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Benjamin Kunkel on Romney

From "Politicopsycholpathology: Neurotocrats vs. the Grand Old Psychosis," available here at n+1:

In math class they ask you to show your work, so that if you get the wrong answer you can later see where you went astray. In American political life today, you never show your work. So the answer to any question we take to be code for a hidden dream-work, to use Freuds term for the impacted logic of dreams. In this way, for instance, even Mitt Romneys pledge to relieve mass unemployment by cutting taxes for job-creators, in the question-begging term, seems to refer not to any underlying economic theory, which he would never in any case elaborate, but to a concealed preference for the rich to get richer. Such a motive is not even, however, comprehensibly economic, since Romney himself is so rich already; it could only emerge out of some obscure compound of class-loyalty, self-admiration, cultural nostalgia, power hunger, or other elements altogether. Romney would anyway deny the motive we impute to him, and his denial might be sincere. The point is only that if we listen to his wordsor to almost any contemporary political speechwe find ourselves not in the position of a rational interlocutor, but in that of a shrink faced with a patient: here is a someone who either doesnt believe what he says or says it for other reasons than he gives, and yet whose real reasons and motives are inaccessible to us, and may be to him, too.

About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.



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The point is better than the example. We do have to listen to these guys consciously remembering that even when they make sense they are only doing it to get elected. If making nonsense with a commanding mien would help them get elected, they would do that.The example, though, is just Romney's restatement of the Republican Party's strongest religious belief, which is that when people with money get more money, they hire cabana boys and personal trainers and yacht crews or buy baseball teams to create more millionaires. If they are really rich, they buy foreign soccer teams, but that doesn't help the U.S. economy, so Republicans don't mention it. In short, what Kunkel sees as Romney's nonsense is the good, old trickle-down theory. Any number of economists get invited to the best seminars for their contributions to the theory. Romney is not trying to get richer himself: He is trying to help installers of automobile elevators and dressage stablehands.

Personally, I think we can adduce Romney's motive without reference to Freud: he believes that extending tax breaks to small businesses, and reducing the regulatory requirements for small businesses, will induce those businesses to try to grow by hiring more people. Why not try it? Other ideas haven't worked very well for the last 4+ years. I'm too lazy right now to go wade through the transcript of the first presidential debate, but didn't President Obama also pay homage to small business owners as the engine of jobs growth? Whoever wins this election, it seems more likely to me that this policy would have a realistic chance of making it through Congress than any alternative (like more large-scale stimulus spending).The author of this piece needs to come to terms with the fact that, were Romney motivated primarily by personal gain, then it's very unlikely that he would run for president. Making money on Wall Street is probably no more stressful, and Wall Street's earnings ceiling is way higher.

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