Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is Willard Mitt Romney a neo-Marxist?

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Adams Memorial, Washington, 1891. Photo by Joan Hart, 2011.
David Brooks has passed over as predicted to stage 4 of his grief over the presidential campaign, despair:
he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits....
Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America....
Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture....
he has lost any sense of the social compact....
The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers....
Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation....
I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?
Charles Pierce paints a heartbreaking picture of his misery. It's all because of that Mother Jones video, from the $50,000 a plate dinner in Boca Raton last May, where Romney explained some of his campaign strategy:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
 A lot of commentary has been devoted to the contempt this shows for the more or less poor and struggling, not least by Pierce, but I wanted to note something different, about Rommey's assumption that he has more or less all of the votes of people who pay income tax and more or less none from those who don't. How's that?

You and I know, so well we don't bother to look up the numbers—David Brooks knows, for Pete's sake—that many Republican voters do not pay income tax: retirees and military personnel, and the church-addled poor whose only political thought is about the murder of all them babies, and all those people who tell you, "I'm not a racist, but..." And then of course there are those like Romney himself, who can afford to hire superhero accountants (as Harry Reid continues to say, we still don't know if he pays income tax or not). By the same token, many Democratic voters do pay income tax, and not just your Hollywood stars and Harvard professors, but all sorts of teachers and firefighters, teamsters and librarians, and people of innumerable professions, many of them dark-skinned, many of them women, and so on.

Romney himself must know, in some corner of his brain, but it's not what occurs to him when he's chatting with his $50,000 dinner dates; here, he's assuming that everybody votes according to pure economic interest: for taxes if you benefit from them and against taxes if you pay them (as if government spending didn't ever benefit any rich people, but that's another story). Which is, of course, classical German-Ideology Marx-and-Engelsism: the base determines the superstructure, and your role in the system of production relations determines your political beliefs:
the Tories, — in the end, are Bourgeois as much as the remainder, for where is the Bourgeois who is not a protectionist of his own purse? They are distinguished from the other Bourgeois, in the same way as the rent of land is distinguished from commercial and industrial profit. Rent of land is conservative, profit is progressive; rent of land is national, profit is cosmopolitical; rent of land believes in the State Church, profit is a dissenter by birth. (Karl Marx in the New York Daily Tribune, August 21 1852)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Puritan. From Wikipedia.
It's also likely that Romney is really not very bright in a certain sense, and has difficulty visualizing what the numbers mean, as when he told us that the "Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less." (Who sees a numerical range shaped like that, like a fishhook? Where was that "less" going to end up?*) In the same way, if you told him how many Democrats there are in the country earning more than, say, $80,000 a year, he might be unable to see the number as significant. Perhaps his business success, indeed, was due in part to his inability to understand just how big a risk he was taking in any given deal.

Anyway, I'd like to start entertaining the thought that all these money-minded Republicans, as opposed to the baby-murder ones, are really Marxists in a fairly serious way, with the difference that they think the bourgeoisie can win the class war.

*Actually, I think I know that one already: He was realizing as he spoke that 200K to 250K as "middle income" was too laughable to live with, so he tacked on "and less" to make it acceptable.

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