Cal Thomas’s Talk About Substance

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Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist I love for being very wrongheaded, recently published a column called Romney’s Opportunity, which I think shows Mr. Thomas getting desperate.  He thinks that if he asserts Romney has substance, for example, people will believe him, even though almost everything Romney has done shows his LACK of substance. When Romney’s father, who also ran for president, was asked about his taxes, he provided more tax returns than he was asked for. Why hasn’t the son done that? Obviously he doesn’t have the character his father had, but it also seems pretty clear that he has something to hide. Doesn’t sound like substance to me.

Mr. Thomas also asserts that President Obama promised to govern in a bipartisan fashion, and then “governed more like he was in Soviet America with redistribution of income and more centralized power in Washington.” The government has been getting more centralized for ages, and Obama hasn’t stopped that, but what’s this about redsitribution of income? Other than Wall Street (whose bailout began before Mr. Obama became president) and the auto industry, who has been the beneficiary of Mr. Obama’s supposed largesse? Aside from the above exceptions, I don’t know what Mr. Thomas is talking about.

Unless it’s Medicare. Of course “Obamacare” is anathema, even though it was based on a program initiated by a Republican governor (by stupifying coincidence, the candidate Romney Mr. Thomas is eulogizing). The facts seem to be, though, that Medicare works better than private insurance companies do, contrary to Republican ideology, which refuses to even consider that government might possibly do somethings better than the private sector. One thing that got lost in the shrieking accompanying the passing of the reform act was that we’ve had “Death Panels” in this country for a long time. That’s a nice euphemism for the refusal of insurance companies to insure people with “previous conditions”–in other words, those that need health care most. Mr. Romney indirectly admitted this (and probably inadvertently)  when he praised Israel for the efficiency of its medical system. Israel has a single-payer system: in other words, what the Republicans would call socialism. I used to know a German who became a physician and practiced in a great many different parts of the world. He explained to me, some 40 years ago, that western European countries thought it was to their benefit to have healthy citizens, which seemed reasonable to me. Why would Republicans think it acceptable to leave some 50 million citizens without health insurance?

Mr. Thomas also states that the “welfare state” has caused the economy to get bad by reducing motivation to work hard and innovate. It’s become apparent that of the various factors that have disabled the economy, Reaganomics is a leading perpetrator. It wasn’t the welfare state that caused the economy to implode 4 years ago, but rather the reckless financial speculations on Wall Street that went disastrously bad, followed by the bailouts, which went to the very people who had caused the problem, and not to those who were the victims. A famous writer on politics calls this, “Privatizing the profits while socializing the losses.” Even if you never bought one of the houses you were unable to pay for, you got to share in the losses, since your taxes helped keep the companies who made those speculations afloat. You may also have lost your job as a result of that whole sequence, and subsequently been blamed for being lazy or too dependent on government.

Mr. Thomas also refers to the coming election as the “take your medicine” election, meaning that we have to decide to cut Medicare and Social Security, as well as substantially reducing other “wasteful and unnecessary government spending.” How interesting that he should put Medicare and Social Security first. It has been pointed out that if EVERYONE paid social security taxes on ALL  the money they made, the problem of funding the program would quickly go away. And since Medicare has only a 2% overhead instead of 20% or more for private companies, that seems like a no-brainer too. And the more people you cover, the more leverage you have to keep expenses down. That also seems like a no-brainer. If conservatives are serious about cutting the budget, why not suggest cutting a program they DO like? That would do much to make their seriousness believable.

And the elephant in the room of wasteful spending is the military. A recent estimate said that, depending on how calculated, the military spends more than one TRILLION a year, far more than any other country on earth. For what? Ron Paul has pointed out that we have about 1100 military bases around the world. Again, for what? Why is all that spending needed to defend our country? No one else has that many bases, or ever has had. Why are they necessary now? Why do we keep military bases in Europe when the Cold War has been over for 20 years? Mr. Romney’s declared policies would be to cut taxes on the rich, cut Medicare and Social Security (at least), and increase military spending. In what way does any of that make sense?

The supposed rationale for cutting taxes on the wealthy (at the expense, in particular, of the poor and middle class) is because they create jobs. But they don’t seem to have much incentive to create jobs HERE. In fact, a lot of them seem to be getting along quite well without many Americans being able to work, earn money, and therefore spend money on products the wealthy have contributed to creating. During the Great Depression, the wealthy made out better than the poor, of course, but they were hurt by the economy too. This time around, it doesn’t seem to be that way.

I’ve been noticing Mr. Thomas’s columns for some time now. It was probably last year when he told young people to make sure they stayed healthy and to arrange for their healthcare themselves, in the course of talking about how the Great Depression was, in some ways, a good time. He seemed to be expecting that our current economic problems are going to last, and he could well be right. He quoted a number of people who talked about the Depression having been in some ways good, because people helped each other out more than now, and managed to make it. Mr. Thomas had to depend on quotes from others because he himself wasn’t alive during the Depression, having been born in 1942. He seemed, however, to approve of it, and the lifestyle it imposed. If my impression was correct, then it would seem appropriate for him to give away his money and renounce any government program from which he might benefit, in favor of living the lifestyle that he seems to prefer. I wonder if he is, in fact, doing that. Or is he, as a young man I chatted with sometimes a year or so ago said, a conscious hypocrite? It would be interesting to find out.

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