Controversy is swirling about a poorly argued attack ad done by a super PAC that is pro-Obama, which accuses Mitt Romney of being responsible for throwing a family where the wife had cancer out of health insurance when he closed the company. The case seems convoluted and the argument tenuous. Romney isn’t responsible for people getting cancer, and CEOs have people fired all the time. Romney campaign worker Andrea Saul is in trouble for pointing out that had the couple been living in Massachusetts, they would have had Romneycare. Saul, a vicious attack dog who targeted climate scientist Michael Mann for a smear campaign, broke a cardinal etch-a-sketch rule of this year’s GOP campaign, which is to pretend that Romney was not, only a few short years ago, a fairly liberal governor of Massachusetts who implemented universal health care and inspired Obamacare.
Ann Coulter, the bearded lady of the hard right, was so apoplectic at Saul’s slip that she told Sean Hannity that he might as well stop doing his program, and that she might as well hang up her brass knuckles, if the Romney campaign was going to comport itself that way. She inadvertently admitted that the point of Fox Cable News, of Hannity’s Bullying Hour, and of her own daily Objectivist peep show, is to elect Romney.
But the controversy about the attack ad has unfortunately obscured the correct point that Romney’s announced policies will kill lots of people. Now, all presidents get people killed. They fight wars, authorize covert actions, and pursue wrong-headed policies. It isn’t useful in my view to engage in a Utilitarian argument about which presidents kill more people and which less. These things are hard to quantify, anyway. The real question to my mind is how many people you kill as president out of cynical calculation about your personal interests and perhaps those of your backers. The thing I most object to in Romney is that he is willing to kill people to get elected, even though he knows better. He believes in Obamacare, obviously, but says he will repeal it. He knows the score on climate change, but is going to deliver us into the scalding clutches of Big Oil. He is a walking billboard for the message that religious people aren’t always ethical people. I sometimes wonder, in fact, whether religiosity doesn’t enable unethical behavior, reassuring the believer of his or her goodness and salvation and so damaging their ethics bullcrap meter.
So here are the ways that Romney is going to kill people:
1. Obamacare cuts women’s premiums (they had had to pay more than men) and provides women with “annual well visits, birth control counseling and supplies, gestational diabetes screening, breastfeeding support and supplies, screening and counseling concerning HIV and sexually transmitted infections, expanded testing for cervical cancer, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.” Studies have shown that doctor visits, especially late in a pregnancy, save lives, but many poor women could not afford them in the past (45 million women were just uninsured).
If Romney repeals Obamacare, he will raise the infant mortality rate compared to what it would be under the Affordable Care Act, and so will be a child-killer. It is probably even possible to calculate exactly how many infants he intends to murder.
2. Heat waves, water shortages, food shortages, declining fish populations, and extreme weather events such as floods and storms, will kill more and more human beings as climate change accelerates under the impact of all the tons of carbon dioxide we are spewing into the atmosphere every year. Even the percentage chance that our current heat wave, drought and corn crop failure is not caused by climate change is vanishingly small, according to James Hansen. Romney intends to remove subsidies for wind and solar energy and to promote burning hydrocarbons. (Note that Big Oil and Gas have received hundreds of billions in tax credits over the years). Romney may as well just line people up and machine gun them down. Even Iowa Republicans are angry at Romney over his anti-wind power stance. Iowa gets about a fifth of its electricity from wind and has the prospect of much more. But they’re upset over pocket book issues. The cost in human lives will only gradually become apparent.