For the Obama re-election campaign, Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving. At least so far.
Never mind that the former Massachusetts governor is supposed to be the un-Obama, a man who has the expertise to turn around the economy by creating jobs while reducing the federal budget deficit.
Today, three days before the South Carolina primary, which will validate Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, he is under withering attack from his presidential wannabe opponents, the effects of which accrue to a delighted Obama re-election campaign, because not only has Romney gotten filthy rich on the backs of middle-class Americans whose businesses he pillaged for obscenely high profits, but he has now confirmed that he is a card-carrying member of the top tier of the 1 Percenters.
Let's be clear about a couple three things before we motor on: Romney had every right to get filthy rich. That, after all, is a part of the American Dream. But Romney got filthy rich by being a member of the Vampire Elite who destroyed the lives of ordinary working stiffs laboring to produce quality American goods. As a result he is worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars and because of a gaping private-equity loophole, he pays taxes at about a 15 percent rate, far lower than you and I and the workers whose lives he destroyed, and his sense of wealth seems distorted to the point that he claimed yesterday that the $360,000 he made last year giving speeches is "not very much."
Romney's responses to the twin crises of Bain Capital exposes and now his income taxes have further revealed him to be unfeeling and perhaps inept when not ensconced in a corporation chief executive's office.
I cannot find a single occasion on which he has expressed regret for what he did -- or might claim he had to do -- at Bain, while his campaign's attempts at damage control have been bumbling and reminiscent of Herman Cain laughable efforts to deal with sexual harassment allegations. For example, Romney's campaign refuses to clarify whether the 15 percent he referred to represents his overall tax burden or simply his federal income taxes. (President Obama reported paying an effective federal tax rate of 26 percent on his 2010 family income.)
Meanwhile, Romney has bobbed and weaved on whether he favors removing the private-equity loophole, most recently saying that he wants to eliminate the tax just for families earning less than $200,000 a year--presumably preserving the 15 percent tax on wealthy earners like himself. (By contrast, President Obama has long campaigned for closing the loophole entirely, something that is anathema to coddle-the-rich Republicans in Congress.)
Typical was Romney's response last night at the presidential debate in South Carolina when asked by moderators as to whether he would release his tax returns:
"I hadn’t planned on releasing tax records, because the law requires us to release all of our assets, all the things we own. That I have already released. It’s a pretty full disclosure,” he said. “But, you know, if that’s been the tradition, and I’m not opposed to doing that, time will tell. But I anticipate that most likely I am going to get asked to do that around the April time period, and I’ll keep that open."
The guy doesn't exactly sound presidential, eh? And incidentally, it was Romney's father who in 1968 set the precedent of releasing returns that every major presidential candidate has since followed.
* * * * * Meanwhile, the cheapening of the Republican brand continues apace in South Carolina with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum playing dog whistle duets that not so subtly riff on Barack Obama's blackness.
Gingrich's comments linking the president to the increase in food stamp use are particularly execrable.
Yet again claiming that Obama is "the greatest food-stamp president in American history," he bloviated during the presidential debate that "The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history." (Wild cheering.) "I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable." (More wild cheering.)
What Gingrich conveniently overlooks is that Obama didn't put a single person on food stamps. People apply for food stamps and have been doing so in increasing numbers since the Bush Recession began in 2007. And for the record, non-Hispanic whites -- surely some of them Gingrich's own constituents or members of their extended families -- far outnumber blacks receiving food stamps.
Caricature by Nick Jarvis