I’m about to make two of the most obvious statements you will read today: Before there were laws, there were no laws. Before things became illegal, they were legal. So common sense, they’re stupid, right? Well, not so much to the people defending Mitt Romney, his tax structure and Bain Capital “vulture capitalism.” This morning on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked about the criticism of Republican’s (presumably Romney’s) finances. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had this to say:
“We need to defend the morality of the free enterprise system and upward mobility. We need to defend the morality of a system in American that says you are free to take risks, to make money, to create jobs and to do it however you want to so long as it’s legal. That’s something we should be proud of.”
Here’s the video:
This is an argument I hear often. “Romney’s not breaking any laws, so shut up,” or something like that. With what I know now, I can’t argue that Romney has broken the law, but that’s not the point. The very fact that Romney’s not breaking any laws is precisely the point. Romney, whether or not he becomes President, is in the economic bracket that makes the laws. Thanks to our Supreme Court, with some help from Congress, money is speech, ergo, he who has the most money has the loudest voice. The Romneys of the world can hire lobbyists. You and I cannot. The Romneys of the world can donate vast amounts of money to political campaigns. You and I cannot. The Romneys of the world can hire people to literally write bills and donate to the Congressmembers who will sponsor them. You and I cannot.
Morality is not determined by legality. Legality is determined by morality and justice (yes, we do legislate morality…all the time). As American citizens, it is our job to question the laws that are currently in place and not blindly accept that because something is currently not illegal, it is good. The flip side of that coin is that it is our job to pressure lawmakers to take laws off that books that are unjust, for example, many of the drug laws.
Paul Ryan is a lawmaker. It is his job to try to correct injustices. The fact that Mitt Romney pays less than 14% in taxes is legal, but it is unjust. The fact that Bain Capital killed off thousands of jobs to appease a few shareholders is legal, but it is unjust. To sit back and shrug his shoulders and say, “It’s moral cause it’s legal,” is both a copout and proof that Ryan is not doing the job that the taxpayers pay him to do.