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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age | Robert B. Reich, The Nation

Some excerpts from Reich's article in the July 16-23, 2012, edition of The Nation
We’ve entered a new Gilded Age, of which Mitt Romney is the perfect reflection. The original Gilded Age was a time of buoyant rich men with flashy white teeth, raging wealth and a measured disdain for anyone lacking those attributes, which was just about everyone else. Romney looks and acts the part perfectly, offhandedly challenging a GOP primary opponent to a $10,000 bet and referring to his wife’s several Cadillacs. ...
We’ve had wealthy presidents before, but they have been traitors to their class—Teddy Roosevelt storming against the 'malefactors of great wealth' and busting up the trusts, Franklin Roosevelt railing against the 'economic royalists' and raising their taxes, John F. Kennedy appealing to the conscience of the nation to conquer poverty. Romney is the opposite: he wants to do everything he can to make the superwealthy even wealthier and the poor even poorer, and he justifies it all with a thinly veiled social Darwinism.
Not incidentally, social Darwinism was also the reigning philosophy of the original Gilded Age, propounded in America more than a century ago by William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale, who twisted Charles Darwin’s insights into a theory to justify the brazen inequality of that era: survival of the fittest. Romney uses the same logic when he accuses President Obama of creating an “entitlement society” simply because millions of desperate Americans have been forced to accept food stamps and unemployment insurance, or when he opines that government should not help distressed homeowners but instead let the market “hit the bottom,” or enthuses over a House Republican budget that would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. It’s survival of the fittest all over again. ...
The reforms of the Progressive Era at the turn of the twentieth century saved American democracy from the robber barons, but the political power of great wealth has now resurfaced with a vengeance. And here again, Romney is the poster boy. ...
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Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. His latest book, Beyond Outrage, will be out in paperback in September.

This article is featured in today's (July 1) Footprints: Progressive Steps -- available at the Progressive Politics tab above and by free email subscription.

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