This Land Was Made For You and Me.

A flash mob dances as cars pull into the Jim Thorpe Association & Sports Hall of Fame parking lot. The question remains: did those attending Mitt Romney's speech pay attention to these protestors? Photos by: Helen Grant

 

Early Friday morning several progressive political movements convened at the Oklahoma Democratic Headquarters in Oklahoma City as Mitt Romney spoke at a fund raising breakfast across the street in the Jim Thorpe Association & Sports Hall of Fame. The organizations present were Moveon.org, Change Oklahoma, Young Democrats, members of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and Occupy OKC.

Former House Representative of District 45 in Norman Wallace Collins said, “We are here today because we want to give the 99 percent a voice. And we certainly want to welcome Mitt Romney to Oklahoma and we want him to know Oklahoma is full of friendly people. And that we support Romney Care and we want it for the nation.”

Collins said Romney Care was the basis for the national health care initiative President Obama passed and when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he supported it, but now in his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination Romney is distancing himself from the plan.

 

Protestors from a variety of organizations wave signs that range from being the 99 percent to supporting Romney Care. Photo by: Helen Grant

 

Although there were many groups rallying, some demonstrators had more attention grabbing signs than others. Johnny Mansfield, who held a pitchfork, said he chose the farm tool because it is a traditional sign of protest. He said his choice was meant to be purely symbolic and not offensive.

 

“If you’ll notice I’ve got the plastic covers permanently glued on so no one gets hurt,” Mansfield said. His choice seems a stark contrast compared to Tea Party rallies held across the nation where protestors with permits brought their guns to demonstrate. Photo by: Helen Grant

 

Mansfield’s choice of pitchfork may be considered provoking, but does it detract from the overall message? Earlier OKC.net received a comment on our Facebook page that questioned if these demonstrations did anything to change opinions. After interviewing a handful of attendees at Romney’s public speech, it seems the answer is that no one’s opinion had been changed. Rather all those interviewed either chose to enter Jim Thorpe Association & Sports Hall of Fame to attend Romney’s speech through doors that by-passed the demonstrations altogether, or if they had driven by the demonstrators, they chose to ignore them.

But what do these demonstrations, be it the rally at the Oklahoma Democratic Headquarters or those who rally at Kerr Park with Occupy OKC, do if they can’t seem to change their oppositions’ mind?

Mansfield had this to share on protesting, “I think every act of protest has an effect. I think non-violent protest is the way to go. I believe it was Gandhi who said ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.’ If you look at the Occupy Wall Street protest you can see that’s exactly what happened. They were ignored for a week, for two more weeks they were ridiculed, and now the powers that be are taking notice of them and now they are trying to fight. They are fighting to keep control of the country and to keep most of the money.”

Mansfield listed statistics that have informed his position. He said the Census Bureau reported in 1973 that the median income of a male worker who worked 40 hours a week, once adjusted for inflation in 2010 dollars, earned $49,000 a year. The Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank that examines economic policies that effect low to medium income earners, reports that worker productivity has gone up 80 percent. He calculated, based on the figures, that he should be earning $95,000 a year for being 80 percent more productive. But Mansfield said the 2010 census figures find today’s male worker working 40 hours a week earns $47,000 a year.

“We haven’t gotten anything in over 30 years,” he said, “my question is where is my missing $50,000? If I am $50,000 more productive than I used to be, shouldn’t I get a piece of that? If you follow the money it has all gone to that top 1 percent.”

Coming back to the main point, Mansfield said protest is not about promoting civil unrest as much as it is about circumventing a situation like a wide scale rebellion by stirring national debate and drawing attention to the issues. But there were those who chose to ignore protestors.

Linda Wright, Keith Wright, and their granddaughter Molly Frazer attended Mitt Romney’s speech. Mrs. Wright was optimistic that her granddaughter get a chance to see the next president. Photo by: Helen Grant

 

OKC.net: “What did you think of Mitt Romney’s speech?”

Mrs. Wright: “I liked it very much. I thought he had a lot of good points, with the taxes and deregulation and carrying through with some promises. I was very pleased with it.”

OKC.net: “Did you see the protestors on your way in?”

Mrs. Wright: “We saw some out on the median.”

OKC.net: “Did you read any of their signs?”

Mrs. Wright: “No, I did not.”

OKC.net: “Is there any particular policy that you support?”

Mrs. Wright: “The policy on the regulations I find will help business a great deal and I think help the economy. That one in particular.”

OKC.net: “When the collapse of the financial system happened in 2008, did you experience any fall out?”

Mrs. Wright: “We’re retired so the only fallout that we’ve experienced is the stagnation of our income, because we are on a fixed income.”

 

When asked if she saw the demonstrators as she drove into the event, Morales said yes, but that she didn't bother to look at the signs. "They're in another world," she said. "There's not any reality to what they have to say." Photo By: Helen Grant

 

More interviews were conducted.  Sylvia Morales, who said she is one of a select few to have been awarded by  Freedom’s Foundation of Valley Forge a George Washington Medal of Honor for her volunteer work in the community this year, said she served as a former president of the Oklahoma City Republican Women’s Club, and now serves as the third vice-president of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women. Morales said she watched C-SPAN and Fox News and did not prefer local channels because of commentary on the issues. Rather, she attended the speech that morning to hear directly from Romney. When asked which policy she supported most, Morales said she agreed with Romney’s views on deregulation and wanted to see at least half of the regulations on businesses, especially those to do with the Environmental Protection Agency, deregulated.

“Abolish the EPA,” Morales said. “for people to think that industries aren’t doing the best for themselves just seems ridiculous to me. We have more forested land now because of the wood industry. And there are going to be rouge people, but we have laws now that take care of them. But for general purposes, each industry really does police themselves, like the gas and oil industry in our state. They know what’s best for their industry.”

This naturally lead to a question about the Occupy Wall Street movement because the banking institutions were not operating under regulations that would have prevented some of the high risk and not-at-all transparent business practices that ultimately ended in a huge bailout for these banks. In essence, the banking industry did not do a good job of policing itself.

Morales said most of the Occupy Wall Street protestors were, “snot-nosed kids who are supported by trust funds. They have not worked, similar to our President right now, have not held jobs in the industry and have not worked to earn a living, to support a family or themselves. And they are being mislead by the unions.”

 

David Jenkins did not see the protestors nor their signs about Mitt Romney's initial position on universal healthcare, but nevertheless Jenkins was willing to talk about "Romney Care." Photo by: Helen Grant

 

Clearly from one side of the street to the other there are disparate views. But the interviews did not stop with Morales. David Jenkins is a first year law student at the University of Oklahoma. Jenkins said of the Republican candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination that he supported Romney. And although he didn’t see the protestors, Jenkins said he was very familiar with Mitt Romney’s policies and where Romney stood on the issues being debated.

OKC.net: “The protestors on the other side of the street are upset with Romney’s change in position on universal health care, and have been shouting that they were in favor of ‘Romney Care.” What are thoughts on Romney’s new position as it stands now?”

Jenkins: “Well, Romney Care, if you look at it, is actually supported by the Heritage Foundation. And when it went through the Massachusetts legislature, as legislators often do, they changed things. So what came out of the Massachusetts legislature was not was what Romney had put into it.”

OKC.net: “How did those changes differ from his original position and in what way were they not a good compromise?”

Jenkins: “I don’t know all the amendments that the Massachusetts legislator filed, I just know that what went in was not what came out. As for Obama Care, the national healthcare reform that was passed, I do believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional.”

For those not familiar with the distinctions between “Obama Care” and “Romney Care” Factcheck.org, a non-partisan website, researched the differences between the national initiative and what Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.

“Both laws have an individual mandate, requiring persons to have insurance or pay a penalty; subsidies for low-income persons; an expansion of Medicaid; an exchange where individuals can buy insurance; and requirements for employers. But the national law puts a greater emphasis on small businesses by providing tax credits for those who want to offer insurance, and it includes many potential cost-control measures that Massachusetts lawmakers are only now tackling in separate legislation. Yes, those are largely experimental ideas, and as we’ve said before, it’s unclear whether the bundled payments and pilot projects President Obama touts will have a big impact on costs. But the national law included many steps aimed at decreasing the growth in health spending, while the law Romney signed purposefully did not.”

Coming back to the protestors, does the symbolic use of a pitchfork, flash mobs and chants change views?

It seems like they do not.

But here is the simple truth: these are the people who were willing to get up very early on Friday morning and exercise their political rights as voting American citizens. Whether they are well-informed or not, they believe strongly enough in our democratic process to show up and either symbolically pay the $20.12 to Mitt Romney’s political campaign or gather in front the Oklahoma Democratic Headquarters in the cold pre-dawn hours to wave a pitchfork in the air demanding change and political accountability.

Yet between these diametrically opposed view points, can we as a nation ever expect any meaningful compromise that will bridge widening gaps in political ideology or will the divide continue to grow as politicians use sound-bite friendly rhetoric and other political tactics, like negative ad campaigns, to further polarize the issues we face as a state and as a nation? For now the outcome is uncertain, but in the wake of protests and rhetoric, maybe it would be good to every now and then listen to an old Woody Guthrie song and meditate on the lost art of compromise.

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

 

 

3 Comments
  1. You act like the Occupy movement is just the same as the Democrats, it’s clearly not. We don’t like the gridlock either. We are united in our desire to take the big $$ out of politics so that Government is more accountable and responsive to the voices of ordinary citizens rather than the wealthy elite, big banks, and big corporate interests. Romney fights for them, Occupy fights for everyone else. Get it?

  2. Factcheck, like Wikipedia, is often a great place to start for conducting legal and legislative research, but it is not a great place to end your research. The fact checkers are not infallible, and their analysis is not always thorough. The article you reference on Factcheck.org is not completely accurate.

    The statement I made that Obama Care contained an individual mandate while Romney Care did not was correct at the time Romney Care became law and while Governor Romney was in office. A careful search of Massachusetts statutes and legislative history of the health care reform act proves this.

    The Massachusetts health care reform as passed in H.B. 4479, 2006 Mass. Legis. Serv. ch. 58 (H.B. 4479) (WEST), that Governor Romney created in collaboration with many different organizations across the political spectrum, including business groups and labor unions, passed the Massachusetts legislature and was signed into law by Governor Romney in 2006. The applicable part of the law read:

    As of July 1, 2007 . . . individuals age 18 and over shall obtain and maintain creditable [health insurance] coverage . . . . Every person who files an individual return as a resident of the commonwealth . . . shall indicate on the return . . .whether such person. . . (i) had creditable [health insurance] coverage in force as required under paragraph (a) whether covered as an individual or as a named beneficiary of a [health insurance] policy covering multiple individuals . . . . If the person does not so indicate, or indicates that he did not have such coverage in force, then the [income] tax shall be computed on the return without benefit of the personal exemption set forth in paragraph (b) of Part B of section 3 of chapter 62, or, in the case of a person who files jointly with a spouse, without benefit of one-half of the personal exemption set forth in such paragraph. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 111M 2(a)(b) (West 2011)

    If a resident of Massachusetts did not purchase health insurance, that person would not receive the personal exemption tax credit of personal exemptions $3,300 for a single individual, half of the exemption of $5,100 for married filing separately, and half of the exemption of $6,800 for married filing jointly. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 62, 3(B)(b)(1)(A), (1A)(A), (2)(A) (West 2011). Although this may seem like a penalty, it is only a reduction of a subsidy. This is distinctly different from the tax penalty imposed by Obama Care.

    Governor Romney left office in January of 2007. State of Massachusetts, Willard Mitt Romney, Governors of Massachusetts (October 27, 2011, 9:57 PM), http://www.mass.gov/portal/government-taxes/laws/interactive-state house/historical/governors-of-massachusetts/commonwealth-of-massachusetts-1950-present/willard-mitt-romney-born-1947.html. During the 2007 legislative session, the health care law was amended by changing the tax incentive into a tax penalty. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 111M 2(b) (West 2011) (amended by 2007 Mass. Legis. Serv. Ch. 228 (H.B. 4447) (WEST)). This law took effect on January 1, 2008. Id. This amendment is what makes Romney Care like Obama Care, but as I pointed out, Governor Romney did not advocate for this change, and it happened after he left office.

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