Political Choices

If a person is judged by the company he or she keeps, then Mitt Romney is doubly disappointing. First Donald Trump (about whom I have blogged previously) and now Paul Ryan the man with a heart of stone. Romney’s choice of Ryan as a running mate is especially disturbing.  The man has shown himself to be determined to eradicate every possible safety net that keeps the  poor, elderly, and chronically disadvantaged in this country from falling out of sight. As a recent editorial in the HuffPose by the Rev. Chuck Currie points out:

Ryan’s budget proposals affect the support of seniors, cut assistance to programs aimed at combating childhood hunger, and would leave people who have lost their jobs without heat during cold winter months. This isn’t hyperbole but reasoned analysis of his budget goals from non-partisan groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ryan’s plans would eventually end “everything from veterans’ programs to medical and scientific research, highways, education, nearly all programs for low-income families,” according to the CBPP.

The Presidential race that was becoming boring in spite of the millions of dollars that have already been spent on it has just become a race of major importance. It now matters a great deal whom we vote for. While Obama has shown himself to be weak on environmental issues, too quick to wage war, and unwilling to take on the corporations that support him, he is certainly preferable to a man who is openly avowing a public strategy to eliminate the middle class, eradicate the E.P.A., and turn the government’s back on the poor and needy in this country. As Rev. Currie points out, this election has suddenly become a matter of extreme moral import: it’s not just a choice between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee as it may have appeared at times.

The movement to cut taxes at all costs and eradicate protective agencies is disturbing on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. To the extent that we support this movement, it shows us to be a greedy and self-serving people who lack compassion for our fellow human beings or concern for the planet itself. This sounds like exaggeration, but it is not. The time to attend to the issue of global warming, for example, was months ago and we still have largely ignored it — while many continue to deny it. But the attacks on social programs that assist people in real need are in many ways even more disturbing. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for example, estimates that 62 percent of Paul Ryan’s cuts as Chairman of the House Budget Committee were to programs for the poor. The frenzy to cut taxes by a people who pay less than most others who enjoy the benefits of a “developed” country shows us as a people unwilling to consider the real costs involved: our stewardship of the planet and a concern for human suffering and genuine human needs.

I really cannot believe we are at that point. My suspicion is that Mitt Romney has made a huge blunder in picking Paul Ryan as his running mate and that the American voters will see that this man represents the reductio ad absurdum of Mitt Romney’s political thinking.  Surely this approach to politics will be deemed unpalatable to the majority of voting Americans in November.

[I would only add by way of a closing parenthesis that Ryan’s favorite author, Ayn Rand, is by no stretch of the term a “philosopher” even though the Rev. Currie places her in company with the likes of Socrates. But the fact that she is Ryan’s favorite theorist — and that Ryan once said “Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism” — tells us a great deal about the man himself, things we need to know before we vote in November.]

Courting Latin America

President Obama is in Latin America attempting to build economic bridges with that region of the world in the hope that it will boost his reelection prospects. He wants to convince voters in this country that our economy will recover as new trade relations are solidified with our neighbors to the South. The officials in that region of the world, meanwhile, are distressed over the fact that the U.S. is perceived as ignoring them out of a misplaced concern with the Middle East. Perhaps so. In any event, the President’s visit has been marred by a scandal involving eleven (at last count) of his security people who seem to have an uncontrollable urge toward promiscuity, and the fact that the U.S. has insisted that Cuba be denied involvement in the next Summit of the Americas.

The story begins: CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) – A prostitution scandal involving U.S. security personnel in Colombia and an unprecedented regional push to end the isolation of Cuba threatened on Saturday to eclipse President Barack Obama’s charm offensive to Latin America.

I am less alarmed by the prostitution scandal — which is certainly disturbing on many levels — than by the fact that the U.S. voted to deny Cuba access to the Summit when 32 countries in that region of the world insisted that Cuba be invited to participate. A number of Latin American countries, including pro-U.S.A. Colombia, have said they will not participate in the next Summit without the involvement of Cuba. I realize that there are real-world political problems with cozying up to Cuba, but this is about sending messages to that part of the world and starting anew. Allowing Cuba to attend the Summit does not necessitate renewed friendship with that country and it just might help build those economic bridges.

Ours is a President, after all, who ran on a policy of open government, the desire to open lines of communication with others — certainly other nations. We should have learned by this time that turning a deaf ear to a country, any country, can be a mistake of gigantic proportions. It is always preferable to talk to people, even people with whom we are ideologically opposed, than it is to take a stance of hard-line opposition. Our acknowledgement of the importance of Cuba to that region is an important element in opening lines of communication with other nations in Latin America, and the resentment that our denial has stirred outweighs the sexual scandal that is grabbing most of the headlines around the world.

In any case, the prestige of this nation and the reputation of this President as a man with an open mind and a willingness to engage in dialogue with anyone may have been irreparably harmed. The scandal involving a group of men who surround the President and apparently can’t keep it in their pants didn’t help, either. In the meantime, China has stepped in and maintains the upper hand in the region with trade agreements that portend the continued economic ascendency of that country at a time when the prestige and economic clout of the United States seem to be in serious jeopardy.