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Mittens won’t be workin’ in the coal mine

“Some people say a man is made outta mud/A poor man’s made outta muscle and blood/Muscle and blood and skin and bones/A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong.”

Mitt Romney, the Mudman.

If a poor man is made out of skin and bones, muscle and blood, that can’t be Mittens, since he surely is not poor: according to his recently released tax returns, he makes almost $57,000 a day (about $5,000 more than the median yearly income in the country). Besides, anyone who is willing to say, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” must have ice water running through his veins. Furthermore, blood requires a heart to pump it through a body. Anyone willing to admit he doesn’t care about the very poor obviously lacks a heart.

Again, nobody ever confused Romney with a poor man. Born with a silver spoon firmly lodged in his gob, no one on Mudman’s presidential campaign is blathering about Mitten’s days working a shovel or cutting wood.

As far as having “a mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong,” it’s further evidence that Romney’s no poor man. Although my knowledge of anatomy isn’t the best (those clues in the NY Times crossword invariably drive me to Google), it seems that “a back that’s strong” implies the existence of a spine and Romney’s Gumby-like contortions on everything from gun rights to tax pledges shows he has all the backbone of a nightcrawler.

Likewise, Mudman can’t be accused of having a weak mind. Anyone who can make $57,000 a day by just sitting back and letting Investments pay the bills has to be a very smart man.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get/Another day older and deeper in debt/Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go/I owe my soul to the company store.

The worker loading 16 tons in Tennessee Ernie Ford’s classic song would absolutely agree that Mudman lacks “a mind that’s a-weak and back that’s strong,” if he knew Romney was drawing more than a year’s wage by simply moving money around and not loading a single shovel-full, much less 16 tons.

No one knows for sure who owns Romney’s soul (the highest bidder would be a sharp guess) but it sure ain’t the company store. He practically owns the store and everything in it.

Earlier this year, Mudman tsk-tsked about the “politics of envy,” admonishing those of us who owe our souls to the company store and don’t like the situation to buck up and appreciate the fact that people like him have it so good.

Get back to work and shut our traps, essentially, and that’s the platform Mudman intends to run on. He believes that the economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place are just the ones we need to dig ourselves out.

“The politics of envy” is Mudman’s pejorative for pointing out income inequality and how that has led to so many of us owing our souls to the company store and owing more on our houses than they’re worth.

To Mittens, there’s nothing wrong with that because that’s how free markets are supposed to work. If you happen to be part of the 99 percent, boo-hoo, the rich are supposed to get richer, they’ve earned that bigger slice of the pie.

What Mudman doesn’t explain is that those markets were never truly free. Around 1980, about the same time that income inequality in America began to gap out, the rich in this country started seeing huge gains, while wage growth for the middle-class began grinding to a halt.

Since the rich couldn’t spend all that excess cash, they began lending it to the rest of us, developing exotic investment schemes that got a majority of the 99 percent to tally more and more from the company store’s credit sheet. Accustomed to steadily improving lifestyles funded primarily by easily accessible credit, most of us working in the coal mines found ourselves up to our necks in debt — a situation that the lenders liked since those loans were part of the shell game in which money-for-money’s sake made them even more money.

Mudman and his 1-percenter friends were blind-sided in 2008 when reality made an inconvenient appearance and gave a mighty blow to their house of cards.

Betraying an uncharacteristically mind that’s a-weak, Romney says that we need to return to previous fiscal policies (namely, tax cuts for the rich) and rebuild that house of cards. Everyone gets a pony if we do.

That reasoning has several fundamental problems, however. For one, the profligate borrowing that helped sustain the economy over the past three decades has ended. The fact that savings rates have skyrocketed within the gilded crust is evidence of that — the excess cash they’re accumulating can no longer be lent out to the rest of us. With no one left to lend that money to and not enough good real-world investments to play with, the cash pile gets bigger and bigger.

With middle-class wages having stalled, there’s not enough expected future demand to justify expanding factories and hiring more workers. Those flat wages, combined with the lending machine idling, means that consumption from the middle class is just not going to grow enough to drive the expansion of businesses, providing opportunities for large-scale investment.

For the sake of a healthy, vibrant economy, consumer demand must get a massive boost, and that can only come from allowing the middle-class to catch up with full employment and (especially) an increase in wages that matches the wage-gains made by the top percent.

Mudman won’t go there, preferring instead to label the thinking behind that solution as “the politics of envy.” Instead, Romney suggests that further pumping money to the so-called “job creators” will put a chicken in every pot and a gumdrop on the petal of every lily.

Those of us with a mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong know what really happens. That excess cash will find its way to foreign markets, with the rest of it tossed on top of the growing money pile that the “job creators” continue to amass. In the meantime, the company store has looked at the tally and has determined that too much is owed and we need to pay a big chunk of that before drawing on any more credit.

They want more than just our souls.

I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine/I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine/I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal/And the straw boss said “Well, a-bless my soul.”

Throughout this election, Romney will attempt to convince voters that the rich and corporations are taxed too much and that, on the other hand, that the middle-class needs to start paying their fair share. He’ll point to the fact that about 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax, suggesting that situation needs to change.

What Mudman won’t mention is the other kinds of taxes we all pay. He’ll glide past regressive payroll taxes with the poor and middle classes paying higher rates than the rich. He’ll fail to mention that state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and fees of various kinds are paid largely by the poor and middle-class.

Data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that state taxes are regressive in every one of the 50 states, with the poorest 20 percent in Mississippi (the median, interestingly enough) paying twice the rate of the top 1 percent. That jumps to five to six times for the bottom 20 percent in the worst states.

In Colorado, the bottom 20 percent pay 9 percent of their income In taxes, compared with 4.2 percent of income paid by the top 1 percent in the state.

“Well, a-bless my soul, that sixteen tons of number nine coal is a mighty burden,” the straw boss would say. “How about another sixteen?”

If you see me comin’, better step aside/A lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died/One fist of iron, the other of steel/If the right one don’t a-get you then the left one will.

Since 1992, the average income for the top 400 earners has risen 397 percent while, during that same time, their tax rate has fallen an average of 37 percent. If all income groups had seen the same growth rate from 1979 through 2005, median wages in the U.S. would be over $92,000 a year and not the just-over $50,000 that was reported in last year’s census.

The Occupy movement knows those facts all too well and seeks to share that news with the rest of the electorate in this country. While Mudman assumes that not enough money is moving towards the top 1 percent, the Occupy movement is saying that they’ve received too much already.

So, how much income have you given up to feed the greed of those at the top? Assuming that income growth remained consistent across all income groups since 1979, every American wage earner below the top 10 lost ground, handing over an annual $592 billion to the upper crust, with those in the 81 -90 percent group losing $3,733 annually per household, a loss of $8,598 per year in 61-80 percent group, the 41-60 percent group losing $10,100 per household every year, a loss of $8,582 every year on average for households in the 21-40 percent group and a loss of $5,623 per household per year for the bottom 20 percent.

During that same time, the top 1 percent gained $673 billion more per year in annual income, an average gain of $597,241 per household per year.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get/Another day older and deeper in debt/Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go/I owe my soul to the company store.

Running for president is hard work, no doubt, but I am willing to bet my mortgage that any number of cowboys, teachers, construction workers, nurses, firefighters, waitresses, retail slaves, cops or the brave men and women serving in the military would take out your teeth if you suggested that a yearlong campaign for president was harder work than anything these (and so many other) folks do on a daily basis, year in and year out, if their right hand didn’t get you, their left hand would.

With few exceptions, this year’s election will be decided by how many voters identify themselves as being made of muscle and blood versus how many think they’re made out of mud.

Considering that a vast majority of the 99 percent aren’t sufficiently a-weak of mind to believe that owing their souls to the company store is just how things ought to be, I suspect that this year’s election will go for muscle and blood — and a back that’s strong.

jim@pagosasun.com

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