2012-10-19 / Columnists

East End Matters

The Absurdness Of Mitt Romney
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Know the facts and have yourself checked. Not just for yourself, but for everyone else in your life. It’s the thing to do.

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I have a friend I want people to meet. His name is Murray and he is a furry regular on Sesame Street. Every day he asks children one question. Today he wants to ask you “What’s the word on the street?” Well, the word on the street for today is absurd. What does it mean? It means utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense. That is exactly what it was when, at this year’s first presidential debate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney threatened to cut funding for Big Bird and PBS if he is elected. The absurdity continued at this week’s second debate, which I’ll get to later.

The remark in the October 3 debate about defunding PBS was especially absurd when you consider that the subsidy that helps fund PBS is, according to Forbes Magazine, 1/100 of one percent of the federal budget. That’s $430 million spent by the Federal government in 2011 to support the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which then divides the money among PBS, NPR and various other stations and programs under its umbrella.

According to a PBS statement put out on October 4, while the amount of federal funding is small, a number of studies – including one earlier this year requested by Congress – says that “the absence of this critical seed money would cripple the system and bring its services to an end.”

Two 2011 bipartisan national surveys by the research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint found that more than two-thirds of American voters (69 percent) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting. It also stated that during a one year period 91 percent of all U.S. television households watch PBS and 81 percent of all children between the ages of two and eight watch shows on PBS. Earlier this year, a Harris Interactive poll found that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds.

The point is, cutting Big Bird and his Sesame Street friends (Hey, Mitt Romney what did Elmo ever do to you?), Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train and other shows that teach our children is utterly ridiculous. Cutting the News Hour, documentaries, and cultural programs you can’t get anywhere else makes no sense.

Now here are some more words of the day – outrageous and inexcusable. That is what President Obama called the $4 billion a year that taxpayers pay in oil subsidies. Cutting these subsidies would be a more realistic step toward controlling the deficit.

In March of this year, Obama called for Congress to repeal the oil subsidies. Senate Republicans killed the bill on a procedural vote. According to reports, the monies saved would have been used to renew various alternative clean energy initiatives and reduce the deficit.

After the March vote Obama said, “With record profits and rising production, I’m not worried about the big oil companies. ... I think it’s time they got by without more help from taxpayers, who are having a tough enough time paying their bills and filling up their tanks.”

Now we come to the second debate that took place this past Tuesday evening. Near the end of the debate Romney answered a question about misconceptions the public may have about him. He said, “I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I’m a guy who wants to help, with the experience I have, the American people.”

Wow! Talk about a complete turnaround. It was less than a month ago when the magazine Mother Jones released a video of Romney talking to a group of high powered donors about the so-called 47 percent of Americans.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” said Romney in the video. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it – that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [My] job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

His job is not to worry about those people? Yet, now as the election nears, he cares about 100 percent of the people. Unlike two weeks ago, the president did not let the debate go by without mentioning the 47 percent comment.

“He said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims. …Think about who he was talking about,” said Obama.

Who are among those so-called victims, those 47 percent? They are, as Obama pointed out, those who are receiving Social Security, veterans who have served and sacrificed for this country, and “students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams.”

They also include those receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

There are a great many of that so-called 47 percent – the elderly, the disabled, the veterans, the students – who live right here in Rockaway.

Maybe Romney should have stuck with the answer he was giving for most of the other questions that were posed during the Town Hall meeting at Hofstra University – my five point plan will do this, it will do that.

Who is the real Mitt Romney? Well for the whole primary season it was the person casting himself as a conservative to win the nomination. Now he is trying to remake himself into a middle of the road candidate in the last few weeks of the election. Like I said in the beginning – absurd.

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