[Editor's Note: The following post is by Jim Karger, TDV Legal Correspondent]
Writing is often cathartic for the writer. Indeed, it is often what causes the pen to move, although few writers will admit creating material for publication as an outlet for the pain they suffer. I confess at the outset that what follows is more for me than for you. I need to write this to deal with the angst associated with debating, or trying to debate, those who, for no good or apparent reason, are ready to sacrifice their credibility on the altars of the campaign rhetoric of mainstream candidates. What they are apparently not willing to sacrifice is the time it takes to read anything substantive on the history and stated policies of the Bobbsey twins, Obama and Romney.
My latest frustration began with a post on Facebook and the soliloquy that followed (name changed to protect a friendship):
Jim: Voting is the illusion of influence in exchange for the loss of freedom.
John: So, what would be the alternative to voting for what a person feels will improve the situation in their arena?
Jim: Traditional thought that assumes a large parliamentary democracy is the only alternative, one that has failed, would necessitate a revolution of some kind with a view to beginning again, which ultimately would fail again due to the dynamic of the tyranny of the majority. To wit, no document or contract can (over the longer term) stop the majority from becoming the dictator in a large democracy. But there are alternatives. "Democracy is by definition a collectivist system. It’s socialism through the backdoor. The basic idea behind it is that it is desirable and right that all important decisions about the physical, social and economic organization of society are taken by the collective, the people. And the people authorize their representatives in parliament – in other words, the State – to take these decisions for them. In other words, in a democracy the whole fabric of society is geared towards the State. Clearly then it is misleading to claim that democracy is, somehow, the inevitable climax of the political evolution of mankind. That’s just propaganda to disguise that democracy represents a very specific political orientation, for which there are indeed plenty of reasonable alternatives." Take a look at Beyond Democracy by Karel Beckman and Frank Karsten. It is available as a book or an e-book at amazon.com.
John: That being said, there is no "reasonable" alternative (with any hope of success) to voting for a candidate that a person feels will improve the current situation.
Jim: If there were such a candidate, perhaps, assuming the nation was not too far gone, which it is. That aside, the core beliefs and policies of both mainstream candidates are remarkably similar. A good read on this can be found here.
John: Sorry Jim, but there is NO comparison between Obama and "anyone else"!
Jim: With due respect, that offers nothing except an opinion backed by no facts, evidencing you have fallen for the false distinctions based on the sound bytes of Fox. Feel free to come back when you have something of substance to offer, something that illustrates significant policy differences between the two major party candidates and then we can discuss.
John: With due respect… "there is NO comparison between Obama and "anyone else"!
Jim: This is the problem with the so-called "debate." Most are too lazy or too disinterested to spend any time in basic research and this reflects the quality of their responses.
John: Three-and-a-half years of Obama is about all of the "basic research" I need. Suggest you might want to take in the movie 2016… which I believe is VERY CLOSE to identifying Obama's "Core Beliefs".
Jim: I rest my case. America is going to, once again, get what it so richly deserves.
And we will know what America gets when we wake up November 7, 2012. There will be celebration and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
And it will all be for nothing.
Because nothing material will change, regardless who is elected. On the economy, foreign policy and civil liberties, you could put the differences between Obama and Romney in a thimble and have plenty of room to spare. Their positions on the most critical issues in America are not materially different but equally devastating.
The U.S. is flat broke, to put it generously. Even using the government's own numbers, it is apparent that without massive cuts to Defense, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, economic survival is impossible. Even if we eliminated government, all of it, tax revenues do not even cover the cost of entitlement programs, defense and interest on the federal debt. If you don't believe it (and even if you do) watch this:
Neither Obama nor Romney acknowledge this stark reality. Obama’s budget is, in a word, disastrous. Even increasing tax revenues by a third over the next four years and donning rose-colored glasses of government, his budget will result in an annual deficit of $650 billion in 2016. Applying the 100% "miss" on his estimated 2012 budget, Obama's plan will continue to add more than a trillion dollars to the deficit each year, which is totally unsustainable and will lead to a crash of the bond market. This in turn will lead to the monetization of more debt by the Fed, leading to the absolute and total destruction of the dollar, leading to The End.
Romney's budget is no better. He makes assumptions that would make an acid-freak blush. His growth assumptions are laughable. His other "$500 billion in cuts" are pure smoke and mirrors. His budget, in fact, cuts nothing, but only slows the rate of the government juggernaut in its race to economic destruction.
More bizarre and dangerous is Romney's insistence that the US (a country that already spends more on Defense than the next 17 largest spending countries combined) increase the Defense budget (read: war budget). Net-net, Romney would not substantially cut federal spending, would spend any cuts on Defense and spending would remain at the 24 percent of GDP level into, well, forever, or until it all comes tumbling down. Combined with across the board tax cuts, Romney's plan would put America in the poor house quickly, if it wasn't already there.
Bottom line: Obama and Romney preach balancing the budget but neither has a plan to actually do it. And, to be fair, neither has the ability to do it. Government depends on working Americans paying taxes to fund its programs, and regardless who becomes President, the US will continue to bleed good jobs while adding more baristas and maids to serve the ever-wealthier class. There is nothing government can do about it. This is the result of a global economy in which the US can no longer compete against its (much) lower wage competitors.
In the US today there are few good jobs to be had and there will be even less in the future. Indeed, "only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position. Most job openings will be in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers" and difficult or impossible to ship abroad.
This combined with the absence of higher paying manufacturing jobs which have already been moved offshore or are now being performed by robots, cannot be resolved politically. The market, not the government, will have the final say on jobs. Government cannot squeeze blood from a turnip, and neither Obama nor Romney can squeeze taxes from the unemployed.
As for the US’s unsustainable Healthcare system, ObamaCare is the child of Romneycare, a child that Romney now wants to abort, at least the individual mandate provision, a distinction disingenuous at best. Without an individual mandate, the young and healthy will not insure, causing premiums to skyrocket for the rest. Neither version of national healthcare will work.
Obama has been a profound disappointment to those who believe the Bill of Rights should be used for something more than toilet paper. In three years, he has signed an extension of the Patriot Act that gives government power to engage in warrantless surveillance, and ordered drone strikes against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, just to name a few. His foreign policy accomplishments include the violation of Pakistani sovereignty and the murder of Osama bin Laden without so much as a thought to capture and trial, and the cold blooded murder of at least at least 168 children, at least one of whom was a natural born US citizen. He keeps a "kill on sight" list and has a meeting every Tuesday with advisors to determine who is next to be assassinated without charges or trial. Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, a law that vaporizes the protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.
It is ironic that, except for their racial bigotry, ethnocentrism, fear of vaginas, wild fantasies of American Exceptionalism, and their steadfast collective belief in Fox News, the neocons would bronze Obama's man-part and erect it (no pun intended) in front of the Pentagon.
Like Obama, Romney believes Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution states that only Congress has the power to “declare war." But both interpret that mandate as a recommendation, meaning the President can dispense with a declaration of war at will. Romney has expressed an intention of doing just that in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The problem is the truth: the White House, the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all have reached the same conclusions about Iran's nuclear program: "1) Iran does not have a nuclear weapon-it only has a civilian nuclear program at this point, 2) Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, and 3) Iran has not made the decision of whether or not to build a nuclear weapon in the future." But, like his warmonger buddy Netanyahu, Romney has made it clear that he intends to bomb Iran, regardless of the facts which also include these facts: Russia and China have made it clear that in so doing he may start World War III.
Thomas Eddlem concluded cogently and correctly regarding the candidates' stated foreign policies: "No substantial difference. Romney’s bellicosity against Iran is marginally worse than that of Obama, who nevertheless ranks as the worst president in American history on foreign policy."
From "if you see something, say something," to DHS electronic strip searches, to federal agencies purchasing enough ammunition to kill every US citizen three times, Obama has operated government more like the Stasi than a free democratic republic. It appears the old liberals inside the Democratic Party in favor of peace and free speech have been fully silenced.
Romney, a retrofitted neocon chicken hawk, like Obama, supports the devolution of the country into a full-bore Police State. Both have supported extension of the Patriot Act, including its warrantless surveillance provisions, and the NDAA:
Romney believes he, as President, has the right to order the death of any U.S. citizen "suspected" of terrorism, as does Obama since he has already done it. They both believe in extraordinary rendition and Romney not only doesn't want to close Guantanamo Bay as Obama promised he would do (and then reneged), but says he wants to double its size.
Obama is pro-choice, just as Romney was when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. Now, as he has on so many other issues including gun control and immigration, Romney has done a 180 and now claims to be 100 percent pro-life:
Neither seems to have any problem with spying on Americans. Wikileaks revealed that former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system called Trapwire that is more accurate than modern facial recognition technology—and have installed it across the US. Obama obviously knows about it and approves, and Romney has signaled his assent by remaining silent.
Both believe they can ignore legislation and the will of Congress with "signing statements," and that the Executive Branch itself can legislate around Congress with Executive Orders.
Both are unmitigated disasters to civil liberties.
So, Who Wins? Or the Better Question, Who Loses?
Both Obama and Romney are men of privilege, Romney born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and Obama gifted power. Romney is the poster child of the power elite and Obama is clearly acceptable after four years of doing their bidding.
Obama has clearly enjoyed his four years of high rolling, playing at least 100 rounds of golf in 3 1/2 years of being POTUS, while his wife has imitated the rich and famous, sporting a personal staff of 22 and taking extravagant vacations on the taxpayers' dime with not a hint of embarrassment.
Romney is equally unsympathetic. Michael Cohen, a good friend and political observer, summarizes Romney as follows: "Romney’s father was a CEO, a governor, and a candidate for President. He was born to great wealth and status and privilege. He attended the poshest private schools, where he was a bully. At Stanford, he demonstrated publicly in favor of the Vietnam War while he sat it out as a missionary in the steamy jungles of Paris, France. He got filthy rich by starting a fund that bought companies and, for the most part, ran them into the dirt, and the seed money for this noble venture came from immensely wealthy Central and South American families who supported right-wing death squads but also needed to park some substantial money in the US.
"The only rules that Romney thinks apply to him are the rules of rich-people etiquette—how to use snail tongs for escargot, how to talk quietly while your partner is teeing off or putting, how to refer to African Americans without calling them ‘niggers’ or ‘darkies,’ which people you can screw (literally and figuratively) and get away with it, and which you can’t. Other rules, especially the rule of law, do not apply to him. The law is for little people. Romney has no need for rules or the law; he is guided by his unerring internal moral compass and incorruptible conscience."
A disturbing choice, indeed, but who will get the nod from the sheeple?
Obama is my odd's on favorite to win in November, if only because half of the US receives a check from the government and intends to continue collecting.
The Republicans are seen as the party of the rich, mostly because they are. Romney is an empty suit, unlikable, and reminds me of the mildly-retarded George W., but without the childlike qualities. He is of the elite. He is not Main Street. He is Wall Street, brought to the general public by the same elites that have and continue to rape and pillage what is left of the markets and violate the law with impunity. He was an absurd choice by a party that has been absconded with by the neocons.
Romney's tax return issue won't go away and there is speculation that the reason he won't release more tax returns is because he hid millions in Switzerland believing he wouldn't get caught. When the Swiss rolled over, he figured he better take advantage of the amnesty because his name would certainly have stood out on a list of US tax cheats turned over by the Swiss government. No one knows, but if that turns out to be the case and is revealed, he is history. Even the rumor is taking a toll.
Finally, Romney's blatant attempt to silence Ron Paul at the Republican convention by refusing to seat his delegates ensures he will lose the vast majority of Libertarians, estimated to constitute at least 12% of the Republican Party. They will either vote for Gary Johnson in protest or not vote at all. Romney's pathetic attempt to appear open by offering Paul a place on the podium was rejected after Romney insisted that he have an advance review Paul's remarks. Dr. Paul would rather be silenced than censored.
This is politics and shit does happen, and it may happen to Obama if the bottom falls out of the stock market and Joe Lunchbucket sees what's left of his investments. After having suffered through the dot-com and real estate bubbles, he might just vote for anyone but Obama. Likewise, if Israel decides to bomb Iran before the election, Obama will be in a tough spot. If he sits it out, he will lose a lot of the rich Northeastern support and look like a sissy to the chicken hawks in the Democratic party, and if he involves the US militarily, he will lose many of those Democrats and Independents who are, understandably, war-weary.
But it really doesn't matter.
The banking cabal and the military-industrial complex doesn't care who wins because they win either way. As Tony Cartalucci observed, "It is absolute folly to believe that multi-billion dollar corporate-financier interests would subject their collective fate to the whims of the ignorant, uninformed, and essentially powerless voting masses every four years. Instead, what plays out every four years is theater designed to give the general public the illusion that they have some means of addressing their grievances without actually ever changing the prevailing balance of power in any meaningful way."
A little research would have made that clear to those interested in more than repeating TV sound bites. Behind both candidates you find Wall Street, media, the Fortune 500, and of course the lawyers who, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, intend to be around long enough to haggle over the ruins.
Yet, partisans on the "winning" side of this faux campaign will celebrate their "freedom," if for no other reason that they got to choose their dictator.
Americans, except the elite, will be the losers. Again. They will remain debt slaves, tax donkeys and work mules for the owners. They will watch their dollars become more worthless than they already are, become poorer and more dependent, and sooth their pain with the bread and circuses provided by those in control — alcohol and sport. They will cheer on their gladiators, their teenage sons dying in foreign lands, and not even notice they are being strip-searched daily and their phone calls, email and Facebook feeds monitored.
While the spokesman for the owners will change, the owners will not, mostly because most voters on both sides are too lazy, ignorant or disinterested to go further than campaign rhetoric.
Jim Karger is a lawyer who has represented American businesses against incursions by government and labor unions for 30 years. He has been the subject of many feature articles, including, "Outlandish Labor Lawyer Gets No Objections From Staid Clients," published in The Wall Street Journal, and most recently was featured in an article entitled, "You Can Get There From Here," published by the American Bar Association. In 2001, he left Dallas, and moved to San Miguel de Allende in the high desert of central Mexico where he sought and found a freer and simpler life for he and his wife, Kelly, and their 10 dogs. Today, Jim takes a handful of assignments each year, and speaks regularly to industry associations and employers on issues involving government regulation, over-criminalization, and privacy. His website is www.crediblyconnect.com.