Mitt Romney's "binder full of women" comment has gone viral, which is pretty entertaining but has had the unfortunate side effect of crowding the phrase "wind jobs." That's a real loss, because that term could become a very useful part of our political vocabulary. Tech people talk about "vaporware," and Tuesday night Mitt Romney showed us the "wind job:" a gust of air intended to seem like something substantial, especially regarding employment.
Here's an example: "I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country," said Romney. But his campaign has stated unequivocally that he would end the Wind Production Tax Credit that helped create those Iowa jobs.
In another blast of hot air, Romney said he wants to grow Pell grants for students -- even though his own campaign paper says sneers at those grants and says he'll cut them back. Even worse, Mitt Romney says in that paper that they're part of our country's "expanding entitlement mentality."
This is money for kids who want to go to college - to learn, to begin working on a career, to make a better life for themselves and their communities. Apparently that's too "entitled" for rich, self-satisfied Mitt Romney.
Neither candidate did enough to explain what happened to our economy and how we can fix it. But man, that Romney guy takes the cake. If any jobless Americans reached for the truth while he was talking, they grabbed nothing but air.
Well, as they used to say in the old neighborhood: I got yer "wind job" right here, pal.
A Mighty Wind
Mitt Romney says he'll create jobs by "opening up more trade," the second point in his "five point plan." On Day One as president, he says he'll sign the "Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade Agreements."
Given the millions of jobs we've already lost to outsourcing -- some thanks to Romney and Bain Capital -- one can only guess at the logic: Hair of the dog that bit you? "Homeopathic economics," a Romney invention in which you ingest whatever made you sick to get better?
The Romney "wind jobs" only multiplied when it came to education. Romney claimed he wants to "keep Pell grants growing," but his running mate's (and his party's) budget would cut those grants (which are already inadequate) for as many as a million students. And Romney's own position paper on education complains that "the Pell Grant program ... is on unsure financial footing." That's the paper which blames the Pell grant program's "unsure financial footing" on "the expanding entitlement mentality."
Rich guy to the "47 percent": It's not me. It's you.
The campaign's education paper concludes that Romney would "refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most" -- strongly implying deep cuts to the program -- in order to avoid "future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches."
You know what would avoid those funding problems even more effectively? Funding.
The Wind Cries Romney
Romney includes deficit reduction in his "five point plan," too. Another one of his "Day One" plans is something called, "The Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act," which would immediately reduce all non-discretionary spending by five percent. Know what that means? Layoffs -- lots of them -- for teachers, first responders, postal workers and lots of other people.
Romney says he'll reduce unemployment rates by putting more people out of work. Trying wrapping your head around that economic Zen koan.
Romney said the words "small business" or "small businesses" 14 times during the debate, twice as much as the president did. And yet Romney's fellow Republicans on the Hill rejected tax cuts for small businesses four times this year -- three times in the House and once in the Senate -- and last year his running mate's budget imposed savage cuts to the Small Business Administration.
In fact, House Republicans voted to stop all new hiring at the SBA's Office of International Trade, and to rescind $30 million in state grants to promote exports. They even gutted provisions written by a fellow Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe, that would have helped small businesses export their products.
To paraphrase Harry S. Truman: In a race between a Republican and a Republican, the jobless person loses every time.
Everyone Knows It's Windy
Another one of Romney's "five points to create jobs" is "energy independence," by which Romney means removing all of remaining environmental restrictions on oil and gas companies, and allowing them to mine, drill and dig where they please -- with minimal regulation.
It's true that oil and gas create some jobs -- but unrestrained exploitation of our natural resources creates relatively few of them, and it does so at an enormous cost in the future (and sometimes in the present). And the despoilers never talk about the jobs that have been lost as a result of their actions. Why don't you ask the folks down on the Gulf how many jobs the BP oil spill cost them?
The industries Romney represents also love to say they'll bring gas prices down and make us energy independent -- but please note: At no time did Romney say the fuel produced by these changes would be sold in the United States. But step out of the wind tunnel for a second and you'll hear the dirty truth: Last year the United States exported more oil than it imported.
Many of the the companies that Romney wants to unleash in the name of "energy independence," especially those along the battered Gulf Coast, can make more money selling that oil to other countries.
Against the Wind
An Iowa-area newspaper notes that there are only about 7,000 wind-industry jobs in Iowa, which it describes as a "tiny sliver" of the state's workforce. That's true. But that's more jobs than the Keystone pipeline will create, according to a government study - and the Republicans have been touting Keystone as a "job-creating" plan.
Romney offers all sorts of special tax breaks ($4 billion a year to Big Oil alone) to jobs that are often temporary, and which cause great harm to the environment and to the overall economy. But he sneers atreal wind jobss, which are long-lasting, help restore US manufacturing, promote real energy independence, and help protect the environment.
A Cornell University study has concluded that Keystone will actually cost the nation jobs - in the fifteen states where gas prices could actually rise as a result of the pipeline, and due to crop failures caused by its pollution.
(That's not even counting the costs should there be a major - possibly lethal - disaster. See "Four Ways Keystone XL Could Be a Job Killer" in Cornell University, Pipe Dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of XL Pipeline.)
If you hate being jobless, imagine Romney's alternative: being jobless in a fouled environment, while paying even more at the gas pump.
Anyway the Wind Blows
Romney's the candidate who'll say or do anything to close the deal. He's flip-flopped on everything from reproductive rights to environmental protection. Now, as a paid spokesperson for mega-corporations, he mocks climate change as a myth as he pretends he's standing up for the Mom and Pop companies across the country.
"I want to make small businesses grow and thrive," said Romney. But his economic policies have consistently favored giant corporations -- mega-banks and major job outsourcers -- over smaller enterprises. Why not? They're paying for his campaign.
ExxonMobil. Goldman Sachs. Koch Industries. To us they're corporate predators. But for Mitt Romney, they're the wind beneath his wings. But, even knowing that, it's hard to top this comment for sheer audacity: "I came through small business," said Romney. "I understand how hard it is to start a small business."
Whoosh. That was one heck of a wind. Bain Capital was set up by Bill Bain, Romney's boss. Romney insisted on a written contract from Bain guaranteeing he could have his old job back if he failed -- without even losing his scheduled bonuses. Romney never put up his own money for the business, never went without a fat paycheck, never took a chance -- in other words, he was never an entrepreneur.
Romney likes to say he'd run the country like a business. But every successful business person knows there'll be times when you need to invest in your venture today for success tomorrow. That comes naturally to an entrepreneur -- if she or he believes in their enterprise. But Romney doesn't want to invest in the United States -- not in educating its workforce, or rebuilding its infrastructure, or even in research and development.
Either he's not very good at business or he doesn't believe in this country.
Gone With the Wind
We've concentrated on Romney because of his sheer mendacity, which reached gale-force speeds on Tuesday night. But the president has work to do, too. Even though his performance last night will help him considerably, he needs to make up more ground to protect swing states. And his party remains much more vulnerable than he is. The president can seal the deal now -- but only if he pledges to do more to rein in Wall Street, offers more ambitious jobs plans and offers a more vigorous defense of government.
But then, the system's rigged against that. Twenty years ago, the two major parties forced out the League of Women Voters and replaced it with a shadowy private organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates. (Glenn Greenwald has a good round-up on the CPD.) That's all but guaranteed that third-party candidates will be shut out of future debates -- which has left important economic, civil liberties and foreign policy topics and viewpoints outside the debate hall.
The CPD encapsulates everything that's wrong with insider Washington. It's co-directed by lobbyist/publicist Michael McCurry (who serves the telecommunications companies, among others) and Frank Fahrenkopf (who serves the gaming/gambling industry). One of the companies McCurry's firm serves is Bain Capital. And he's the Democrat on the leadership team.
Maybe that explains why the president said he and Romney agreed about Social Security (and disagreed with the American people about it.) And why he's supporting the same three free-trade agreements Romney promised to sign on Day One. If he doesn't show a little more daylight between himself and Romney, he's putting himself and his party in danger.
As for the debate itself, here's how it works: Both candidates -- and the moderator -- must agree to specific rules before the debate takes place, and this year's "Memorandum of Understanding" is a must-read. It even included this: "Each candidate may move about in a pre-designated area, as proposed by the Commission and approved by each campaign, and may not leave that area while the debate is underway."
Weird, isn't it? A nation which places a premium on "free range chickens" is standing by while its presidential candidates -- and its debate -- are caged. "A pre-designated area, approved by each campaign," which a candidate "may not leave": If that isn't a perfect metaphor for our broken political process, what is?
How Many Roads
They're calling the debate for Obama, and I agree completely. But Romney wins one prize hands-down: the one for audacious dishonesty. And meanwhile, for unemployed, under-employed and under-earning Americans, some real questions remain unanswered.
For the president: Why are you pushing Simpson-Bowles austerity when we're still in a crisis? Why aren't you fighting to prevent cuts in Social Security and Medicare? Why aren't you telling the country in clear and direct terms how we can create jobs and stimulate growth? For Mr. Romney: How can you cut the deficit by reducing tax revenues? How will your voodoo economics work tomorrow, when it didn't work yesterday and isn't working today? (And how do you keep your hair so perfect, what with so many "wind jobs" blowing in your general vicinity?)
For both candidates: How does cutting public-sector jobs create private-sector jobs? Who'll rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges with all this austerity deficit-cutting going on? And with a deficit that was caused by wars and tax cuts -- and a future deficit driven by medical costs -- why aren't we addressing the root causes of the problem: excessive military spending, wealth and tax unfairness, and excessive greed in the health care economy?
But in the end, the takeaway from this debate was: Man, what about that Mitt Romney? There's no there there. Romney's the ultimate phony salesman, the Joe Isuzu of American politics, the PowerPoint candidate with no product to sell. Ever sat in a corporate boardroom with a sales person like that? I have. If you ask them a substantive question you'll see a blank look cross their face for second. Then they'll go right back to reciting the bullet points on the screen.
Speaking of questions, it's a funny thing: We heard a lot of discussion -- and a lot of"wind jobs" -- about employment and economic recovery. But there wasn't much talk about why the economy's in such bad shape. Why didn't anybody mention the bankers whose illegal and unethical behavior triggered the financial crisis? Why wasn't there any discussion about holding them accountable for ruining so many millions of lives?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.