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As his fellow harpies dial up the intensity and frequency of their attacks, there is a lot to be disregarded. Frankly, there is also a lot to be disregarded as Romney himself espouses his ever-evolving (wasn't I nice?) themes and philosophy. But here are some thoughts as to how one might navigate the avalanche of platitudes and brickbats of the current political campaign.
First, forget about the fact that he's a wealthy guy. None of the candidates is hurting for cash. And don't hate Mitt for spending a sum on a vacation that exceeds all of your retirement savings, but don't be impressed by it either. This is America, after all.
And, of course, there is no need to take seriously either the flip or the flop on that large number of issues where the Great Equivocator seems to have -- er -- equivocated. Consistency, foolish or otherwise, is not a characteristic that can be ascribed to any presidential candidate. And finally, the fact that Bain Capital sometimes looted companies and killed jobs is not remarkable. Nor is the fact that Bain Capital sometimes created jobs. This is capitalism, and all of the literally thousands of enterprises that call themselves private equity or hedge funds did exactly the same thing -- perhaps on occasion with less voraciousness and enthusiasm -- but also, for the most part, less successfully. What is notable about Mr. Romney's association with Bain is what you can perhaps glean about his worldview. More on that later.
But here's what we do know. Irrespective of his attempts to morph from moderate former governor of Massachusetts into ardent right-wing GOP candidate of 2012, a number of Mr. Romney's positions are pretty anti-consumer.
1. He hates the very idea of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and we can be certain he would do his best to kill or, at the very least, emasculate it. He has, in fact, committed to "repeal[ing] the Dodd-Frank Act" in its entirety, and replacing it with something more "streamlined." He promises that he'll "Initiate review and elimination of all Obama-era regulations that unduly burden the economy." Did you catch that? He's committed to eliminating the regulations before he's actually reviewed them. I would expect more of any thoughtful and deliberative leader.
2. His tax plan would provide very little if any tax relief to the lower and middle classes but would be a boon for high-income earners.
The Associated Press, reporting on an analysis of Romney's plan, wrote "On average, households making less than $20,000 would see their taxes increase by more than 60%, said the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group that studied the Romney plan. Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 would get small tax cuts, averaging 2.2%, or about $250, the study said. People making more than $1 million would get tax cuts averaging 15%, or about $146,000."
3. He advocates trade war with China. The scariest position Romney has taken seems to be among the most genuine -- at least according to his aides who say that the policy came directly from Mitt himself. Even a
Wall Street Journal editorial noted that, "By far the most troubling proposal is Mr. Romney's call for 'confronting China' on trade ... pledging to have his Treasury brand China a 'currency manipulator' if it doesn't 'move quickly to bring its currency to full value.' He'd then hit Beijing with countervailing duties. Starting a trade war is a rare policy mistake that Mr. Obama hasn't made, but Mr. Romney claims it is a way to faster growth ... But giving Americans the impression that a trade war will bring ... jobs back to the U.S. is offering false hope. It also distracts from the other fiscal and regulatory reforms that are needed to attract capital and create jobs."