Wednesday, September 12, 2012

US Presidential election: rich versus poor and middle class Daily Sun

Julian Castro, the 37 year old Hispanic Mayor of San Antonio, as a key note speaker at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina placed before nation plainly what could be the defining theme in this year’s presidential election. He said that the Republican candidate Mitt Romney visited a university in Idaho on his campaign trail where he advised students on starting small businesses. When a student asked him where he would get the capital to do so, Mitt Romney’s reply was instinctive:“borrow money from your parents”. His father had so much money that he thought everyone else wanting money had a rich father to turn to!

Julian Castro’s target was theaffluent background of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party leadership todefine this election as one between the rich America and the poor and middleclass America. The Republicanspassionately stand for less government interference in the lives of Americansto appeal to the average conservatives. However, its leadership activelysupports less government for a reason different from the average conservative.They do so to protect their wealth and well being from being taken away by moretaxes to help the middle class and the poor. The Republican leadership argues that ifpeople are poor, it is their bad luck and should not expect that the Governmentto help them out. In fact, the Republicans see any measure to help out the poorand the needy as socialist or more government control over individuallives and therefore despicable.

It is this mindset that has ledthe Republican Party to vow to destroy President Obama’s affordable healthcareprogramme that they derisively call Obamacare. The Republicans have made this amajor issue in the presidential election although it offers affordablehealthcare to nearly 50 million Americans whose only recourse to treatment whenthey are sick is prescription drug over the counter. Such apathy to the poorand the underprivileged makes the United States stand on its own among the developed nations where 1/6th of its population have only God to lookup to when they need hospital care for their ailments without which they coulddie.

Those lucky to have insurance andmiddle class however are not guaranteed treatment when they reach the cap ontheir insurance. Terminally ill patients are sent home by hospitals to die athome because they have reached their insurance caps. People with pre healthconditions are not allowed health insurance even if they can afford one. PresidentObama’s affordable healthcare programme helps these unfortunate Americans. TheRepublicans want to destroy this pro-poor and pro- middle class programme that thelives of rich and the privileged are not affected to help out their lessfortunate fellow Americans. To get support, the Republicans argue that it wouldtake money out of Medicare that benefits the elderly.

The Democratic Convention isattempting to flag the concerns of the poor and the middle class, the majorityof the Americans, with this healthcare programme, its tax proposals, the womenvoters, the elderly and the war veterans. It gave a face to each of theseconcerns to reach respective constituents effectively. To put across thehealthcare programme, it brought to the convention the mother whose daughterwith congenital heart disease would now have hope instead of being left to diebecause the insurance companies would now have to pay for her operations thatshe and her husband could not afford.

To reach out to the mothers whoare expected to influence the outcome of the election, the Convention fell backupon First Lady Michelle Obama. She reached out to the mothers of America byputting her role as mom-in-chief ahead of all the other activities that she nowhas as the First Lady. She was introduced by a mother whose four sons are inthe armed forces to send a strong message of support to the veterans and theirfamilies and men and women in uniform and their families. She also gave PresidentObama a human face based on the values of the middle class whom time andposition has not changed.

The Convention brought toCharlotte Lilly Ledbetter who has become the icon for women demanding equalrights as men in work place for doing similar work. Her efforts led to theadoption of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that now ensures that it isillegal for employers to pay women less than men who have similar jobs andresponsibilities.

The Convention reached out to themen and women in uniform also through Tammy Duckworth, the war veteran who losther two legs in Iraq and now a candidate for a Congressional seat fromIllinois. Tammy Duckworth also flaggedfor the nation the failure of the Republican Convention to mention the Iraq andAfghan wars in which thousands of Americans laid down their lives and whereAmerica spent over a trillion of dollars o tax payers’ money that is one of themain reasons for US’ current economic predicament.

CNN’s Piers Morgan interviewedRepublican Vice President Candidate Paul Ryan on the opening day of theDemocratic Convention. He asked him whether the Obama administration could begiven some leeway for being given an economy by President Bush that was inruins. Paul Ryan acknowledged that PresidentObama inherited an economy in bad shape from his predecessor but held himresponsible nevertheless for his failure to revive the economy and reduce theunemployment figure. In particular, he harped upon the line that theRepublicans have taken on the high rate of unemployment that is currently at8.4% to register it firmly in the voters’ mind because no candidate ever madeit to the White House with such a high unemployment in recent history.

The Democrats are using thisacknowledgement by Paul Ryan that PresidentObama inherited an economy in ruins that he is now bringing back on rails toswing focus away from the current stateof the economy, particularly unemployment. They are using thecase of the automobile bailout that has saved the automobile industry as anexample that the President’s policies are working. The Democrats are trying tosend the message that the Republicans want less government to stop programmesto help the poor and the under privileged. Most importantly, they are trying tosend the message to the middle class that they stand for them while theRepublicans want to tax them more to make the rich richer.

If the Democrats can successfullysend across this message from Charlotte then only they would be able to getover the issues of the economy and unemployment to re-elect President Obama for another term. The speakers in Charlotte on the first day of the Convention made a very good case. Fingers are crossed but feelings are high that with President Clinton billed to speak on the second day, they would be able to make their case more effectively by energizing the middle class across the country.

In an election that is still too close for call, the Republicans failed to get any momentum from their Convention in Tampa last week. If the first day at Charlotte is any hint, the Democratic Convention could make the difference between the two campaigns.

The writer is former Ambassador to Japan.

No comments: