For me this is simple. We have a giant problem in this country. It’s the elephant in the room! We’re a Democracy on the edge. We’re in great danger of transitioning to a plutocracy: a society, economy and polity controlled by the rich.
Corporations and rich Americans buy elections, by flooding the air waves with ads that are largely lies or distortions. They buy elections by flooding the coffers of candidates with contributions on the tacit understanding that these contributions will buy them access or even obesiance to the interests of the contributors. They buy the marketplace of ideas by funding think tanks, periodicals, newspapers and TV and cable stations to ensure that the public is bathed in propaganda. They manipulate the vote by buying State legislators and influencing them to pass voter suppression bills disguised as anti-voter fraud laws. They influence politics by running for the highest offices themselves openly promising to legislate policies that will net them additional millions of dollars. They commit control frauds in the banking system and in running big businesses, costing millions of homeowners their homes and their dreams. They manipulate interest rates all over the world costing borrowers hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions of dollars. They protect themselves from punishment and enforcement of the rule of law by using their political connections to prevent investigations, indictments, and convictions. They influence pubic policy to ensure that Federal policies will maintain high unemployment. They influence it to prevent passage of Medicare for All, against the will of the majority of Americans and condemning many, many thousands to dying quickly after they get ill. And finally, when they make errors in their own business affairs they influence the Federal government to practice lemon socialism by bailing them out, all the while insisting that the Government must avoid the moral hazard of bailing out people who work for a living.
This transition from democracy to plutocracy is the broader context of our times and of the current Presidential campaign. Now comes Mitt Romney, a very rich man, who became so rich by engaging in business activities whose ethics are at best questionable, and, at worst, disloyal to the broader interests of almost all American employees of whatever class, and he effectively says to us:
I largely refuse to disclose my tax returns to you, the American public, because I don’t think it would be good for me to give the Press and yourselves a chance to evaluate them and draw your own conclusions about my business and political activities based on what they reveal.
Nevertheless, I still want you to trust me to be a President who will represent you and will act in your interest rather than in the interests of the very, very rich people like me and the large corporations and financial interests I have been so closely connected with for my whole life. That is, I don’t trust you to evaluate me fairly; but I still ask that you trust me to act in your interest and be your President for at least four years, during this critical time of possible transition from a democracy to a plutocracy.
I can be trusted to see to it that we do not complete this transition, and that when my presidency is finished you will still have your democracy, not only more prosperous than it is today; but also more free and more democratic.
Do you believe that Mitt Romney can be trusted to deliver on such a promise or not? I don’t believe it. There are many reasons why I don’t.
A big reason why is that he won’t trust we, the people, to see and evaluate those tax returns. He is already “dissing” us.
He is already saying through his actions that he doesn’t believe in democracy; that he doesn’t believe in the good sense and fairness of the American people, and that as President he will keep anything from us that he can, as long as he believes that we cannot be trusted to evaluate that information in a way that is good for him.
So, that’s one reason why Mitt’s refusal to release his tax returns is a disqualifier for the presidency. But there is another reason, as well.
Over many years now, transparency in the economic life of the presidential candidates of both major parties is something we’ve required of people running for president. We’ve come to believe that before we vote for a person we have to know what economic interests he is connected to and beholden to, so we can tell which he is likely to favor in his presidency. Previous presidential candidates, most notably George Romney, have recognized the public’s right to know about the economic life of presidential candidates, and he acted to make himself an open book in this respect. Since then, other Presidential candidates have followed his example.
Now, what happens if the American people let Mitt Romney off the hook on his tax returns? What happens if we let him deny our right to know what the economic interests of a major party presidential candidate have been in the past and who his major business interactions have been with?
Then Mitt will have succeeded in establishing a precedent denying this right to know, and every future presidential candidate will follow his lead, knowing that there is no reason to give up his/her own economic privacy for the privilege of serving the American people in the nation’s highest office.
Forever after, we will never be able to force candidates to reveal the details of their economic life to see whether they are in economic collaboration and collusion with criminals, foreign governments, foreign agents, unsavory domestic economic interests, and corporations and people, who have demonstrably acted in such a way as to do harm to the American people. Forever, after we will have to tolerate allowing candidates to invent fictitious details about their economic lives with very little ability to check on these details. Forever after, we will have no option but to trust what candidates say to us about what they’ve done in their business lives before they’ve run for President.
So, setting this precedent is perhaps the most important reason for disqualifying Mitt Romney as a candidate for President. That is, he is not just asking us to trust him. He is also asking us to trust everyone after him, and to proceed into that good plutocratic night without even the freedom to evaluate whether a presidential candidate, based on his/her economic record, is likely to lead us there or not.
Haven’t we had enough of lies and manipulations from our presidents and other officeholders? Haven’t we had enough of sell-outs to powerful and illicit interests, in recent decades increasingly betraying the interests of American democracy?
I think we have. And that’s why I believe that a refusal to release tax returns that may be of interest to the American people, coupled with a plea to “trust me” and an implicit plea to “trust everyone after me,” must be seen as a disqualifier making Mitt Romney and anyone else who engages in such shenanigans unfit for the presidency.
If Mitt Romney wants to continue to run for the presidency, then he should stop disrespecting the people whose votes he seeks. He should reveal every tax return to the public that he previously revealed to John McCain’s campaign. If the second highest office in the land was worth that price to him, then the highest office demands at least as much transparency.
If he doesn’t trust us enough to reveal those tax returns, then I believe that every American, regardless of political persuasion, should vote against him in November, because there is a minimum we must insist upon from every candidate for public office including the presidency. And that minimum is respect for we, the people, as the ultimate sovereigns of this nation, whose free, and therefore unmanipulated and uncoerced, consent must be sought and gained for someone to hold public office!
Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.