A Road Not Paved With Good Intentions
"My goal," Grover Norquist once famously boasted, "is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
The founder of the euphemistically-named Americans for Tax Reform never stated that he wanted to eliminate government altogether because he would face the opprobrium of the media for such brazen and colorless extremism. He is reported to have maintained "I don't want to abolish government," presumably because there are actions taken by government to enhance the health and welfare of the top 10%. That he would not want to see end.
This is where Mitt Romney comes in. There was not one extraordinary moment in Mitt Romney's speech (transcript, from a conservative source, here) yesterday to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, nor one clear objective he had in mind in accepting the organization's invitation. Rush Limbaugh says "Romney knows, get 3% of the black vote and you throw this election into a tizzy. Get 5% of the black vote, and Obama loses. So he shows up today." Romney has no intention to compete for votes of black Americans- even for 5%- and if he did, his share of the white vote would drop. More likely, he hoped to create doubt in the minds of moderates that he is just another paleolithic right-winger, just as George W. Bush successfully softened his image among moderate whites with his "compassionate conservative" misdirection. Perhaps, additionally, he wanted a twist on Clinton's Sister Souljah moment, this time a candidate boldly speaking falsehoods to an organization which would not vote for him, anyway, and which most of his supporters don't especially care for.
Joan Walsh believes it most likely that Romney, who admitted afterward that he expected to get booed at the convention, lusted after film which would show him being booed by a group representing his opponent's most ardent supporters. Nancy Pelosi sees it the same way.
Walsh criticizes Romney's attack in his speech on "Obamacare," the signature legislative achievement of the first black president, which unsurprisingly resulted in boos from the assemblage. But she finds even more troubling, given the NAACP's effort "for a century to expand voting rights for African-Americans," the speaker's claim, as she puts it, "that he'd be a better president for African-Americans than Obama." Still other critics were distressed by Romney's pledge to "defend traditional marriage," a far less serious offense, especially given that our (Democratic) President, even as of April, was on the same side of the marriage issue, at least publicly.
Otherwise, the speech consisted mostly of boilerplate conservative myth, including the former governor's assertion
If our goal is jobs, we must, must stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we earn. To do this, I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like Obamacare, and I will work to reform and save Medicare and Social Security, in part by means-testing their benefits.
Whoa! Let's back that up. In order to "stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we earn," Romney wants to eliminate "Obamacare," which is projected by the CBO to cut the deficit by approximately $210 billion.
But more significant is Romney's vow to means-test Medicare and Social Security. Though Medicare and Social Security are both earned benefits (derided by the misleading appellation "entitlements"), they differ in more than one critical aspect. The rise in the cost of Medicare is not the problem, not a problem, not any problem. The problem, which Romney is loathe to concede, is health care costs. In making health care accessible to old (no, old is not an insult) people, Medicare is considerably more efficient than the private health-care system upon which we would be more dependent with a reduction in Medicare services. And the Affordable Care Act, which Romney has promised to begin to repeal "on Day One," appears already to have begun reducing health care costs.
Still, means-testing Medicare and Social Security would further a critical objective of Romney, and his party generally. Following the Supreme Court's Medicaid determination in its ruling on the PPACA, several states (virtually all, if not all, GOP-dominated states) are threatening to refuse to expand the program- one designed to provide health care for poor people- even though the states themselves would bear less than 10% of the cost of expansion. If they were promised that the federal government would send them more than 100% of the cost, thus affording them a profit, some Repb officeholders still would balk at strengthening a program which, benefitting the needy, somewhat resembles a welfare program. Means-test programs directed toward the elderly, and we're headed down the same road.
This is, admittedly, speculation, though reasonable and realistic. But it is not speculation to note two words Romney slipped in: "in part." Means-testing is only the first spoke in destruction of these (thus far) popular programs to aid the elderly, primarily because they are the most politically palatable. There would be more to come.
Like Grover Norquist, Mitt Romney, who yearns to conduct a testosterone-fueled foreign policy and lusts after additional job-killing trade deals to destroy more American jobs, does not want to destroy government. Cutting it down to the size of a bathtub drain, starting with the poor and the elderly, is quite enough, thank you very much.