Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the agreement with the syndicators means that in a fast changing world the appearance of this column here is delayed here until a week after its newspaper release)

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If Mitt Romney does win the Republican nomination and if the Democratic brain trust is uncharacteristically smart, we will be seeing campaign ads featuring Newt Gingrich making some of his speeches trashing Romney; the one, for instance, in which he asks, “Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk away with the money?”
Rush Limbaugh, in a rare moment, got it right when he complained that the commercial could finish with “I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.” Many GOP partisans are nervously complaining because Newt’s “scorched earth” tactics are, in fact, scorching their earth.
Mr. Obama couldn’t come close to matching Gingrich’s incendiary words. The best the president could come up with was insisting his arguments weren’t “class warfare” but “common sense.” Mild stuff. Maybe if Newt fails to get the nomination and there’s no lobbying job immediately available, he can accept a position as Obama’s speechwriter.
Of course, it’s hard to beat the boost that Romney gives to his opponents. His “I’m not concerned about the very poor” statement — where even he now admits he “misspoke” — is just his latest mistake. It’s still another blunder reaffirming the view that he’s so out of touch that he’s numb. He needs guidance from someone who is careful with his language. Maybe his new BFF Donald Trump can be HIS speechwriter.
Such revealing slips by Mitt and the others in their gated communities contribute to perceptions borne out by nearly all the polls. They show that between 60 percent and 70 percent of the American people believe income inequality is a real problem in the United States. They believe it because it is. Study after study documents that those in the now-infamous top 1 percent of income earners control about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Pay gaps are widening between executives and their employees — those who haven’t lost their jobs. It’s not hard to understand how a disorganized Occupy Wall Street (or wherever) movement could have such effect with its “99-1” mantra.,

When Romney and others of his ilk complain about a “politics of envy,” they are putting their arrogance on display. They feel so entitled to the massive sums they’ve accumulated through their financial games, they’re genuinely surprised when someone questions their tactics and wonders out loud why, for instance, they find it necessary to wall off funds in sanctuaries like the Cayman Island and Switzerland. Those same vaults hide the dirty money of crime figures and corrupt dictators.
Envy? Maybe it’s intense anger. As those polls show, the average American is finally realizing that he or she is being had. That is a serious problem in a democracy like ours that relies on national teamwork. If members sadly conclude that their team is scamming them, they stop doing their part to hold together our wonderful country.
This hustle is not new. For a few decades now, those in government who are in a position to make and enforce adequate regulation have instead been in thrall to those who want no restrictions.
Now almost everyone is mad, not sure where the blame goes, but mad. If someone doesn’t decide to replace blind ambition and greed with some statesmanship, policies that don’t just favor the selfish, the United States of America will not be united anymore.
Surely there are more responsible people to carry that message effectively than Newt Gingrich. And surely the Democrats would love to run a campaign featuring their own ideas instead of attacking the other side. Is that naive? Right now, the voters are faced with a choice of which candidates they dislike the least. That’s not exactly a way to rally a nation.

© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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