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Monthly Archives: August 2012

In a word Education.

It ranks well behind the leaders ( Canada #1 – Israel #2 – Japan #3 – US #4) in math, science, and reading.

A heavy investment in primary, secondary and post secondary education is the essential key to increasing the standard of living.

The US has been resting on its laurels for a long time.

A cultural shift in values is required.

We live in a wired world.

That is a global issue.

If work is nothing more than a means to an end the US will remain

shackled to its current status.

The Dems get it. The GOP don’t.

Dan Zwicker

Toronto.

Aug. 30/12

 

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How It Became Safe To Attack Barack Obama

In 2008 — when I worked against Obama, then for him — even David Gergen saw the race card everywhere. Now birther jokes are fair game.

Blake Zeff BuzzFeed

Contributor

In a video that raced across the Internet this morning, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tries to police the boundaries of acceptable criticism of the black president. He lambasted Mitt Romney for invoking Barack Obama’s birth certificate on Friday; Republican Party Chairman Reince Preibus responded that his criticism was “garbage,” and he was over-reacting to a joke.

Left unsaid by both men was a larger truth brought to the fore by Romney’s birther-inspired remark: the political-media climate for these comments has completely changed, with standards governing publicly acceptable criticism of Barack Obama dramatically shifting over the last four years.

In 2008, I worked as a spokesman for Obama in the general election. Back then, when John McCain’s campaign released a web video questioning the then first-term senator’s preparedness for the office — sarcastically asking, “Barack Obama may be The One, but is he ready to lead?” — unaffiliated observers like former White House aide David Gergen publicly jumped all over McCain, saying the ad’s tag-line was “code for, ‘he’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place.’” The line of attack soon ceased being a major focus of the campaign.

In that year’s primary, when I worked against Obama, the standards were just as stringent, and applied to one of the most popular living politicians among African American voters, Bill Clinton. When the former president notoriously suggested in an interview with Charlie Rose that then-senator Obama was not ready to be president — that voting for Obama required being “willing to risk it” because the results would be “less predictable” — Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones told Politico, “It’s very unfortunate that the president would make a statement like that,” adding that the African-American community had “saved his presidency” after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

And when Clinton famously called Obama’s claim to have been a long-time Iraq war opponent, “a fairy tale,” Donna Brazile, the former campaign manager of Al Gore’s 2000 bid, spoke for many when she said, “I will tell you, as an African-American, I find his tone and his words to be very depressing.” Mr. President, a loud chorus was telling Clinton, your comments are not acceptable.

Now fast forward to the 2012 campaign trail.

In May, Romney told the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that it was “funny” listening to Obama because he “doesn’t understand how the free economy works,” adding his inaccurate stump-speech staple, “He’s never had a job in the free economy!”

Speaking in Charlotte, NC, the month before, Romney said that the nation’s first African American president was “in over his head,” and that, “even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack Obama.” That week he unveiled a banner for his events, which read: “Obama Isn’t Working.”

More recently, Romney has continued the theme, telling voters Obama has moved to gut welfare of its work requirement and that he would give “more free stuff” to people who don’t work.

Then we were told last week by the Republican nominee that Obama was running a campaign full of “anger” and “hate.” A few days later, Romney’s running mate told the president to “put up or shut up.”

Know what’s interesting about all these comments? That, generally, they haven’t been considered interesting. Unlike in 2008, these characterizations of Barack Obama as not particularly bright, hard-working, well-tempered, or worthy of respect, barely caused a ripple. Aside from a Van Jones complainthere, or a Washington Monthly there, the president’s supporters largely did not cry foul, and generally, the remarks attracted scant media attention.

Barack Obama was a first-term United States senator back in 2008, a few years removed from the State Senate. Now he’s an incumbent president of the United States who’s led the nation for nearly four years. And yet — or, perhaps, as a result — the climate for invective and attacks on his core competency is more hospitable now.

Racial coding was alive and well in the 2008 campaign — in ways Ta-Nehisi Coates’ excellent new essay in the Atlantic lays out — but criticisms of Obama’s readiness and core competence were nonetheless scrutinized and mediated to a degree. This time around, when it comes to direct attacks on Obama’s intelligence and capability, the sidelines have gotten further apart.

All of which raises the questions: When did the rules change? And why?

The Overton Window, a theory named for the late think tank executive who developed it, postulates that there’s a finite range of policies or statements a politician can put forward, that are considered acceptable to the “mainstream” of that particular zeitgeist. If an idea is deemed politically and publicly acceptable, it is considered within the Window — and, if it is not, proponents will seek to shift the window so that the statement no longer seems controversial.

While the theory initially focused on the narrow issue of government intervention in public policies, its spirit has also been applied to the notion of broader political negotiation. For instance, if I want to get tax rates on capital gains down to 20 percent, but I know the other side wants it to be 30, the natural meeting place might be 25. But if I say I actually want 10 percent, then the natural meeting ground between 10 and 30 becomes 20, and my previously out-of-mainstream position has now become the norm. By putting 10 percent on the table, the window has moved, and I’ve mainstreamed 20.

When it comes to criticism of Barack Obama, a similar Overton effect has occurred since 2008, whereby the window of what is publicly and politically acceptable has plainly shifted. Usually it’s the public, not politicians, who move the Overton window on an issue. This particular example is an exception.

To understand how we got from there to here, it’s instructive to go back to the days immediately following the president’s historic election and review the actions of elected leaders.

In March of 2009, less than two months after Obama is sworn in, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) plays into disproven claims about the President’s citizenship, introducing a bill requiring presidential candidates to furnish their birth certificate when submitting campaign forms. Such an inquiry was considered out of bounds during the 2008 race, with John McCain pointedly declining to raise it (indeed, Sarah Palin would later express regret for not raising it more during the campaign). But it’s no longer dismissible as a mere fringe utterance, as the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives receives twelve House co-sponsors, with a senator saying he’d be “likely” to support it if it reaches the senate.

Four months after Posey introduces his bill, the House passes a resolution honoring the state of Hawaii, incidentally recognizing it as the president’s birth state; four co-sponsors of Posey’s birth certificate bill decline to cast a vote.

In so doing, efforts to question or undermine the legitimacy and American-ness of the nation’s first black president go from the margins of political conversation, to official acts expressed by elected members of the US Congress. Later, they would, of course, form the bulwark of Donald Trump’s short-lived but temporarily front-running flirtation with a bid for the GOP nod for president.

Two months later, in September of 2009, when the president gives a speech to the joint session of Congress, he’s memorably interrupted by a heckler, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), who shouts, “You Lie!” This is highly unusual in the disrespect it displays for the office, with little modern precedent.

But while Wilson ultimately issues a brief apology, there is no further recrimination. The House approves a “resolution of disapproval” against Wilson, but does so along a near party-line, ensuring that the disapprobation will be viewed as a merely partisan matter.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, when the president flies to Arizona for a post-State of the Union tour and is “greeted” by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on the airport tarmac. Disagreeing over an excerpt in her book, Brewer is shown on camera wagging her finger in the president’s face — and gleefully describing the scene later, claims she felt threatened by the president.

Consider the effect of events like these on the Overton Window. In mainstreaming pronouncements of Obama’s otherness and displays of disrespect for his presidential legitimacy, federal and statewide elected officials steadily moved the border of publicly acceptable discourse crosswise. In so doing, they have served to normalize the kinds of messages – Obama isn’t working, Obama is in over his head, Obama is angry – that Romney has personally delivered for much of this campaign. After all, if questioning the president’s very legitimacy is now in bounds, Romney questioning his intelligence or work ethic hardly seems extraordinary in that context.

It’s the same context, it should be said, that enables the Democratic Vice President – whose own presidential bid in 2008 was stalled when he was quoted calling the president “clean” – to now talk about how the other side will “put you all back in chains,” and then go back to business.

And it’s this same new climate that regularizes jokes that Obama is so inept he must rely on a teleprompter in order to speak, and which makes us almost immune to shock when a reporter barks at the president during a press conference in the Rose Garden.

Which brings us back to Romney’s remarks on Friday. Four years ago, describing Obama’s election as a risk was met with public disapproval. Today, questioning his very legitimacy has become a mainstream position pushed by some prominent elected officials in the Republican party.

So, the truth is Matthews and Preibus may both be right – the comment clearly referenced racialized attacks on the president, and Romney may have only intended it as a joke. The thing is, a few years ago those two would have been incompatible in our national political conversation. But in this new environment, Romney’s reflexive crack about birth certificates was less a bolt from the blue, than a logical next step.

Blake Zeff BuzzFeed

Contributor

Aug. 27, 2012

5 Best Republican Presidents

Known widely as the greatest leaders of their eras, these 5 best Republican presidents served their country not only in the Oval Office. Some were military, some were governors and politicians. All 5 of the best Republican Presidents have one thing in common: respect.

  1. Abraham Lincoln      Still beloved by many to this day, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th  President, was the first official Republican president, elected into  office in 1860. He bravely led the country through the Civil War and  abolished slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. He also passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which legally abolished slavery in the country. Lincoln gave one of the most famous  speeches in history, the Gettysburg Address (in 1863). He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending the Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.   Historians widely agree that Lincoln was one of the best Republican presidents in our history, if not the best.
  2. Ulysses S. Grant The 18th President of the United States served his country well before taking the highest office in the land. He led the North to victory in the Civil War as the General-in-Chief, an aggressive leader who took no  prisoners. President Lincoln appointed him Lieutenant General in 1864. He  was appointed by President Andrew Johnson to the brand-new rank (at the  time) of General of the Army of the United States. After his Civil War victory, his popular standing with many Americans elevated him to the presidency in 1869, where he served two terms. As one of the best Republican presidents, he fought hard against KKK violence and riots, helped rebuild the Republican Party in the South, and presided over the Reconstruction era.
  3. Theodore Roosevelt      This two-term 26th President of the United States was a man’s man: macho, energetic and a bit of a cowboy. He loved to hunt, write, box  and explore. Roosevelt attended Harvard University, where he became  interested in the Navy. He was elected Governor of New York and only two years later was elected Vice President. In 1901, when President McKinley  was assassinated, Roosevelt, at the age of 42, became the new president.  His philosophy was progressive by nature, and he believed it was necessary to regulate business heavily. He was popular and well-spoken with the press, even giving them their own room inside the White House during a rainstorm. This essentially started the modern-day presidential press briefing. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in ending the Russo-Japanese War.
  4. Dwight D. Eisenhower The 34th President of the United States, this Army 5-star General served two terms between 1953 and 1961.      Before his presidency, he is credited with planning and supervising the invasion of France and Germany during World War II. In 1951, he became the very first Supreme Commander of NATO, an extremely high honor. During his time as one of the best Republican presidents, he expanded Social Security and even helped create the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. His most familiar achievement was authorizing the Interstate Highway System in 1956. He believed it was necessary both for military usage as  well as continued country growth. Eisenhower was the first President in  history to be “forced” out of office by serving two terms, the maximum  allowed by the U.S. Constitution.
  5. Ronald Reagan Known for his charisma and endearing charm, Reagan served two terms as the 40th Pr esident of the United States from 1981-1989. Before his rise to the Oval Office, he served as Governor of California from 1967 to 1975. Before his political career, he was an actor both on the big screen and on television; at the age of 69, he was the oldest man ever elected President. Known for his “Reaganomics,” Reagan stimulated the economy,  suffering from the 1970s inflation, by implementing large tax cuts. He was known as a firm but fair leader who increased defense spending, including bringing back the B-1 bomber program as part of the U.S. buildup during the Cold War. During his second term, he vowed to fight for drug-free schools and workplaces with his War on Drugs. He also helped negotiate the end of the Cold War, declaring “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” These accomplishments firmly place him  among the five best Republican presidents.

By: KJ Constance

Break Studios Contributing Writer

Mar. 25, 2010

 

Want to be powerful?

Study says don’t smile

Smile and the world smiles with you, goes the familiar phrase. It’s a lovely idea. And perhaps it’s true. But it may be that the world isn’t smiling with you as much as it’s laughing at you for being such a softie. A handful of new studies (via The Vancouver Sun) suggest that smiles are for low-status individuals. If you want to appear powerful, confident and successful, don’t smile.

Researchers reviewed four studies that examined the power of facial expression. All of the studies asked people to look at images of various faces, from models to football players, who were either smiling or not smiling, and then to rate their expressions. One study asked people to look at head shots of football players and, from those limited views, guess the man’s size and personality. The players who didn’t smile were consistently rated as being bigger physically, less social and more hostile. In contrast, the smiling players were viewed as being less dominant and more social.

Study co-author Timothy Ketelaar, associate professor of psychology at New Mexico State University, explained the findings in a statement. Said Ketelaar: “Smiles can put you in a positive light by signalling that you’re friendly and trustworthy, and that you aren’t a threat to others. But higher-status individuals often want to appear in charge and as a threat, and they lose some of that power by smiling.”

The researchers argue that less dominant human beings have relied on smiles to appease stronger, more hostile individuals for as long as we have been able to lift the corners of our mouths.

“Across the few animal species that smile, [the smiles] seem to be advertising that the displayer is not a threat to more dominant individuals. In the case of social prestige, smiles seem to be providing a similar function, provoking strategic deference,” Ketelaar explained.

So when you nervously smile at your boss when you’re late for the third time in a row, you’re duplicating an action that your forebears relied on to get out of a sticky situation. And when she gives you a stony look in return, she’s mentally high-fiving her hostile, high-status ancestors.

Chatelaine

Flannery Dean

 Aug 21 2012

 

Aug. 24, 2012

ENGINEERING AND ENGINEERS – WHO ARE THEY?

Straight arrows

Open and direct

What you see is what you get

Professionally committed to making every aspect of our lives better

There is nothing that we use that has not been influenced by engineers whether in the fields of research, design, development, manufacturing, production or marketing.

There is a strong, beneficial social context for the work done by this group.

We need their extraordinary capacity to take complex information and knowledge and apply it rationally to useful applications for the benefit of society.

Given the dysfunctional state of the political and financial environment in the US it is time to recruit the best and the brightest professional engineers in the US to become fully engaged in both the political and financial arenas in order to apply their unique ability to solve complex issues.

That is the purpose I have in preparing this note.

Respectfully,

Dan Zwicker

Professional Engineer

Toronto.

P.S.

The new President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi is a Professional Engineer trained in the US at the University of Southern California.

We will see very shortly how he does in his complex political environment.

Most Canadian 50-somethings plan to work in retirement to offset low savings: poll

The national online survey, conducted last month for CIBC by Leger Marketing, found that Quebec residents were least likely to say they’ll work after retirement, at 47 per cent.

TORONTO – A new survey of Canadians in their 50s found that 53 per cent of those polled said they plan to continue working after retiring in their 60s, in many cases to supplement their income.

The national online survey, conducted last month for CIBC (TSX:CM.TONews) by Leger Marketing, found that Quebec respondents were least likely to say they’ll work after retirement, at 47 per cent.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan respondents were the most likely to say they planned to work after retirement, at 59 per cent.
Atlantic Canada (54 per cent), Ontario (55 per cent), Alberta (57 per cent) and British Columbia (49 per cent) were closer to the national average of 53 per cent.
Meanwhile, about 29 per cent of those surveyed said they were not sure if they would work after retirement, while 14 per cent said they would definitely not work post retirement.
According to the survey, almost half of today’s 50-59 year olds polled have less than $100,000 saved for retirement and many planned to use employment income in retirement to make up for lack of savings.
“The retirement landscape is shifting as baby boomers reach traditional retirement age with a smaller nest egg than they expected to have,” said Christina Kramer, executive vice-president, retail distribution and channel strategy at CIBC.
“Many Canadians are now planning to draw on multiple sources of income including employment to fund their retirement, and that makes getting advice about how to manage your income, savings, and investments even more important.”
Overall, the survey found that of those who plan to keep on working, 37 per cent said they would do so part time.
And only one third of those who plan to work post retirement said they would do so just for the money.
Two-thirds — or 67 per cent — saw working either as a way to either stay socially active or that they just found work enjoyable and wanted to stay involved in the workforce in some capacity.
The average age at which the respondents plan to retire varied by region, with those in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Manitoba and Saskatchewan looking to retire earliest at age 62. Ontarians were next at 63 and followed by those in Alberta and British Columbia at age 64.
CIBC says results are based on a poll conducted online by Leger Marketing via the LegerWeb panel that it says comprises more than 400,000 households. It said the poll used a sample of 805 respondents aged 50 to 59 and was conducted between July 5 and July 8.
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
By Hugh McKenna
The Canadian Press
20 Aug, 12

Education: A Predictor of Longer Life

If you want to know how long you will live, you might stop fretting over genetics and family history and instead look at your educational achievements. Education is certainly not the only variable associated with longer lives, but it may be the most powerful.

Recent study findings published in the journal Health Affairs present a remarkable update to the already considerable research showing education to be a powerful predictor of longer life spans.
“The lifelong relationships of education and its correlates with health and longevity are striking,” the article said. “Education exerts its direct beneficial effects on health through the adoption of healthier lifestyles, better ability to cope with stress, and more effective management of chronic diseases. However, the indirect effects of education through access to more privileged social position, better-paying jobs, and higher income are also profound.”
While the findings are good news for educated Americans, they also indicate that medical and lifestyle breakthroughs that have triggered the much-publicized longevity revolution are not being enjoyed by less-educated Americans whose lifespans have fallen further behind over time. This trend has implications for the debate about raising the Social Security retirement age. It also adds a compelling mortality tale to the economic costs of the nation’s falling educational-achievement levels compared with other nations.
Within U.S. racial groups, educational achievement is associated with significant longevity benefits. But compared across racial groups, the longevity gap is even greater, which indicates continued race-based differences in how long Americans live. The Health Affairs article was co-authored by 15 leading academic experts in aging and longevity. The research was conducted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society.
“We found that in 2008 U.S. adult men and women with fewer than twelve years of education had life expectancies not much better than those of all adults in the 1950s and 1960s,” the article said. “When race and education are combined, the disparity is even more striking.”
Within racial and ethnic groups, there was a pronounced longevity benefit when comparing people with 16 or more years of school with those with less than 12 years. Among women, the differences in life expectancy at birth were 10.4 years among whites, 6.5 years among blacks, and 2.9 years for Hispanics. Among men, the gaps were 12.9 years among whites, 9.7 years among blacks, and 5.5 years for Hispanics.
But the differences were more striking across all racial groups. “White U.S. men and women with 16 years or more of schooling had life expectancies far greater than black Americans with fewer than 12 years of education–14.2 years more for white men than black men, and 10.3 years more for white women than black women,” the article said.
“These gaps have widened over time and have led to at least two ‘Americas,’ if not multiple others, in terms of life expectancy, demarcated by level of education and racial-group membership.” Compared with similar 1990 measures, by 2008, the gap among men had widened by nearly a year, and among women, by more than two-and-a-half  years.
“The current life expectancy at birth for U.S. blacks with fewer than twelve years of education is equivalent to the life expectancy observed in the 1960s and 1970s for all people in the United States, but blacks’ longevity has been improving with time,” the article said.
That hasn’t been the case for whites. “White males with fewer than twelve years of education currently have a life expectancy at birth equivalent to that of all men in the United States born in 1972, while white females with similar education have the life expectancy of all women in the country born in 1964,” it added. “And the longevity of these white males and females is growing worse over time.”
The impact of education on lifespans is so powerful, the authors said, that improving people’s health and lifestyle behaviors alone “are not likely to have a major impact on disparities in longevity.” The authors called on policymakers to “implement educational enhancements at young, middle, and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today.”
By Philip Moeller
U.S.News& World Report

13 Aug, 2012

 

So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is — as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand — about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air — huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. See Matt Miller for more.

So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn’t. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.

So that’s the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan’s unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.

So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.

Paul Krugman

August 13, 2012

The Ryan Choice

Paul Ryan is the reverse of Sarah Palin. She was all right-wing flash without much substance. He’s all right-wing substance without much flash.

Ryan is not a firebrand. He’s not smarmy. He doesn’t ooze contempt for opponents or ridicule those who disagree with him. In style and tone, he doesn’t even sound like an ideologue – until you listen to what he has to say.

It’s here — in Ryan’s views and policy judgments — we find the true ideologue. More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today’s Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.

Ryan’s views are crystallized in the budget he produced for House Republicans last March as chairman of the House Budget committee. That budget would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation’s poor – forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Ryan’s budget would also reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger – particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.

In all, 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs.

The Ryan plan would also turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won’t possibly keep up with rising health-care costs – thereby shifting those costs on to seniors.

At the same time, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich – who are already taking home an almost unprecedented share of the nation’s total income. Today’s 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.

Ryan’s views are pure social Darwinism. As William Graham Sumner, the progenitor of social Darwinism in America, put it in the 1880s: “Civilization has a simple choice.” It’s either “liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest” or “not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members.”

Is this Mitt Romney’s view as well?

Some believe Romney chose Ryan solely in order to drum up enthusiasm on the right. Since most Americans have already made up their minds about whom they’ll vote for, and the polls show Americans highly polarized – with an almost equal number supporting Romney as Obama — the winner will be determined by how many on either side take the trouble to vote. So in picking Ryan, Romney is motivating his rightwing base to get to the polls, and pull everyone else they can along with them.

But there’s reason to believe Romney also agrees with Ryan’s social Darwinism. Romney accuses President Obama of creating an “entitlement society” and thinks government shouldn’t help distressed homeowners but instead let the market “hit the bottom.” And although Romney has carefully avoided specifics in his own economic plan, he has said he’s “very supportive” of Ryan’s budget plan. “It’s a bold and exciting effort, an excellent piece of work, very much needed … very consistent with what I put out earlier.”

Romney hasn’t put out much but the budget he’s proposed would, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, throw ten million low-income people off the benefits rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or both.

At the same time, Romney wants to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, reduce corporate income taxes, and eliminate the estate tax. These tax reductions would increase the incomes of people earning more than $1 million a year by an average of $295,874 annually, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

Oh, did I say that Romney and Ryan also want to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law, thereby leaving fifty million Americans without health insurance?

Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was “merely a survival of the fittest… the working out of a law of nature and of God.”

The social Darwinism of that era also undermined all efforts to build a more broadly based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn’t do much of anything.

Not until the twentieth century did America reject social Darwinism. We created a large middle class that became the engine of our economy and our democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward, often through no fault of their own.

We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods – public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health – that made us all better off.

In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on our own in a competitive contest for survival.

But choosing Ryan, Romney has raised for the nation the starkest of choices: Do we want to return to that earlier time, or are we willing and able to move forward — toward a democracy and an economy that works for us all?

Robert Reich

August 11, 2012