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The Elephant in the Room

The elephant in the Tampa Bay Convention Hall at 10:30 Tuesday night was not Chris Christie.  It was instead a combination of hollow enthusiasm, choreographed fist shaking, Ann Romney’s strains to scratch her left hand rather than applaud, popular myths, polite applause and Mitt’s outright failure to applaud.

 

Most important, it was the unspoken Republican Platform looming over the crowd, one that wants to create jobs by returning to the failed policies of George Bush, deregulation and tax cuts for the top 1 percent.

 

It’s a platform that disingenuously calls for tax relief from taxes that are currently at historic lows compared to GDP and at only a fraction of the levels they were during the Republican Eisenhower or even Reagan years.  It calls for a “flatter” tax code which we know is regressive by its very nature and creates a far greater burden on lower income wage earners. And yet, the Platform opposes “tax policies that divide Americans or promote class warfare.” Ironically Governor Christie called for “shared sacrifice” while ignoring property tax relief in favor of a flat 10 percent income tax cut, disproportionately favoring the wealthy.

 

The Platform denounces “out-of-control spending,” and calls for a balanced budget and sound monetary policy despite that In the 2009 fiscal year — the last of George W. Bush’s presidency — federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion and in fiscal 2010 — the first budget under President Obama — spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.

 

It falsely denounces the Federal Reserve for stoking inflation and then segues into “sound monetary policy”. This unfounded fear of inflation wrongly puts a damper on the demand we need to boost the economy.

 

It mistakenly condemns the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), FannieMae and Freddie Mac when in the same breath calls for greater homeownership which, over the past several decades, has increased in large part thanks to these agencies.

 

The Platform calls for a rebuilding of infrastructure when Governor Christie unilaterally cancelled the Access to the Region’s Core rail tunnel while grossly misstating the costs of the greatest infrastructure project in the nation in 50 years that would have created thousands of jobs.  High speed rail is also badly needed throughout our nation. Yet, Governor Scott of Florida, was the third Republican governor to turn down a portion of the administration’s national rail system, joining John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, both speakers at this year’s convention this same evening. Each of these governors replaced governors who had lobbied for the funds.

 

Kasich’s Ohio, by the way has benefitted tremendously from federal assistance to the auto industry.

 

The Republican Platform condemns “activist” judges like the ones that put George W. Bush in office.

Many other familiar rightwing mantras are listed in the platform as well, including defense of “traditional” marriage, balanced budget amendment, federalism and the Tenth Amendment, each flawed in its turn.

 

The flawed states’ rights argument, for example is precisely what led us into the Civil War, 150 years ago.  It’s also part of what put Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law onto the Supreme Court docket this past June, resulting in a blocking in the law’s provisions that would interfere with the federal government’s role in setting immigration policy.

 

It calls for “voter integrity” when it’s really voter suppression that is the issue in 2012 America. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often. For example, according to the Brennan Center for Justice,   2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time and the 2004 election in Ohio resulted in a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%.

 

The Platform calls for religious freedom based on the First Amendment while state representatives in states including Oklahoma have signed into law a constitutional amendment that prohibits state courts from recognizing Islamic law.

 

Among the most irresponsible planks concerns the Second Amendment: “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill-considered Clinton gun ban.”   Had the 2004 high capacity ban still been in effect, several recent deaths and injuries could have been prevented, including the January 2011 shooting that seriously injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, forcing a leave from Congress.

 

Another provision concerns the sanctity and dignity of human life while ignoring the welfare of women and supporting mandatory waiting periods for abortion, ultrasound procedures and parental consent, all big-government intrusion, so vehemently opposed by conservatives but suddenly OK when it comes to sexual matters.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is zeroed in on for “reigning in” when in in reality well-conceived regulations intended to protect the environment when in reality the EPA creates jobs and saves lives, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

 

At about 12 minutes into his speech Governor Christie proudly announced, “We believe in telling seniors the truth about overburdened entitlements.”   He forgot to mention that  misleading senior citizens about the solvency of Medicare and Social Security is what helped Republicans to win the 2010 midterms.

 

Two of the most egregious claims concern the GOP “goal” to save Medicare and Social Security.  Congressman Ryan’s plan for Medicare is to gut it and replace this social insurance program with capped vouchers, gradually putting more of the burden on the beneficiaries.  In 2011, three senators including Lindsey Graham (R-SC.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) presented a plan to cut$6.2 trillion from Social Security by raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 years by 2032 and reducing benefits for those who earn more than an average of $43,000 over their lifetime.

 

The Platform calls for the repeal of Obamacare, claiming that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “was never about healthcare.”   The reality is that the ACA will the deficit by $130 billion over the first 10 years and by as much as $650 billion in the next decade, cut fraud and abuse, prohibit preexisting condition, provide new benefits to women’s health. Since the June Supreme Court case, The Congressional Budget Office has updated its estimates and has affirmed that the law will dramatically reduce the number of Americans without health insurance and will reduce the deficit.

 

I’d like to return to the “moderate” Governor Christie decoy for the extremist platform.   He spoke with strained passion about “respect over love” all of us in some way being related to immigrants, how “we believe in teachers” and the need for bipartisan compromise.  These “principles” as he referred to them have all taken a beating from Republican over the past 4 years.

 

Mr. Christie certainly does not show much respect in his shirt-sleeved town hall meetings.  Immigrants have suffered at the likes of Arizona’s SB 1070 and teacher tenure has been miscast as a guaranteed life time job by Republicans which is simply not true.

 

He opened his remarks by recalling that his mother always advised him to tell the truth.  Last night showed that he still needs some practice.

 

Interestingly he also began the speech mentioning that his father “put himself through Rutgers” thanks to the G.I. Bill, a little help from the federal government that belies the Convention’s mantra that “We Built It” without the federal government providing that dangerous entitlement hammock.

 

All in all my typical disdain for my fellow New Jerseyan was tempered last night.   Somehow his usual bravado seemed to be a little lacking despite what appeared to be a valiant effort to thrill the Tampa crowd.  The applauses were tempered.  Perhaps most telling were the responses of Ann and Mitt throughout Christie’s remarks.  Both looked bored beyond belief and apparently forgot how to clap.

 

No, the elephant in the room Tuesday evening in Tampa was not Chris Christie.  The real elephant in the room was and is the dangerous and flawed platform that the GOP has begun to implement and will continue to if given the chance.

 

 

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Thomas P. Davis

Thomas P. Davis

I'm a freelance writer based in New Jersey. I've been writing about public issues for 10 years.

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