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Travis Rowley: A Thousand Falsehoods

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Both Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) and Congressman David Cicilline (D) made recent appearances on Channel 12 Newsmakers that verified their predictable strategy for the 2012 election season. As usual, our Democratic delegation will be coming home from Washington, DC with a thousand falsehoods designed to paint a simple impression: They care. And Republicans are mean.

As expected, Republicans will be forced to cut through a glut of nonsense, not the least of which will be a disingenuous political gimmick called the “Buffett Rule.” Technically called the “Paying A Fair Share Act,” Whitehouse is sponsoring the legislation while Cicilline is wholeheartedly embracing the plan that would ask wealthy individuals to pay more in taxes.

But why? Well, mainly because Cicilline and Whitehouse view Rhode Island voters as complete suckers for the politics of class warfare.

Cicilline and Whitehouse realize that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will never allow the “Paying A Fair Share Act” to reach President Obama’s desk. More than that, however, they’re also aware of the bill’s utter impotence, that it stands to raise only a small fraction of the revenue needed to solve the nation’s fiscal dilemma. As reporter Tim White expressed last week, “The idea may be popular for a lot of non-millionaires, but the increase in revenue would do little to address the country’s massive deficit.” It would “reduce the deficit by less than one percent,” White reminded Whitehouse.

Stunts like these represent just how much Whitehouse and Cicilline actually respect their constituents.

Medicare and Social Security

Rhode Islanders should also expect the employment of an old Democratic scare tactic – the notion that Republicans wish to strip seniors of Medicare and Social Security. With one of the highest percentages of residents over the age of 65 (about 140,000 Rhode Island seniors receive social security benefits) Rhode Island is the place where Democrats can least afford to withhold this lie.

Before he was known all over Rhode Island as a master of deceit, Cicilline was traveling to elderly homes throughout the state in 2010, suggesting to seniors that Republicans represented a threat to their well-being. “We have to do everything we can to protect social security,” Cicilline told the crowds.

And on Newsmakers last weekend, Whitehouse showed that he’s ready to replicate Cicilline’s tactics, alluding to the possibility of being “throw[n] off Social Security” and “cut[ting] Medicare benefits for seniors.”

The challenge to Republicans will be to make sure that 2012 is the year that Rhode Island voters finally reject the customary Democratic campaign, and what PolitiFact called “the most frequently used weapon in the Democratic arsenal” during the 2010 midterm elections – that is, the idea that Republicans would “privatize” social security, risking payouts to senior citizens.

And there’s cause for optimism.

For years Rhode Island Democrats shirked the voices of reform-minded Republicans who were trying to highlight the dangers posed by overreaching public unions and unfunded pension liabilities. Democrats found it simple, convenient, and politically advantageous to respond by telling the public that Republicans were simply “anti-worker” and “only for the rich.”

Eventually, however, Central Falls retirees discovered who was truly looking out for their best interests all those years.

So in the wake of Central Falls’ collapse, one would think that Rhode Island seniors will be poised to lend an ear to candidates who are speaking plainly about the solvency of their own retirement programs. Perhaps they’re prepared to view Democrats for what they truly are – a party of reckless and self-interested politicians who are perfectly willing to flirt with economic devastation and entitlement bankruptcy in order to retain political power.

It will be interesting to see if Rhode Islanders believe the traditional Democratic lie this year, that it is a Republican wet-dream to watch old people suffer.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.

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