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Response to Rabbi Steven Pruzansky - Why Romney Didn't Get Enough Votes to Win

Rabbi Steven PruzanskyA friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail forward. The subject line was, "Perspective of a Rabbi!". It was copied and pasted from an op-ed in the Israel Nation News, Why Romney Didn't Get Enough Votes to Win, written by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky.

Like I so often do, I decided to write a response to my friend. I'd originally intended to keep the response shorter, but I just couldn't help myself. Every time I looked at the guy's article, I saw something else wrong with it. I eventually had to just stop going back to it, or my reply would have been even longer.

To given a sense of the article, here's an excerpt from a few paragraphs in.

Romney lost because the conservative virtues - the traditional American virtues - of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness - no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate. The notion of the "Reagan Democrat" is one cliché that should be permanently retired.

Here's another excerpt that summed up much of the rabbi's argument.

The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation (by the amoral Obama team) of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which "47% of the people" start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money - "free stuff" - from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game - they don't care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else's expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

I agree with one part of the e-mail, that the leaked video of Romney was a defining moment in the election. But of course, I disagree with the writer's take. Here's a good article with stats on taxes paid in the U.S.

It's true that about 47% of people don't pay federal income tax. However, the vast majority of those people either pay federal payroll taxes or are retired elderly. To quote the article:

That leaves 6.9 percent of households which are non-elderly and have incomes less than $20,000 per year and aren't paying the payroll tax. These poorer households pay neither income taxes nor payroll taxes. Perhaps Romney thinks that they should all pay more in federal taxes. It's hard to say. But this is also a much smaller fraction of Americans.

There's also the small fact that federal income tax and federal payroll taxes aren't the only taxes that people pay. To quote another portion of that article.

Meanwhile, just as a reminder, the vast majority of Americans still pay state and local taxes -- in fact, these taxes tend to be more regressive. When you add up all the different types of taxes, most income groups in the United States tend to pay an amount that's roughly commensurate with their share of the national income.

If Romney actually believed his statements on the 47%, he was ignorant and out of touch. If he didn't believe it but still said it, he was dishonest and simply pandering in an attempt to win votes. Either way, writing off nearly half the country as lazy freeloaders, claiming "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives", definitely hurt his election chances, as it should have.

Actually, to discuss the economic state of the country just a bit more, I'd point out income inequality and wealth inequality. Both are increasing. In other words, even though the richest Americans already have a hugely disproportionate share of the wealth, that share keeps getting bigger. This is exactly opposite of what you would expect if the government were some type of bureaucratic Robin Hood, taxing the rich to give undue handouts to the poor.

Much of the rest of the article was based on that false idea that America has become a land of handouts, so I won't bother responding point by point. However, there were a few more statements I just couldn't resist commenting on. First was the idea that Romney was above running negative campaign ads. Just ask Newt Gingrich.

And I find it a little funny that he would bring up "The 'Occupy' riots" (as if they were riots), without even mentioning the Tea Party and their spitting on senators, toting guns at 'peaceful' protests, vandalizing the property of their opponents, and issuing threats of violence to politicians.

He mentioned the "economies that are collapsing today in Europe", as if the reason they're having trouble is because of liberal economic policies. In fact, they're having so much trouble recovering from the recession because they've abandoned Keynesian economic policies.

The first article noted:

Despite clear warnings that austerity isn't boosting growth, some of the continent's largest economies remain committed to deficit reduction. The United Kingdom, now on the precipice of its third recession in four years, has indicated that it will continue efforts to reduce the deficit, even as it has fallen far short of its past goals... The United States took a different approach to recovery, boosting the economy with President Obama's stimulus plan in 2009 and putting itself on a better path for growth than Europe has experienced. But it too has since embraced austerity.

The second article pointed out how bad the current situation is in the U.S.

In fact, the reduction in growth of spending under Obama is unprecedented in the last half-century, and government spending under Obama is growing at the slowest rate since Dwight Eisenhower was president... This reduction in spending, however, is not necessarily a good thing. This chart, flagged by Brian Beutler, highlights how perilous rapid fiscal contraction can be. As Investor's Business Daily notes, "The federal budget deficit has never fallen as fast as it's falling now without a coincident recession."

Since he complained that voters are unintelligent, I figured it would be amusing to point out this study.

To quote the article, "For example, among the American sample, those who identify themselves as "very liberal" in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 106.4, whereas those who identify themselves as "very conservative" in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 94.8."

And just to dig the knife a little deeper, even though it's not directly related to the article, but since I knew my friend is a fan of Fox News, I included two more studies.

To quote the first article, "According to a new study by Farleigh Dickinson University, Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable audience of any outlet, and they know even less about politics and current events than people who watch no news at all." To quote the second article, "the report found, among other things, 'regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.' "

Finally, this statement from the article was just completely beyond the pale.

...the new immigrants to the US are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Really? How xenophobic can you get? Even the majority of illegal immigrants snuck into this country so that they could find jobs. Or is hard work no longer a traditional American value?

The article was pretty over the top, but I made it through the whole thing. Guys like this are part of the problem with American politics. Instead of accepting that Americans honestly judged the candidates for president and came to the conclusion that they thought Obama was a better choice (the lesser of two evils for many of us), they denigrate their fellow Americans, ignore the many problems with Romney, and invent nonsense reasons for why he lost.

Image Source: El Paso Inc.

As a side note, I just found this article in Haaretz, U.S. rabbi faces dissent for slamming Obama. Apparently, many members of Rabbi Pruzansky's congregation are none too happy with his views and this article.


This article is typical from a progressive liberal. Such people can not see any truth from someone who doesn't think as they do and take quotes from sources that are of the same mind set to bolster their point of view.

holava - Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. However, as I'm sure you expected, I don't agree with your take. I do try to see things from different points of view. I was actually much more right leaning in my younger days, and it was this open-minded and considering problems from other points of view that lead me to be more liberal. As far as sources, I included them to back up my arguments, showing that these weren't merely my opinions. Would you prefer I quoted sources I didn't agree with? Finally, it's not like Pruzansky's article even deserved the attention I gave it. It wasn't some well reasoned analysis of the election - it was an over the top screed that, frankly, should be embarrassing to other conservatives (just like Keith Olberman and Bill Maher often say things embarrassing to liberals). You don't have to defend someone just because they support the same politicians that you do.

Nice! I just got an email from a virtual friend (conservative) who sent about the Pruzanski rant. I wanted to see if there were any rebuttals and found your very nice blog.

You are too kind to Rabbi Pru. Really.

I also appreciate the links cited (as opposed to the simple rant by the good Rabbi). White conservatives are losing out and are bitter and a bit dangerous. Tea Party violence vs. Occupy sit-ins (or riots).

I hope we both live long enough to see a general progressive philosophy & economics take hold and flourish in the Europe and the USA. Selah!

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