. Roughly half of those who paid in to the program died before taking anything out. Today, more than 80 percent of those entering the work force in their twenties are still alive at 67, and they live almost twice as long after reaching that age than their parents did. The old formula simply doesn't work anymore."

Sure, there is massive fraud plaguing Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and any attempt at balancing the US budget should include a declaration of war against those who swindle these entitlement systems. However, the bottom line is that Americans must be treated like adults and come to terms with living within federal budgetary means. Painful solutions involving cutbacks or heightened efficiency, which are not being proposed by Obama or Romney, must be found.

Do I agree with everything that Brooks says? Absolutely not. Brooks continues:

"Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills."

Sorry, David, but I don't believe in "showering" benefits upon my children in order to allow them to "play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills." I didn't grow up this way, nor will my children. Notwithstanding my paternal instincts to give my children what I never had, I also realize the need to inculcate them with the desire to ultimately declare, "I did build that."

Such a dismal choice America faces on the sixth of November.


  1. To the comment that almost half the populace does not pay taxes, this is true, but of those, more than one-third are retired people living on Social Security and/or pensions. Another one-third are students or other separate filers not currently working.

    The remaining one-third are those who are economically distressed. But, of those who do work, they pay 7.65% in social security taxes and, in Illinois, for example, 5% in state taxes, totaling almost 13%.

    Romney pays 13.9% of income taxes and probably no social security taxes because he does not have earned income, only dividends and capital gains.

    Second, George W. Bush instituted two wars and started SubPart D in Medicare AND then reduced taxes, converting the Clinton surplus to a deficit and proving once and for all that trickle down economics does not always work, especially when there are extraordinary expenses like an unneeded war in Iraq.

    Third, Ryan's fiscal plan is almost an exact mirror of the Republican policies that contributed greatly to the depression, i.e., dramatically cutting government spending and reducing monetary velocity.

    Too bad people don't start learning how things work before complaining!

  2. Better still to the first Anonymous, too bad people don't learn from their past mistakes! Trickle-down economics has had 32 years to work; it failed at the end of the 80s, it failed in the 2000s, and in contrast the 90s showed that spreading economic prosperity horizontally, and not vertically, benefitted everyone, including the poor (and that was with a cut in entitlements to them!).

    Trickle-down or whatever theory you attest as the Ryan Plan (or the tired comment of how giving tax cuts to the wealthy will create jobs) has no merit, because the 'job creators' have money offshore, record profits through efficiencies (which includes cuts in costs, i.e. jobs), and the banks were bailed out, and we still have high unemployment and will continue to do so no matter who is President by measure of virtually every economic expert out there. And in a global society, demand is the important driver. How will either Obama's or Romney's policies stimulate increased demand in Europe or China, our key economic partners? In short, the 2012 version of trickle-down will fail as it always will for the same fundamental reasons.

    What a hypocritical thought that people blame Obama, who inherited a total mess, for what he couldn't accomplish in 4 years, while trying to sell us an economic policy tested for 3 decades that has proven does not lift all boats.

    I think Romney is a good man at heart; his dad certainly was. I don't care about his religion, and I respect his business acumen. But being President is NOT THE SAME as being a CEO. There's a lot more than economic policy to being the POTUS, as the past 2 weeks have proven. I see a nice person in Romney who, absent the hysterical fanatic arm of his party, would do the right thing as a Republican for all Americans. But he's trying to appeal to his base to win, and that is a recipe for failure for him, because it's just not him. And yes, like Thurston Howell III, he has no real concept of regular, real, struggling to get through life Americans. Do you recall his $10,000 wager to fellow (and right-wing) Republican Rick Perry in the primary? That to me was the platinum moment that over all of his gaffs to date shows how out of touch he is with all Americans, even those within his own party. Perry and Obama have more in common: they both come from humble backgrounds and made out well in life over time. Romney was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and sees 10Gs the way most of the rest of us spend a $20 bill at a 7-11 store. Perry and Obama represent the average American (who is the majority of the vote) who can relate to their path through life. This is the Romney key flaw, along with not sharing the view of the extremist right. Perhaps he should consider running as a Dem and then become an independent like his billionaire counterpart Mike Bloomberg.

  3. I am not voting.
    The situation of course is a reflection of something bigger than these two despicable candidates - we're collapsing.