Today is Election Day. In just a few hours we should know who will lead our nation for the next four years. So let me get right to the point: Mitt Romney is unfit to be president.
No qualifiers. Simply unfit.
Why? It’s not just because he has proven to be the biggest flip-flopper and the most dishonest major party presidential candidate in our lifetimes — and perhaps even in our parents’ lifetimes. It is something much more dangerous. Mitt Romney is unfit because he is a devout and bloodless financial technocrat and a dyed-in-the-wool economic elitist. That is to say that he embodies in one tortured soul 1) the social myopia and practiced insensitivity to human suffering that is typical of the dedicated corporate financial technocrat, even when he himself has caused the suffering; and 2) he also embodies the social Darwinist condescension of upper-class economic elitists toward those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. If Romney was simply one or the other (and had not been discredited as a shameless political liar) he might be a viable Oval Office occupant, for we’ve seen varying degrees of these characteristics there before. But Mitt Romney is something different. He embodies both technocratic and economic elitist sensibilities to an Olympian degree. That is a pairing with very dangerous implications for most Americans. Here is why.
Financial technocrats see the world through data. They make their decisions based on the numbers. Social issues are important to them only as they impact the bottom line. In their bloodless analyses there is no room for concern for the effects of their actions on the health and welfare of workers and their communities, for to them workers are merely pawns, faceless ciphers in their game of profit margins and corporate numbers. In fact, the most dedicated financial technocrats are fully blind to the needs and struggles of ordinary people. They don’t see folks who are elderly or sick or disabled or in need of assistance to feed their families. What technocrats see are financial liabilities, “entitlements” that must be paid — and cut out altogether whenever possible.
Mitt Romney is such a financial technocrat. For decades he crunched numbers and analyzed data in pursuit of maximum profitability for himself and his rarified clients and, like the typical technocrat that he is, counted workers as faceless ciphers. According to Romney’s Bain Capital colleagues, he never spoke to non-executive employees in the businesses he bought, sold and sometimes drove into bankruptcy; apparently, he never showed a whit of interest in whether his firm’s actions would benefit workers or devastate them. As Bart Gellman put it in TIME magazine, Romney was “matter of fact about business decisions that closed factories, crushed unions, outsourced services and threw employees of his companies out of work.”
The depth of Mitt’s technocratic mindset is reflected in his callously punitive budget proposal. It ends healthcare for 10 million Americans now covered by Obama’s Affordable Care Act, turns Medicaid into a voucher system that would burden already beleaguered seniors with thousands of dollars in additional out-of-pocket expenses, transforms Medicare into a block grant that would strip healthcare access from up to 28 million currently insured Americans, and removes more than 200,000 children from Head Start and 2 million mothers and children from programs that ensure them access to healthy food. (Conspicuously absent is the gutting of programs and entitlements that benefit America’s richest corporations and individuals.)
Yet Romney the technocrat does not see faces in the suffering his budget proposal would cause. He only sees numbers. That is why he can so easily reduce to an unproductive, faceless mass and a cold, hard number — 47 percent — the many Americans who rely on government aid: sick Americans, U.S. military veterans, elderly Americans, poor American children, proud American parents whose breadwinning has been reduced to unemployment checks. And what do technocrats do with unproductive assets? They discard them. That is what Romney’s policies promise to do: discard the programs and services that struggling Americans need most.
As for Romney’s upper class elitism, it is well attested. New Yorker magazine’s Nicholas Lemann put it this way: “Romney is a product of a series of interconnected, tightly enclosed worlds, with their own rules.” And from a former Romney aide: “[Mitt] is patrician. He just is. He has lived a charmed life … It is a big challenge that he has, connecting to folks who haven’t swum in the same rarified waters that he has.” David Brooks, a moderately conservative columnist at the New York Times, offers a more pointed assessment of Romney’s elitism. Of Mitt’s infamous “47 percent” rant he writes, “[I]t’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other.” He concludes that it “suggests that Romney does not know much about the culture of America.” Romney’s much derided attempt to make a $10,000 bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a televised Republican primary election debate before a nation in which millions are struggling to make ends meet shows how little understanding and regard he has for the plight of ordinary Americans.
Romney’s 47 percent rant and his other derisive comments about the less well-off are reflective of real elitist contempt for ordinary Americans, for if those ugly indictments did not represent his true sentiments he could not have uttered them, even in error. Indeed, Romney holds the masses of the American people in such low regard that he has intentionally, repeatedly and shamelessly mislead and lied to them about any number of issues, refusing even to explain the true workings of his controversial — some have said ‘far-fetched’ — economic plans and their true consequences.
Thus the implications of the unfortunate coupling of elitist and technocratic sensibilities in Mitt Romney are as clear as day: from the first a Romney White House would not only have a built-in bias toward the richest Americans; conversely, as a matter of course it would doubly discount the interests of all those outside that fortunate few. Both tendencies are already evident in virtually every policy Romney has proposed. As for poor people, it’s almost as if Mitt sees them as a different species. Listening to his infamous pronouncement that “I’m not concerned about the poor; we have a safety net for them,” one would have thought he was speaking of nuisance pets, not human beings.
That is why Mitt Romney is unfit to be president: because his elitist policies and derisive statements demonstrate that he does not value the interests of all Americans in equal measure. A Romney presidency could well be the worst thing to happen to American workers in many years.
Obery M. Hendricks, Jr., Ph.D. is the author of ‘The Universe Bends Toward Justice: Radical Reflections on the Bible, the Church and the Body Politic’ (Orbis, 2011).
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