Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who are the American people?

The Obama campaign seemed to be bombarding me today with videos showing Mitt Romney on the campaign trail challenging President Obama's statement that we should be trying to preserve, and even increasing, the number of jobs available for teachers, firefighters and police officers. Romney feigned incredulity at whether President Obama got the message from Wisconsin. The message apparently being that the American people do not want more firefighters, teachers and police. Romney actually said that if we cut back on firefighters, teachers and policemen, that is how we will best help the American people. Evidently the American people do not include people who aspire to do any of these jobs, or anybody who admires the noble and dignified work done by these public servants, or anybody who owes any part of their education to a teacher, or who appreciates the lives and property that are saved by fire and police departments.

As today's video shows, even Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did not take that as Wisconsin's message. Even Governor Walker does not include teachers and firemen and policemen in the kinds of government spending he thinks we need to scale back. Even Ronald Reagan did not insult the heroes who work for local government. But Mitt Romney apparently would tell a kid who says he wants to grow up to be a fireman that he should be ashamed to do that kind of government work. He would tell aspiring teachers that that they could help the American people more by, say, taking a job as a waiter. This is an attack on government beyond anything I can remember in politics. It's an attack on the very government services that nearly everyone understands and admires. 



On the way home from work I stopped at the supermarket and overheard the guy working the checkout register mention that Thursday was going to be his last day. I asked him whether he was going on to bigger and better things, and he said unfortunately not. Actually he and quite a few other employees in the store were being laid off. I wondered aloud how they would manage the workload at this busy store after firing a lot of the staff, and the checkout guy said they would probably hire some new employees that they wouldn't have to pay as much. Corporations, he said. He understood how business operated. But he shook his head at the human toll.

Suddenly I understood who the American people were that Mitt Romney must have been talking about. They don't include firefighters and police officers and teachers, obviously. And they probably don't include the decently-paid employees being laid off at the supermarket. Those are the people whose wages and benefits Mitt Romney and his partners would cut when Bain Capital took over a struggling business. Who is left? Corporations, my friend. Mitt Romney has already told us he thinks corporations are the true American people. Those are the people who are going to benefit when we lay off more public--and private--employees. That means that unless you are one of the people who earns their living by cashing dividend checks, you might have reason to be concerned about whether Mitt Romney thinks you are part of the American people that he wants to help.

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