Now he’s an “independent” running for general treasurer. But he began the 2014 campaign season as a Democrat running for governor. He was the first to announce, way back in November 2012 right after the last election. He soon realized that there was no way he would win the nomination for governor against Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras (and later Clay Pell). So he switched to running for the Democratic nomination for general treasurer. But then he pulled the plug on that, too, when he realized he couldn’t beat Seth Magaziner and Frank Caprio.
That’s when he decided instead to go the independent route, though with the informal endorsement from the RI Republican Party.
But Almonte’s biggest problem and the cause of his vacillations is that he can’t keep his own story straight.
He claimed to be a Democrat, but he has repeatedly mouthed Republican positions such as mimicking Mitt Romney’s attack on the “47% of the public” whom Romney – and Almonte – consider to be deadbeats. He attacked Social Security and Medicare and even giving any consideration at all to raising taxes on the rich. It’s all on videotape that is linked here and here.
Almonte’s TV ads tout his credentials as an auditor, which I found to be pretty bold, given that Almonte – as Rhode Island’s Auditor General – failed to sound the alarm about our impending public pension crisis. The first warning from the Auditor General’s office about our pension problems came in the first audit report issued after Almonte resigned. We count on auditors to find problems like the one our pension funds faced, but Almonte blew it but now wants to claim credit for his experience as auditor.
At a recorded forum about a month ago, Almonte appeared on stage with his opponent Democrat Seth Magaziner. Seth very kindly gave Almonte an opportunity to recant, or at least revise, the remarks Almonte had made against the American middle-class, Medicare, Social Security and public pensions.
At first, it seemed as if Almonte was going to recant, saying that the remarks were actually written for him by the US Comptroller General who asked Ernie to take his place at a workshop and deliver the remarks. In an earlier meeting with the political action committee of one of the state’s labor unions, Almonte said that he was paid to make the remarks, as if that made it better.
In today’s video, you can see Almonte explain where the statement came from and see him say to Magaziner that he felt he couldn’t turn down the Comptroller General. Seth’s very droll answer was “I would have said NO.”
Rather than cut his losses, Almonte decided to ditch his good old boy persona to try to take Seth Magaziner to the wood shed. Almonte began lecturing him as if Seth was a school boy – “Listen to what I’m saying so you don’t get it wrong.” And Seth played right along, feeding him straight lines.
Almonte blew it again. He took the position that he doesn’t trust the government to invest people’s money, despite 80 years of successful administration. Seth said that Almonte’s attacks on Social Security were unwarranted, an “over-reaction,” and that “minor tweaks” (such as raising the current cap on the level of income is subject to Social Security – set too low and placing the burden on low-wage workers).
Almonte said that yes, “minor tweaks” could work – such as raising the retirement age. But fundamentally, he does not trust the government, even though he is running for a place in it. He calls this a “courageous conversations.”
Even though Almonte tried to gloss over his earlier remarks, he just couldn’t help himself but take a full header into the swamp. As much as he tried to pass the blame for the anti-Social Security remarks onto the Comptroller General, he ended up embracing privatizing Social Security. Period.
“I don’t trust the government to make the decisions.” Instead, he offered his “vision” of using a “financial literacy program” to teach the elderly how to cope with a new private system where they have to invest the money themselves “so people don’t have to rely on the government.” If that’s not a full-throated call for privatized Social Security, I don’t know what is.
Here’s the new video (you can also click here to see it):
Was Almonte asleep during 2008 – 2009 when those private retirement accounts – 401(k)s and IRAs – crashed and, in many cases, ended up being used to cover mortgage payments?
Actually, Almonte was asleep, because if you look at the reports he issued for the state’s pension funds for those two years (his last before he resigned to run for state office), you’ll see nary a hint of alarm. Click here and here to see what I’m talking about.
But worse than that, it was Almonte’s job in the years leading up to the market crash and Rhode Island’s subsequent pension crisis to point out that the state was failing to make the promised deposits into state workers’ pension funds even though those state workers consistently paid their fair share.
Where was RI Auditor General Almonte while all this happening? Well, then he was part of the government apparatus that he now doesn’t trust. With his record, and his recorded radical views on pensions, Social Security and the middle-class, he wants us to trust him to be General Treasurer?