Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Romney's radical economic plan for U.S.

By Howell Raines, Special to CNN
October 18, 2012 -- Updated 2229 GMT (0629 HKT)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, order food at a Wendy's restuarant in Richmond Heights, Ohio, on Tuesday. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, order food at a Wendy's restuarant in Richmond Heights, Ohio, on Tuesday.
HIDE CAPTION
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
From the campaign trail
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Howell Raines: Romney's vision organizes society around needs of corporations, wealthy
  • He says Romney-Ryan say U.S. can't keep social contract and expand gains of middle class
  • He says they stoke fear of fiscal cliff but wall off wealthy from tax hike that'd help forestall it
  • Raines: Romney's oligarch-protection plan fundamentally leaves rest of America in lurch

Editor's note: Howell Raines is an author and former executive editor of The New York Times. He is working on a novel set during the Civil War.

(CNN) -- With the last presidential debate a few days away, perhaps it's time to pay more attention to Mitt Romney's economic radicalism. He's not hiding his vision of a society organized around the needs of corporate America and Wall Street. We're just not listening closely enough to what he's saying about an America that has a financial oligarchy and a mercy-free social contract.

This scion of the old industrial elite would have us believe that history's most enlightened empire cannot afford to educate its children, treat its sick, protect its elderly -- all while allowing the middle class an expanded share of national wealth.

And he's right if, like him, the rest of us base our expectations on the mysterious "numbers" that Paul Ryan apparently found buried under Ayn Rand's tombstone and refuses to reveal, even to a friendly inquisitor like Fox's Chris Wallace.

Opinion: Romney's economic plan has the edge

Howell Raines
Howell Raines

By inventing the myth of the "fiscal cliff," Romney and his fledgling economic czar are betting they can put middle America in a sleeper hold that will last through November 6 -- and they're pretty close to succeeding.

And, yes, "myth" is the right term, because the "cliff" is being depicted as a permanent hazard of the economy, one that will inevitably wreck the government. In fact, like any budgetary problem, it can be fixed, adjusted, or forestalled by a mix of spending decreases and revenue increases. In Romneynomics, of course, that latter step is forbidden because it would involve marginal expense for Those Who May Not Be Taxed Another Penny.

Opinion: Obama bounces back, dominates debate

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



President Obama has resumed, none too soon, his campaign's national teach-in about Romney's vision for institutionalizing the advantages of the haves at the permanent expense of the have-nots. In an admittedly spotty sampling of the post-debate commentary, I saw only my friend and former colleague Tom Friedman make one essential point. The government does have a spending problem that will require a reining-in of debt from the welfare state. But the government also has a massive revenue problem that can only cured by higher taxes on selected sectors of the economy.

Romney is masking his who-has-to-pay regimen with bland boosterism. So let's look at who doesn't have to pay more, according to his debate presentation: all corporations, recipients of capital-gains income, beneficiaries of offshore tax shelters, holders of inherited wealth, the top 5% in income, people like himself who can game the top tax rates down to, say, 14%.

If I hear him correctly, he says it would be immoral to alter that scheme, and higher taxes on the exempted classes wouldn't really change our revenue picture. If that were true, any mention of an equitable taxation policy wouldn't put that hint of hysteria into Paul Ryan's voice.

Opinion: Romney's empty 'binders full of women'

This is radical stuff. Romney can't quite think of which loopholes the deserving rich would have to give up. But he has a formula for limiting working-class couples to a $25,000 "basket" of deductions. One thing they might have to toss out of their basket is the home-mortgage deduction. Apparently we can't alter top tax rates, but it's moral now to deprive the housing industry, already flattened by financial-market whizzes of Romney's ilk, of a major sales tool. It's "moral" now to take away one of the middle class's main methods for creating a retirement nest egg through home ownership.

Obama jabs at Romney's comments on women
Booker on Romney's lack of specifics
Candidates spar over working women

No wonder Romney won't show his tax returns. They would provide an arresting picture of how his economic cohort preserves wealth from the expenses that afflict the rest of us.

What Romney is describing is a world of frozen riches in which the social and financial mobility that have been central to American life become practical impossibilities. That's a high price for a striving society to pay, but at least it can be measured in dollars and cents over time. Not so, the radical alterations that Romney's oligarch-protection program must inevitably bring to the American social contract.

Let's get right to it. In a world where increased taxes from the rich are unthinkable and social expenditures for a growing population are capped below current levels, a caring society cannot exist. Thus, basing public policy on the myth of the fiscal cliff becomes a tool for ending those pesky debates about the obligations of a civilized people toward the least, the lowest and the lost.

In Randian terms, it's a beautifully symmetrical resolution about expenses run up by, let us say, 47% of the people. But one can still pose the questions of what's best for a two-income household making the median income of about $74,000, or a single-earner household making the median of around $50,000.

Opinion: Obama didn't get decisive win

For example, how far does Ryan's unspecified health care voucher go in covering the expenses of one of these households suddenly faced with an Alzheimer's diagnosis for a 65-year-old parent who will requires full custodial care, or a 4-year-old with a brain tumor? Or in less traumatic circumstances, where does such a family turn for tuition to send a child to the best college for his or her gifts? Sure, these are typical bleeding-heart questions, but they are also real-life situations that an economic radical doesn't have to confront with family-friendly solutions.

Personally I find it hard to believe that at the peak of one of our nation's periodic revivals, Americans want to eliminate mercy and generosity as typical American political values.

You have to hand it to Mitt. He's confronted us with a straight up-or-down vote on the quality of caring. To be sure, Romney and Ryan will be invoking Ronald Reagan during the coming days, but what they are saying is an insult to the Gipper, who compromised on Social Security, raised taxes to meet rational revenue needs, and understood FDR's war on economic "royalists." What's on offer this year is Reaganism run amok.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howell Raines.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 13, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
To prevent war with North Korea over a comedy, what would Dennis Rodman say to Kim Jong Un? Movie critic Gene Seymour weighs in.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Michael Werz says in light of the spying cases, U.S. is seen as a paranoid society that can't tell friends from foes.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Eric Liu explains why in his new book, he calls himself "Chinese American" -- without a hyphen.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)
John Bare says hands-on learning can make a difference in motivating students to acquire STEM skills.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Karl Alexander and Linda Olson find blacks and whites live in urban poverty with similar backgrounds, but white privilege wins out as they grow older.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says a poll of 14 Muslim-majority nations show people are increasingly opposed to extremism.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spending more on immigation enforcement isn't going to stop the flow of people seeking refuge in the U.S.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Faisal Gill had top security clearance and worked for the Department of Homeland Security. That's why it was a complete shock to learn the NSA had him under surveillance.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Kevin Sabet says the scientific verdict is that marijuana can be dangerous, and Colorado should be a warning to states contemplating legalizing pot.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
Tom Foley and Ben Zimmer say Detroit's recent bankruptcy draws attention to a festering problem in America -- cities big and small are failing to keep up with change.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
ADVERTISEMENT