I'll give it to Mitt Romney. During the debate he looked and sounded pretty “presidential”: good haircut, power tie, in command (total control, really) of the debate. He followed the basic rules that I and other consultants tell our clients when they prepare for a debate: Speak directly to the TV cameras. Stick to your script and use every question to get back to the same points—whether or not those points actually respond to the question, and whether or not they are true.
Romney’s performance had the intended effect. Virtually every poll across the nation had his numbers soaring in the past week. Many show him leading Obama both in the popular vote and in critical swing states.
Presumably, that means many American are now ”looking at Romney in a new light.” While his running mate Paul Ryan didn't do as well, for those who were swayed by Romney's performance, it might be prudent to think past his style or what positions he chose to take that night. Based on Romney’s record—as well as the agendas of his party, his running mate and the Super PACs to which he would owe his victory—let’s take a moment to envision what life would be like under a Romney presidency.
In Romney's America, with Obamacare repealed on “the first day,” women, who for the first time are now guaranteed life-saving exams and contraception at no cost, would be back on their own. They’d once again be faced with the choice of whether or not they could afford the Pap smears, mammograms and contraception that not only improve their lives, but in some cases, save them.
And women who need to end a pregnancy could very well be out of luck. Romney has said that he would pick Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And in the worse-case scenario, the bills supported by his running mate Ryan and other Republicans would deny abortions even in cases of incest or rape.
In Romney’s America, those with pre-existing conditions (including having had a C-section or, according to some insurers, just being female) are also out of luck. Outside of Massachusetts, they’re on their own, at the mercy of individual states and insurers who could legally deny them coverage or offer it only at exorbitant rates, just as they can now. And if you are someone who has little sympathy for the uninsured, remember that it is the rest of us who pay the bills, through higher local property taxes, higher hospital costs and insurance rates.
Seniors too would suffer—Romney’s repeal would mean higher Medicaid premiums as well as higher wellness visit and prescription costs. And his pledge to restore $716 billion dollars to providers be at the expense of healthcare services for the aged and poor.
In Romney's America, it would be harder than ever to find a job. Destined for the dustbin would be the estimated 1.9 million new private-sector jobs that Obama’s pending American Jobs Act would create. Not to mention that, if Romney running mate Paul Ryan’s proposed “Path to Prosperity” budget were to pass, rather than prosperity, the U.S. will likely see another 4.1 million jobs lost by 2014, according to the Center for Tax Policy. Despite his recent disclaimers, Romney’s previous endorsements of his running mate’s budget, coupled with the fact that he will owe his victory to the extreme Right, means that he’s likely to see it passes.
And that’s just in the private sector. Romney’s pledge to cut government programs will also mean more cutbacks for teachers, fire fighters, police officers, construction workers, healthcare professionals and others.
In Romney's America, it would be harder to attain the skills needed for a job that supports a family. The Ryan budget would slash spending on college tuition grants by 42 percent and kick 1 million students out of the program. Ryan's debt-ceiling bill would preserve $261 billion for the military (a budget larger than those of the next top 10 military powers combined) at the expense of those most in need: 1.8 million Americans would lose food stamps; 280,000 children their school lunches, and 300,000 children their essential health care benefits.
At risk, also, would be the air we breathe and the water we drink. With Romney and Ryan at the helm, under the guise of freeing companies from the “tyranny” of regulation, the executive branch would put its clout behind pending Republican bills that remove limits on mercury in the soil and water, and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s staff and authority. Such bills offer a windfall to companies but place a great toll on Americans, who would have to pay the costs of toxins in their bodies.
In Romney's America, the very rich would be protected while the rest of us fend for ourselves. Just as Romney's Bain Capital relied on government welfare—a $10,000,000 bail-out in 1993 and various tax loopholes—Romney's tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit corporations and their millionaire and billionaire owners. Romney and Ryan would extend the Bush-era tax cuts and dole out another $2.5 trillion to the wealthiest Americans by reducing the tax rate on top earners from 35 to 25 percent, lowering the corporate rate to 25 percent, and ending the alternative minimum tax. In fact, the Ryan budget slashes $5.3 trillion in programs and services for poor and working people, including both the Child and Earned Income tax credits.
These cuts are under the banner of fiscal responsibility, but in the meantime, Romney would continue the kind of profligate military spending that, along with Bush’s two wars, added more than $10 trillion to the national debt. And as if that weren't enough, Romney would eliminate the estate tax—again benefiting the super-rich—and deprive American coffers of another $1 trillion over ten years.
As a result, in Romney's America, our property taxes would be higher and our quality of life lower. Federal funds for education, law enforcement, food safety, and housing production would be slashed, pushing those burdens down to states, cities and towns. Our roads and bridges would go unrepaired and scientific research would wane, diminishing our competiveness in the global economy.
And, of course, in Romney's America there would be no Big Bird. And perhaps that little quip says it all. In Romney’s America, the wealth from our collective efforts wouldn’t go back to the collective good through programs like Sesame Street. Instead, the Koch Brothers, the Sheldon Adelsons, and others would take that wealth and claim it as their own.
Romney was right, however, about one thing. November 6 is a defining moment. However flawed they were, the founders of the nation were bent on creating a society that guaranteed opportunity and mobility. And however flawed President Obama may be, he has fought to ensure the realization of that American dream. In Romney's America, the policies and programs that have allowed for the pursuit of that dream would be reversed.
Romney looks good, talks a good game and is clearly not troubled by sticking to the facts or any particular set of principles. That may be good enough for television, but it’s not good enough for America.