Romney-Obama debate: ‘Rich do fine either way’
BY JOHN STUDER
NEW YORK—“I asked a worker from Cablevision yesterday what she thought about the debate,” Róger Calero, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in New York, told a Militant Labor Forum here Oct. 5. “The first sentence out of her mouth was, ‘They didn’t talk about jobs.’”
It was one of the most striking things about the Oct. 3 debate in Denver between Democratic President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, watched by an estimated 67 million people.
“Of course the word ‘jobs’ was used many times. But neither candidate gave even lip service to a single proposal that might address one of the most important questions in the minds of millions of workers,” Calero said. “What is going to be done to create jobs today!”
As Romney and Obama jousted, it became clear their programs are geared above all to boost the bosses’ profits. They sought to outdo each other in backing the propertied rulers’ drive to make U.S. capitalism more competitive than their rivals around the world on the backs of working people. Each put forward their own monetary or tax scheme they say is the best way to help businesses big and small on the pretext that what is good for business is good for all.
“The opposite course is put forward by the SWP candidates, who are kept out of the debate,” Calero said.
“We talk to working people—here and worldwide—about the need to fight for a government-funded public works program to put millions of people to work,” he continued.
The second striking thing about the “debate” was how much both candidates said they agree on, said Calero. From the next step in cutting government expenses on education and Social Security to blaming workers for taking “irresponsible” loans, causing the collapse of the housing bubble, their agreement flowed from a shared starting point—as Obama put it, “the genius of America is in the free enterprise system.”
Or as Romney put it to Obama, “the rich will do fine, whether you’re president or I am.”
The fact is, Calero said, given the impact of the economic crisis on millions of people’s lives, the election should be a shoo-in for Romney.
More than 17 million are out of work. Forty-six million live below the official poverty line, which is set lower and lower. More than 45 million are forced to turn to food stamps to get by.
“Obama said it’s not where we’ve been, but where we’re going,” said Calero. “He wishes that were true, that working people could just forget what’s been happening and put in a new CD.”
Romney confronts a challenge under these circumstances as a result of his difficulty in concealing his country club Republican attitude, sneering down on workers and dismissing huge swaths of them out of hand.
The two candidates of big business say they were debating divergent economic “policies,” Calero said. But policies didn’t create the historic crisis of capitalism—it was created by its lawful workings, its rapacious appetite for ever-accelerating accumulation that leads to inevitable crises.
And no new government policy—from the Obama administration’s so-called quantitative easing, which is essentially money printing, to Romney’s pledge to lower taxes on small business—can turn their crisis around. In fact the propertied rulers have no course. They react to the crisis of capitalism by deepening the exploitation of the working class.
The consensus of political pundits and politicians of both parties is that Romney won the debate.
Some said it was a “new Romney” who, for the first time, looked “presidential.” Most pointed to the failings of Obama. “He didn’t fight, he didn’t show, he wasn’t awake and hungry,” pro-Romney Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
Many commentators noted Obama dropped the populist themes his campaign had been pushing. He didn’t mention Romney’s quote on not being interested in the 47 percent of the people who supposedly don’t pay taxes, depend on the state and will vote for Obama no matter what. He didn’t try to paint Romney as a “heartless corporate raider” at Bain Capital.
“The German magazine Der Spiegel had a plausible explanation,” Calero pointed out, “when it said ‘Obama showed a lack of desire to be president.’”
Obama believes that he is one of the intelligent elite, Calero said, uniquely honed to know what is good for you and how government should be used to do it for and to you.
Obama appears worn out and frustrated by the lack of gratitude and “comprehension” among working people—from the toilers of the Middle East to those who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them,” as he described workers in Pennsylvania’s coal country at one of his 2008 fundraisers.
“Romney, on the other hand, demagogically tries to appeal to workers who rightly oppose the increasing intrusion of government into their lives,” Calero said. Behind which lurks no more than a desire for faster, further cuts to social spending.
In the debate, Romney said Obama believes “that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more—if you will, trickle-down government—would work.”
But the truth, Calero said, is that neither one of them wants to weaken the capitalist state and both fully support—and decline to speak a word about—government assaults on constitutional protections and workers rights that have accelerated over the last decade.
“The government apparatus and bureaucracy has grown under Republican and Democratic administrations alike,” Calero said.
“Communists have a different view,” he explained. “We are for the abolition of the capitalist state, for replacing it with the working class in power.
“Workers in power will have no need for an army, or cops and prison guards or a big government bureaucracy,” Calero said. “Their repressive state will be replaced with an armed population.”
“This is the lesson of workers’ revolutions throughout the last 150 years—from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the Russian Revolution to today’s living, fighting revolution in Cuba, brought to victory in 1959 by workers and farmers under the leadership of Fidel Castro,” Calero said.
“Real changes are not possible by taking over and reforming the bosses’ government apparatus,” Calero said. “We are not for a more democratic, better run welfare state.”
After the Cuban Revolution, Calero said, they moved to wipe out illiteracy. They didn’t set up a big education bureaucracy, writing standardized tests. Workers and peasants mobilized by the tens of thousands, spread out across the country, and in less than a year illiteracy was eliminated.
“The Socialist Workers Party is getting a better hearing today than in decades. Workers deeply feel they are living through something different than they have experienced before,” Calero said. “They want to know why and what we can do about it.”
This is why Militant readers new and old are coming together to join this discussion and build the paper’s readership, Calero concluded.