Low-Information Pundit: Russ Sloan and Presidential Likeability

On Sunday, February 24th, Russ Sloan squandered yet another opportunity to educate the public about the workings of the economy – the material one might reasonably expect to find in the Money section of a Sunday paper – in favor of an explicitly partisan rant against the President. Of course, long-time readers of the Leesburg Daily Commercial understand very well that Sloan’s column has never been, and will never be, anything other than a GOP soapbox. The column is there because the editors of this little rag want it to be, and we have never denied the fact that there is a sizable market for this dross, as any scan of the Voices section will quickly confirm. Over time, we have come to see The Bottom Line partly as a window into the minds of the deluded and, increasingly, as comic relief. For while Sloan today writes about a disconnect between President Obama’s approval rating and the results of the election, there is an even wider gulf between Russ Sloan’s understanding of the world and its actual reality. This septuagenarian has wasted decades of his life mistaking simplistic, plutocratic propaganda for gospel truth and then passing it on with a degree of conviction that any Jehovah’s Witness would envy.

Obama v. Romney: Right for All The Wrong Reasons

According to Russ Sloan, postwar presidential elections have been determined by the public’s determination of which candidate appears to be the most likeable. It is not clear whether this is an entirely new explanatory paradigm for Russ Sloan, or merely an addendum to his oft-repeated lament that the outcome is based on which candidate promises the most free goodies; i.e., who buys the electorate off. (The question of who’s buying the candidates off has never been addressed in The Bottom Line, and isn’t likely to be.) Mr. Sloan is sad to report that Barack Obama came across as more likeable than Romney, but protests that he “can’t think of anything ‘unlikeable’ about Romney.” It is enormously tempting to indulge in mocking laughter at Sloan’s expense – and we are not going to resist that temptation entirely – but the fact remains that his reservations about Barack Obama are not without merit. The problem, as always, is that to the extent Russ Sloan is right about Obama, he is right for completely the wrong reasons, and is utterly incapable of discerning the distinction.

Mitt RomneyIt is scarcely surprising that Russ Sloan should find Mitt Romney appealing. Romney is a plutocratic sociopath. His goal is the maximization of profit through capitalistic exploitation of all available resources, resulting in a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. He has never seen a negative externality in his life: the costs that capitalism imposes on the environment or on society as a whole are off the books and therefore do not exist. Consequently, there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change. Fresh-water drinking supplies are not being contaminated forever by toxic brews of drilling chemicals wherever fracking is undertaken. The Keystone XL pipeline has no negative consequences for the planet. Mountain tops can be removed with impunity. Animals can be slaughtered without a second thought, whether in industrialized agriculture or through habitat loss. The rest of the world is America’s playground, and will be governed as we see fit. Where there is profit, there is goodness – American, Christian goodness. This is the mindset of Russ Sloan himself; it was, therefore, a match made in Mammon.

With plutocratic love being blind, it is similarly unremarkable that Russ Sloan should fail to notice some of the Romney defects that were perfectly obvious to those of us not so afflicted. Mitt Romney, like every other Republican, railed against the public debt, while much of his fortune resulted from a cynical manipulation of private debt. (His leveraged buyouts saddled companies with massive debt-service loads that they, not Bain Capital, had to pay off.) He – the son of a Michigan auto executive no less – opined that General Motors should have been allowed to go bust while he had taken federal bailout money to save Bain Capital. He was lauded as a businessman who understood the private sector but oversaw the Salt Lake Olympic games that cost a small fortune in public subsidies. He challenged Rick Perry to a ten-thousand dollar bet as if it were pocket money and wondered why he couldn’t connect to ordinary people. He taunted voters with the charge that corporations are people, when they are nothing more than legal abstractions created by state law. He defended the favorable treatment of capital gains that benefits him while advocating Paul Ryan’s ruthless cuts to social programs for people who will never have the chances he had in life. He was, in short, positively repulsive.

But Mitt Romney did have one very important thing going for him: at least you knew exactly what you were going to get. If you wanted someone who was going to make you even richer at the expense of everyone else and the environment that sustains us all, he was your guy. He didn’t try to hide it. A vote for Romney was, in this sense, an honest vote in favor of rapacious capitalism. That’s what a great many Americans want.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is a much more slippery character. Perhaps the most odious charlatan in modern American political history – right up there with Richard Nixon – Obama suckered legions of poor blacks and left-leaning whites into endorsing an agenda that turns out to be hideously pro-corporate, monstrously imperial, and flagrantly abusive of constitutional principles. We shall not enumerate our grievances against Obama here, for they have been highlighted throughout this website. For the present purposes it suffices to say that Barack Obama is most emphatically not what he appears to be, in either his telling or that of his putative opponents. For people of Russ Sloan’s mentality – which is to say, the cognitively impaired – this complex reality is impossible to discern or to admit. Confined to the cesspool of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and similar propaganda from such rags as the Leesburg Daily Commercial, they have never been exposed to alternative, deeper modes of thought. They have not seen Thanksgiving through the eyes of a turkey and would never think of attempting such an exercise in empathy, despite their moralizing about the sanctity of life. They do not worry about how Tyson Foods makes a profit; they simply check their stock portfolio’s progress. They complain about the threat of budget deficits to our children’s future, but they say nothing about the planetary deficits of over-consumption and pollution of precious natural resources. They consider themselves Christians while all around them the poor get poorer and the rich are treated as if they will sail through the gates of heaven. With souls as warped as this, how could they be expected to perceive the evil that lurks within the more “likeable” candidate?

That said, the voters who deserve the most opprobrium are not the Fox News zombies but the gullible fools who allowed themselves to fall for Obama’s appeal to middle-class sensibilities and aspirations. The black community, in particular, needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. If this is what they find likeable, then the country’s prospects for genuine economic reform, social justice, and environmental sustainability are slim indeed. Meanwhile, among America’s owners, there should be – and must be in some small, secret corner – a quiet celebration that the man Republicans profess to hate has done more to enhance the bottom line than they could ever have dreamed. With after-tax corporate profits at all-time highs and stock prices restoring ample girth to portly portfolios, what’s not to like? Just don’t tell Russ Sloan.

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