This has to be one of the more pitiful displays that I've witnessed in a while. Andrew Sullivan was on Chris Matthews' weekend show doing his best to give cover to the Republican establishment. While Sullivan has been famously sneering at those who criticize Obama, he has no problem with the race to the bottom on wages and competing with slave labor overseas. There's no other reason for him to defend both Mitt Romney and Steve Jobs and how both men managed to make themselves some of the wealthiest men in America.
There are absolutely lessons to be learned about how to fix the income disparity in the United States and what solutions we should be moving towards. But voices like Sullivan's--who glorify the state of being wealthy for an elite few to the disadvantage of most--are the last ones to whom we should be listening to if this interview is any indication. Sullivan's basic message here is that we're going to be competing with slave wages overseas and if that upsets you, well, there's nothing that can be done about it, as though our Congress and President Obama don't have any control over our trade laws, or how imports are taxed and whether we're on a level playing field with our competitors overseas.
Sadly, Sullivan's embrace of globalization and our inability to do anything about it wasn't necessarily the worst part of this interview here. He also lambasted President Obama for not doing more to promote the failed Simpson-Bowles Committee, pretending that anything that came out of that debacle ever passed Congress to sit unsigned on Obama's desk.
Here's more on the interview with host Chris Matthews leading it off this way.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you Andrew a fundamental question I think of the election. Is it about the shrinking pie, the deep competition from other countries, obviously China, India, all of the countries around the world that seem to be catching up to us, maybe really catching up. Is it about the shrinking pie of opportunity in this country, or is it how the pie is being sliced up.
SULLIVAN: I think it's two things. One I think it is that structural change and the global economy. You read how an iPad is made and you see it's made in Asia, with like, a labor force you could never assemble in a free country, at wages you can't possibly compete with and I think the trouble is that Obama seems to think that can be changed, where as, we're in an epochal moment of global economic change. And unfortunately it means that in the short term, Americans are going to get relatively poorer. And there's not much that can be done about it.
MATTHEWS: So what are we fighting about?
SULLIVAN: I think it's about whether this president is the right centrist reformer to take us forward and whether he's managing the economy well. On the wealth stuff, I don't think it's about wealth. I think it's about how you earn the money. And I think no one begrudges Steve Jobs for becoming that rich. But what has Mitt Romney done for the last six years? By his own admission, he was unemployed, yet he's earning twenty million dollars a year for doing nothing and paying 13.9 percent tax rate. … He's not doing anything.
After some back and forth from the panel on whether Romney's campaign message is resonating and whether he's in trouble for appearing to be the out of touch rich guy who doesn't connect with the voters, that led to Matthews talking about how well Gingrich's attacks on Romney are working with his offshore tax havens. Michael Duffy weighed in on the fact that Romney screwed up on his tax return releases, which are only going to lead to more questions about them if he doesn't agree to release more than the last two years worth.
He also noted the fact that Romney makes more in a day than most Americans make in a year, and that he could have helped himself by saying that he'd fix the tax code so that he doesn't pay a lower percentage of his income than most others do should he be elected president (like that's ever going to happen).
We then got this additional bit of hackery from Andrew Sullivan.
SULLIVAN: This is why Obama, I think... well I think he's failed on one critical issue here. Look, people are happy to see people pay their fair share. But the way to do that without sounding like we're going to tax the rich and give it to the poor is tax reform, which he's supposed to be in favor of, which he has dropped, and punted because his own party is too weak on the subject. He doesn't want to challenge them. He doesn't want to challenge all those special interests.
MATTHEWS: He's come out for a rule that if you make over a million a year you ought to pay at least thirty percent. That's not enough for you?
SULLIVAN: No! Reform it! Do it properly. Reform entitlements and reform taxes at the same time. Let's have three, let's have no deductions, three rates. And he said he supports it. His own deficit commission supported it. And he's run away from it, and it's pathetic.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I thought it was fascinating that Mitch Daniels giving the response at the State of the Union came out for means testing on wealthy people and plugging loopholes for wealthy people. Anyway, the bottom line is, we put it to the Matthews Meter, twelve of our regulars, including Katy and Andrew, will Republicans find a message that trumps fairness?
Chris Matthews didn't just think it was “interesting” that Mitch Daniels talked about means testing Social Security and Medicare with his rebuttal to the State of the Union Address, he also came very close to getting another thrill up his leg for Daniels that Rachel Maddow tried to talk him down from shortly after watching Daniels' speech.
All in all the panel did not have any good arguments for why the “fairness” argument would not win out even if they did not necessarily agree with the premise. Kathleen Parker found herself making one of the more ridiculous arguments on the panel for the day, which is that Mitt Romney is giving away forty two percent of his income to “charity.” As the others on the panel noted, being forced to tithe with your church is not what everyone would consider a “charitable contribution.”
I'm betting that Romney would prefer his ties to his church be downplayed and not an election issue if he wins the nomination, and how much money he gave them relative to how much money an average American makes either per year or in their lifetime is not likely to be a plus for him, no matter how hard Parker is trying to spin it here.