Every nation earns a reputation based on foreign policy, economic strength, and national character, and although they are related, only character is defined by the overall ideology of the population irrespective of the other two. For the past three years there has been a shift in many Americans’ mindset and it is splitting the country into two factions that are the polar opposites of each other. In the campaign for the White House, Americans are being asked to define America as either a community, or a nation of self-interested individuals with no allegiance to anything except money and power. Balancing individualism and community is possible, and it is how America achieved greatness throughout the twentieth century whether it was being on the winning side of two world wars, or building a prosperous middle class that elevated the entire population. It is unfortunate, but the presidential team of Romney and Ryan are plotting to decimate the concept of community and are pushing the notion that the wealthy deserve special rewards because they succeeded as individuals.
Romney continues to attack President Obama for remarking that every success story was dependent on more than just individual initiative, hard work, and perseverance. Willard recently told an audience that “when a young person makes the honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to the school, but I don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll” and it informs Romney’s belief that the successful student owes nothing to the bus driver whose job was insignificant to the student’s success. However, it also means taxpayers who fund schools, pay for text books, pay teachers’ salaries, and the teachers and child’s parents were also insignificant to the child’s success. It defines Romney’s portrayal of his fallacious self-made man success story that is based on pure fiction and explains his disregard for community.
Romney and his mirror-image vice-presidential candidate are staking out a libertarian, Ayn Rand position that the wealthy’s success is individual effort that warrants more wealth from the underclasses Paul Ryan refers to as takers. However, there are no individual success stories and whatever wealth and power the so-called “makers” acquired was a result of community effort and a government that allowed them to prosper. Romney, of all people, has benefited his entire life from privilege, and yet, he portrays his success as an individual effort and expects the American people to shower him, and his wealthy cohort, with what little wealth they have left.
Romney went to the finest schools because of his father’s wealth, and he avoided serving in the military because his cult sent him to proselytize in France. He started Bain Capital with money from alleged South American death squads when American investors refused to fund his venture. His success at Bain was built off of other investors money and Americans’ jobs he destroyed or sent overseas, and the 2002 winter Olympics was saved by $1.5 billion of taxpayer money; not Romney. Romney even avoids paying taxes because his government provides special breaks, loopholes, and questionable shelters that allow him to hide his dirty money in offshore accounts and dubious IRAs working-class Americans will never have access to.
However, it is the insignificance Romney and Ryan attribute to the underclass that defines them as morally deficient. Their plans to cut programs that serve children, seniors, and the middle class to fund outrageous tax cuts for the wealthy will not contribute to the community or a vibrant economy that gives every American the opportunity to achieve success. Why? Because in Romney and Ryan’s world, 98% of Americans are insignificant except to contribute to the “makers.” Both men advocate robbing seniors’ Social Security and Medicare accounts after they built this country into a great nation, and it defines their attitude that Americans are disposable when their productivity falls off due to old age. It is telling that both Romney and Ryan benefited from the largesse of others, and in return, their selfishness and greed drives them to take more regardless it decimates the people who made them wealthy.
A commenter to this column asked if what Romney and Ryan propose “is what we want of the compassionate community we call America,” and it is a prescient question with a frightening answer. It is what Romney and Ryan want because they do not see America as a community, but a nation of peasants to serve and enrich the wealthy until they have nothing left to give and then let them wither in poverty and ill health. What men like Romney and Ryan cannot comprehend is that all the greatness America achieved was a community effort regardless if it was building the Hoover Dam, the great highway system, or fighting and winning two world wars.
There is a place for individualism in America, but it must be balanced with a sense of community and if not, America is finished. Romney’s story of the student really makes the point that it was a community effort that allowed the student to excel. However, no-one should be surprised at Romney and Ryan for dismissing the important contribution of community because they portray teachers, firefighters, police officers, bus drivers, the poor, and senior citizens as leeches living off of big government instead of part of the community. In fact, the notion that every American is an important member of the community that contributes to this country is being diminished by men like Romney and Ryan who believe 98% of the population is insignificant and disposable. What is remarkable is that the American community, including the little people, gave Romney and Ryan the opportunity to succeed and now that they have theirs, they want yours and will use the government to take it.
Romney is a taker because he achieved nothing on his own, and if not for his father’s wealth, government loans and grants, and investors’ money, he would just be another immigrant’s child. Paul Ryan lived off of Social Security and married into an oil family and now he wants Americans’ retirement and healthcare transferred to the wealthy. They are both greedy, selfish libertarians whose philosophy is “I’ve got mine, now I want yours,” and they will attempt to win an election and take it by legislation. Their mindset may work in Ayn Rand’s fiction, but it is death to America.
It is sad, no tragic, that there are any Americans supporting Willard and Ryan’s greed and distorted sense of individualism, and it portends that America is losing its sense of community. Republicans and their presidential ticket are giving Americans a clear choice; either “we’re all in this together and we will succeed together,” or we become a nation of individuals who enrich a handful of wealthy elitists. This country prospered because the community worked together, helped each other prosper, and valued every member’s contribution no matter how small, but Romney and Ryan believe underclasses don’t count and are not contributing enough to the wealthy who bear some responsibility for destroying the American community.