By Jim Hightower
One of the mysteries of life in these curious times is that millions of Americans are enjoying the benefits of government — but are either unaware of it or in denial.
A 2008 study found that 40 percent of Medicare recipients, 44 percent of Social Security beneficiaries, 53 percent of people with student loans, and 60 percent of homeowners with taxpayer-subsidized mortgages answered “no” when asked whether they were using a government social program.
But whatever their confusion, at least they’re not running for president. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is. And on the campaign trail he’s disparaging Americans who turn to government to get what he calls “free stuff.”
He cites his experience as a private sector executive as proof that he has the managerial chops to run the government like a business. For evidence, he touts his stint as CEO of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, when he adopted cost-saving tactics, such as moving the Olympics’ Washington office from a ritzy K Street building to a modest flat squished between a burrito shop and a hair salon.
Conveniently unmentioned by the heroic free-enterpriser, however, is that his success was largely the result of “free stuff” he got. Specifically, the games nabbed $1.5 billion in direct federal funding and indirect financing from Washington after Mitt’s committee went grossly over budget and was unable to attract enough private investment. If lobbying lawmakers for “free stuff” were an Olympic event, Mitt would take the gold.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the level of federal subsidy “a disgrace,” made all the more disgraceful by expos s documenting that much of the loot funded projects for wealthy Utah developers. One resort owner received $3 million to build a three-mile stretch of road through his compound — a breezy million per mile. Remember Mitt’s Olympic haul of government gold the next time you hear him assail poor people for getting food stamps.
Jim Hightower, a radio commentator and public speaker, is also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.