Two recent studies, both rather troubling on their own, are even more disturbing when the relationship between the two is considered.
The first is a study by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) that shows tax avoidance at the state level. The CTJ study, which evaluated 265 large companies, determined that an average of 3% was paid in state taxes, less than half the average state tax rate of 6.2%. The ten states with 10 or more companies in the study all collected between 2.5% and 3.55%: Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, California, North Carolina, and New York.
CTJ notes that “these 265 companies avoided a total of $42.7 billion in state corporate income taxes over the three years.” That’s about $14 billion per year.
The second study, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), reports that “Elementary and high schools are receiving less state funding than last year in at least 37 states, and in at least 30 states school funding now stands below 2008 levels – often far below.”
Combining CBPP figures with enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that total K-12 education cuts for fiscal 2012 are about $12.7 billion.
Corporate state tax avoidance is about $14 billion for one year.
State education cuts amount to about $12.7 billion for one year.
The connection becomes clearer with a look at the details. The figures for all 20 states represented by four or more companies in the CTJ tax avoidance study are listed at PayUpNow.org. A comparison with the CBPP study on education cuts shows that 19 of these 20 states cut education funding in Fiscal 2012. The nine states that increased educational funding were largely absent from the CTJ study, with a total of only 15 (out of 265) tax avoiding companies.
In general, the states with significant tax-avoiding corporations tended to make sizable cuts in education.
It might be argued that no direct connection exists between corporate state tax shortfalls and school cuts, or that the unpayed tax money might have been earmarked for other expenditures.
But the amounts of corporate savings and student loss are distressingly similar. Big companies refuse to meet their tax obligations, and our children end up paying through cuts to their educations.
The Raw Story:
The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it had paid $76.9 billion to theUS Treasury from its estimated 2011 earnings, mainly income from interest collected on a range of securities.
The amount was only three percent below the 2010 record payment of $79.3 billion, and reflected the extraordinary actions the Fed has taken to prop up the economy after the 2008 financial crisis.
Most of the 2011 earnings came from $83.6 billion in interest income on government-linked securities, such as US Treasury securities, the central bank said in a statement.
The bank’s balance sheet has ballooned since the Fed launched massive asset purchases to support growth following the 2008financial crisis that led to the worst recession in decades.
The Fed has acquired $2.3 trillion in securities since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008, trying to lower long-term interest rates and support the distressed housing sector.
Under Fed policy, the 12 regional banks in the federal reserve system pay the US Treasury their net income after certain costs are deducted, including for operations and dividend payments.
At the end of the US government’s 2011 fiscal year on September 30, the federal budget deficit stood at $1.3 trillion, about 8.7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic output.
The Fed said the $76.9 billion number was preliminary and based on unaudited results. Final results were to be published in the central bank’s full-year audit, usually released in March.
Mitt Romney may have only created 10,000 jobs while at Bain Capital, but the Obama auto industry bailout that Romney opposed has created 170,000 jobs since 2009.
According to the White House,
Today, the American auto industry is coming back, creating jobs and moving cars off the line. Last month, the automotive industry added nearly 11,000 positions, bringing the total number of jobs added in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 36,000. The industry added 100,000 jobs over the course of 2011.
Since Chrysler and GM emerged from bankruptcy in June of 2009, the auto industry has added back more than 170,000 jobs, the best period of job growth in more than a decade. While there’s more work to be done, it’s clear the auto industry is moving in the right direction.
In December, we saw auto sales climb for the seventh consecutive month. The Big Three — Ford, GM and Chrysler — all saw sale increases for December, and the year as a whole.
Back in 2009 Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that predicted a bailout would kill the auto industry, “IfGeneral Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.”
Romney continued to defend his opposition to saving the auto industry as recently as November of 2011, but even fellow Republican, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder believes that the auto industry bailout worked.
Three days ago, Mitt Romney again claimed that he created 100,000 jobs while at Bain, “In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.” When The Washington Post fact checked Romney’s claim they found that when he ran for Senate in 1994, he stated that he created 10,000 jobs while at Bain. In almost 18 years, Mitt Romney job creation claims have miraculously grown tenfold.
The reality is that the real number of jobs created by Romney is likely 10,000. This means that the auto bailout, which the candidate who claims that he can fix the economy opposed, has created ten times more jobs than Mitt Romney ever did in the private sector. It isn’t about how many jobs Romney created while at Bain. The point is that Mitt Romney was, and continues to be, wrong about the auto bailout.
The auto bailout worked. It not only saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it has created 170,000 new ones. If Mitt Romney was in charge of the economy, those jobs wouldn’t exist. Romney wanted the auto companies to go through bankruptcy so that the auto unions could be busted, which underscores Mitt Romney’s approach to the economy.
Romney is about creating jobs. He only thinks in terms of increasing profits for the one percent. His economic perspective is based on creating wealth for those at the top. Mitt Romney may be trying to sell himself as a job creator, but only Barack Obama was brave enough to take the risk that saved the auto industry.
Obama is a job creator, and Mitt Romney will always be a job cremator.
The enrichment of bankers, corporate chiefs, flash traders and their cronies is testing tolerance of inequality, arguesJohn Plender in the first part of an FT series.
Greedy bankers, overpaid executives, anaemic growth, stubbornly high unemployment – these are just a few of the things that have lately driven protesters on to the streets and caused the wider public in the developed world to become disgruntled about capitalism. The system, in all its different varieties, is widely perceived to be failing to deliver.
Business in the leading English-speaking countries attracts misgivings. Fewer than half of the American and British people sampled in the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer have faith in business to do what is right. The survey rates the US and the UK only marginally ahead of Russia on this score. So there is talk of a crisis of legitimacy and an erosion of business’s “licence to operate”.
This article, the first in a series on rethinking capitalism after the financial crisis that began in 2007, argues that popular acceptance – which is a basic condition for business success – has waned in the Anglosphere for good reason. At the heart of the problem is widening inequality. In a recent study, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the club of developed nations, declared that the wealthiest Americans “have collected the bulk of the past three decades’ income gains”. Much the same is true of the UK. In both cases, most of the spoils have gone to finance professionals and top executives.
As Stewart Lansley, author of a recent book on inequality*, puts it, the modern economy appears to consist of two tracks: a fast one for the super-rich and a stalled one for everyone else. Those in the slow lane enjoyed rising living standards before 2007, despite stagnant real incomes, thanks to increased borrowing on the security of their homes. Since the crisis, however, American and British homeowners have faced a long and deep squeeze on real living standards, while struggling to service an unprecedented level of indebtedness. At the same time, says Mr Lansley, finance has come to play a new role as “a cash cow for a global super-rich elite”.
In continental Europe, the increase in inequality is less pronounced and the legitimacy problem has more to do with the way imbalances in the eurozone are being addressed. Northern Europeans resent a monetary union that has permitted southern Europe to engage in what they see as fiscally profligate behaviour, while southern Europeans and the Irish are required to submit to extreme austerity programmes that exacerbate their sovereign debt problems.
As the German-led policy elite inches towards “more Europe” as a solution to the fissures in the eurozone, it is far from clear that more Europe is what the citizens of Europe want. Democratic legitimacy has been largely lacking from the outset of this gigantic monetary experiment. On both sides of the Atlantic there is now a risk that reasonable aspirations to equality of opportunity are being undermined, accompanied by a growing threat of political instability. Support for open trade and free markets is also being adversely affected.
Misery and money motive
The problem of consent in relation to capitalism is nothing new. In fact, it returns with nagging frequency. In the early years of the industrial revolution, average per capita incomes were slow to rise and the contrast between the plight of the working population and the lifestyle of rich manufacturers prompted savage diatribes such as that of Charles Dickens in Hard Times. Even when living standards did rise, David Ricardo and Karl Marx worried whether the free markets trumpeted by Adam Smith could produce an income distribution that was politically tolerable.
By the late 19th century the debate turned more heavily on the moral question posed by the unedifying behaviour of the American robber barons at a time of spectacular economic growth. The centrality of the money motive in wealth creation appeared to detract from capitalism’s legitimacy unless there was an implicit social contract between the rich and the rest of society, whereby the wealthy tempered ostentation and engaged in philanthropy.
Then, in the unstable 1920s and the Depression of the 1930s, the efficacy as well as the moral basis of capitalism was once again called into question. While F. Scott Fitzgerald chronicled the moral vacuity of jazz age capitalism in The Great Gatsby, John Maynard Keynes, who provided a theoretical basis for the mixed economy and a more humane form of capitalism, was notably acerbic on what he called “individualist capitalism” and the money motive. Such questioning was sharpened by the existence for the first time of a seemingly successful alternative to capitalism in the Soviet Union; also of competing models, such as the corporatist approaches developed in Germany and Italy.
What, then, is different about today’s outbreak of disaffection? Perhaps the most important difference is that it is not the product of despair. The people in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London had no need of soup kitchens and took to their tents out of choice, unlike many in the 1930s US who slept in cardboard box colonies – Hoovervilles – out of necessity.
If there is no proliferation of soup queues, it is because in all the economies of the developed world capitalism has been humanised to a greater or lesser degree by forms of social democracy and by bank bail-outs. Unemployment in the US has gone nowhere near the 25 per cent rate that prevailed in 1933. While there are exceptionally high rates of youth unemployment, especially in southern Europe, there is more of a safety net for the victims than in the Depression. And if today’s protesters articulate no coherent programme, it seems clear that underlying frustrations are to do with perceptions of unfairness, not immiseration.
Much of that frustration relates to the banks. In contrast to the 1930s, when banking was about deposit-taking and lending, modern bankers engage in complex trading that they themselves do not always understand and whose social utility is not apparent to ordinary mortals – or even to the likes of Lord Turner, head of the UK Financial Services Authority, who famously declared that many parts of the banking business had “grown beyond a socially reasonable size”. Many have shown a disregard for their customers, while fiduciary obligation has become a casualty of deregulation and the shareholder value revolution. There is a widespread conviction that these bankers constitute a protected class who enjoy bonuses regardless of performance, while relying on the taxpayer to socialise their losses when they have taken excessive risks. At the same time, the public is aware that top executive rewards more generally are poorly related to performance and tend to go up even when profits fall.
Human capital or ‘hand’
Such resentment is not completely new. It bears some resemblance to the hostility towards profiteers after the first world war, which prompted Keynes to remark: “To convert the business man into the profiteer is to strike a blow at capitalism, because it destroys the psychological equilibrium which permits the perpetuance of unequal rewards. The businessman is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.”** On that basis, no one can be surprised that the legitimacy of capitalism is currently in question. And it would be wrong to call it a “winner takes all” form of capitalism, because privileged losers appear to be making off with the prizes too.
What is unquestionably novel is the ferocity with which US business sheds labour now that executive pay and incentive schemes are more closely linked to short-term performance targets. In effect, the American worker has gone from being regarded as human capital to a mere cost, or what was known in the 19th century as a “hand”. Yet this pursuit of a narrowly financial conception of shareholder value may destroy value for the ultimate pension beneficiaries – because of the disruption that slashing and burning causes, and the cost and time involved in hiring and retraining when conditions improve.
That underlines the “agency problem” at the heart of the banking and boardroom pay sagas. The accountability of management – the agent acting on behalf of the highly dispersed beneficiaries of equity ownership – is fundamentally flawed. While the public may not be aware of the details of the weak chain of accountability, or the growing number of investors such as high-frequency traders or hedge funds that have no interest in playing a stewardship role, it sees the outcome, which contributes to the wider inequality story.
So what to do? It is not as if there are attractive alternative models. While the west is chastened by the rise of Asia, few would wish to adopt the communist Chinese mixture of state ownership, red-in-tooth-and-claw private markets, wholesale corruption and even greater inequality than the US. As for the cleaner authoritarian approach of Singapore, despite delivering high economic growth, it has started to lose its appeal with the island’s electorate. Nor would many in the west find free-market Hong Kong a comfortable environment.
The real question, as Keynes argued in the 1930s, is therefore how to improve the existing model of capitalism. The snag is that there is minimal flexibility in macro policy after the crisis, especially in the US where broadly centrist politics have been replaced by a polarised, stalemated debate. And in both the US and UK there is a greater mistrust of big government, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, than of business. Efforts to re-regulate the banking system, meantime, have failed to convince many experts that an even larger financial crisis can be avoided.
From distribution to decline
If Hyman Minsky, the expert on financial market fragility, provided the best route map for understanding events before the crisis, and Keynes offered the best guide to crisis management, Mancur Olson, a theorist on institutional economics, could now be a posthumous beacon on how to manage the aftermath. Olson argued that nations decline because of the lobbying power of distributional coalitions, or special-interest groups, whose growing influence fosters economic inefficiency and inequality.***
When he was writing, the main interest groups were trade unions and business cartels. Today, the pre-eminent interest group consists of finance professionals on Wall Street and in London. Through campaign finance and political donations, they have bought themselves protection from proper societal accountability. And they pose a continuing obstacle to the de-risking of banking of the kind recommended by the Vickers commission in the UK.
Tackling such interest groups both in the US and Europe is one of the biggest post-crisis tasks for policymakers and a key to addressing concerns about systemic legitimacy. The inchoate nature of the public’s complaints is another. Not the least of the difficulties, to reformulate Winston Churchill’s famous remark on democracy, is that capitalism is the worst form of economic management except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. The public relations problem implicit in that pale endorsement is an underlying reason why legitimacy crises recur.
The Crisis of Capitalism with Professor Richard Wolff in conversation with Robert Ovetz Ph.D.
Smoking a joint once a week or a bit more apparently doesn’t harm the lungs, suggests a 20-year study that bolsters evidence that marijuana doesn’t do the kind of damage tobacco does.
The results, from one of the largest and longest studies on the health effects of marijuana, are hazier for heavy users – those who smoke two or more joints daily for several years. The data suggest that using marijuana that often might cause a decline in lung function, but there weren’t enough heavy users among the 5,000 young adults in the study to draw firm conclusions.
Still, the authors recommended “caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”
Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law although some states allow its use for medical purposes.
The study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham was released Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The findings echo results in some smaller studies that showed while marijuana contains some of the same toxic chemicals as tobacco, it does not carry the same risks for lung disease.
It’s not clear why that is so, but it’s possible that the main active ingredient in marijuana, a chemical known as THC, makes the difference. THC causes the “high” that users feel. It also helps fight inflammation and may counteract the effects of more irritating chemicals in the drug, said Dr. Donald Tashkin, a marijuana researcher and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tashkin was not involved in the new study.
Study co-author Dr. Stefan Kertesz said there are other aspects of marijuana that may help explain the results.
Unlike cigarette smokers, marijuana users tend to breathe in deeply when they inhale a joint, which some researchers think mightstrengthen lung tissue. But the common lung function tests used in the study require the same kind of deep breathing that marijuana smokers are used to, so their good test results might partly reflect lots of practice, said Kertesz, a drug abuse researcher and preventive medicine specialist at the Alabama university.
The study authors analyzed data from participants in a 20-year federally funded health study in young adults that began in 1985. Their analysis was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The study randomly enrolled 5,115 men and women aged 18 through 30 in four cities: Birmingham, Chicago, Oakland, Calif., and Minneapolis. Roughly equal numbers of blacks and whites took part, but no other minorities. Participants were periodically asked about recent marijuana or cigarette use and had several lung function tests during the study.
Overall, about 37 percent reported at least occasional marijuana use, and most users also reported having smoked cigarettes; 17 percent of participants said they’d smoked cigarettes but not marijuana. Those results are similar to national estimates.
On average, cigarette users smoked about 9 cigarettes daily, while average marijuana use was only a joint or two a few times a month – typical for U.S. marijuana users, Kertesz said.
The authors calculated the effects of tobacco and marijuana separately, both in people who used only one or the other, and in people who used both. They also considered other factors that could influence lung function, including air pollution in cities studied.
The analyses showed pot didn’t appear to harm lung function, but cigarettes did. Cigarette smokers’ test scores worsened steadily during the study. Smoking marijuana as often as one joint daily for seven years, or one joint weekly for 20 years was not linked with worse scores. Very few study participants smoked more often than that.
Like cigarette smokers, marijuana users can develop throat irritation and coughs, but the study didn’t focus on those. It also didn’t examine lung cancer, but other studies haven’t found any definitive link between marijuana use and cancer.
It’s been nearly two years since the passage of President Obama’s health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and the right-wing media’s apocalyptic predictions (“the end of America as you know it”) have still failed to be realized. In response, the brunt of most attacks have focused on minor issues, such as the temporary waivers that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have issued to employers who have found the pace of the transition too rapid.
The newest line of attacks on the waivers came after HHS issued a series of reports on PPACA implementation last Friday. The conservative website The Daily Caller reacted to the document release last Friday, alleging that “[l]abor unions [were the] primary recipients of Obamacare waivers.” From The Daily Caller:
Labor unions continued to receive the overwhelming majority of waivers from the president’s health care reform law since the Obama administration tightened application rules last summer.
Documents released in a classic Friday afternoon news dump show that labor unions representing 543,812 workers received waivers from President Barack Obama’s signature legislation since June 17, 2011.
By contrast, private employers with a total of 69,813 employees, many of whom work for small businesses, were granted waivers.
But even a cursory look at the documents released by HHS tells a different story. The waivers, which temporarily excuse a health care plan from following regulations that remove annual limits on benefits, were issued to about 1,200 plans as of January 6, 2012. Those are broken down into self-insured employers, which are largely private businesses, multi-employer plans and non-Taft Hartley Union plans, both of which are offered by labor unions, and a few others. The update by HHS shows that of the 1,200 plans currently approved for waivers, more than 60 percent (772) are self-insured employers, while 451 went to labor unions. The number of employees granted waivers does favor labor unions, but only because those plans simply cover far more people than any specific private business plan that has sought a waiver. It’s not that labor unions are favored, simply that plans representing more insured individuals have applied.
Where the allegations of “sweetheart deals” and “crony capitalism” really fall apart, however, is in the list of denied applications. While Varney claims that “mostly private enterprise companies” were denied applications, the list of denials shows that only 20 of the 96 ultimately denied plans represented private business; the majority of rejected plans were actually from labor unions. In fact, of the 1,019,810 enrollees in plans that were denied and were not subsequently approved, fewer than 11,000 were enrolled in self-insured employer plans.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight on Tuesday. It now reads 11:55 p.m.
Two years ago, when it appeared that world leaders might actually address the global threats around us, the BAS ratcheted the clock backward by a minute, to 11:54pm.
Now that petite burst of optimism has dissolved.
It’s mostly about the global failure deal with climate change.
Specifically, according to the BAS:
We’re near the point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophic atmospheric changes
- Unless we build alternative technologies in the next five years, we’re doomed to a warmer climate, harsher weather, droughts, famine, water scarcity, rising sea levels, loss of island nations, and increasing ocean acidification
- Fossil-fuel burning power plants and infrastructure built in 2012-2020 will produce energy and emissions for 40 to 50 years
- Russia, China, India, and South Korea will likely continue to construct nuclear power plants, enrich fuel, and shape the global nuclear power industry
- Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and others, are still intent on acquiring civilian nuclear reactors for electricity despite the Fukushima disaster
Better news on this front:
- Solar and photovoltaic technologies are getting cheaper
- Wind turbines are being adopted commercially
- Energy conservation and efficiency are becoming accepted as sources for industrial production and residential use
- Many of these developments are taking place at municipal and local levels:
The BAS scientists note:
As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity’s survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, without exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons.
Other issues worrying the BAS include nuclear disarmament:
- The path toward a world free of nuclear weapons is not clear and leadership is failing
- It’s still possible for radical groups to acquire and use highly enriched uranium and plutonium to wreak havoc in nuclear attacks
- Disagreements between the US and Russia about missile defense, and insufficient cooperation among the nine nuclear weapons states is creating distrust that is leading nearly all nuclear weapons states to hedge their bets by modernizing their nuclear arsenals
- Ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear power program continues to be the most prominent problem
- The potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and particularly in South Asia is alarming, and ongoing efforts to ease tensions, deal with extremism and terrorist acts, and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international relations have had only halting success
And the BAS is also concerned about nuclear energy:
- The Fukushima disaster raised significant questions needing to be addressed
- Safer nuclear reactor designs need to be developed and built, and more stringent oversight, training, and attention are needed to prevent future disasters
- A major question: How can complex systems like nuclear power stations be made less susceptible to accidents and errors in judgment?
Philadelphia City Paper:
Amtrak Police arrested threeOccupy Philly protesters at 30thStreet Station this afternoon who were handing out leaflets in opposition to a new Pennsylvania anti-abortion law.
“It was just people handing out flyers,” says organizer Amanda Geraci. “There was no blocking people getting to their trains, there was no civil disobedience. It was just handing out paper.”
Amtrak Police approached the protesters at 12:15pm, according to Occupy, two to three minutes after they began a “mic check.” Amtrak Police allegedly gave no order to disperse before making arrests.
“We walked into 30th Street Station in a group and we started to mic check in reference Senate Bill 732, which is an anti-abortion bill,” says Aine, an arrested protester. “The Amtrak Police just pinned us in in a circle and didn’t tell me anything. I turned around to walk away, and one of the cops grabbed me by the arm and told me I was under arrest.”
The three activists, amongst twenty leafleting at 30th Street Station, were detained for 45 minutes and released with citations charging them with obstructing a highway, defiant trespassing and disorderly conduct. Amtrak Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment from City Paper.
The two other arrested protesters say that police assaulted them.
“The cop grabbed me and slammed me on my shoulder blade and stomped on my shoulder blade and elbow,”John Phillips. “The officer was like, ‘I told you you didn’t want to get arrested.’”
“In the middle of the mic check,” says Lex, “they grabbed me put cuffs on my wrists, and shoved a baton into my back.”
Occupy Philly isn’t backing down. They will be handing out more flyers against Senate Bill 732 today at 4:30pm. Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed the legislation, which would require abortion clinics to make extremely costly renovations to stay in business, in December.
Speech from the 2nd place finisher in New Hampshire—2008
The Reid Report:
As expected, Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary, making him the first Republican presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since New Hampshire became the first in the nation primary in 1976. That’s the good news for Mitt. Now, the rest of the story…
1. No surprises, no thrills. Romney appears to be headed for a good win, but by no means a great one. He’s still under 40 percent of this posting — the same level John McCain got in New Hampshire in 2008 and about 6 percentage points better than Romney did back then — and even if he hits that magic number, he does so in a state he was always supposed to win (he was the governor next door.) Had Romney rocked the house, say, with 50 percent or better, he’d look like a stronger likely nominee tonight. As It stands, the turnout doesn’t look like its going to be overwhelming, and Romney is probably very happy to be above 25 percent (even if it is in the least conservative primary he’s going to face in the early going.)
South Carolina is going to be the last stand for movement conservatives, but it’s not clear that they have the discipline to put aside their differences and combine into the kind of collective force that can stop Mitt from at least squeaking through in South Carlina. By the way, the likelihood is growing every day — particularly if conservatives are let down again in Carolina — that Romney will feel compelled to name what Chris Matthews would call a “red hot” — think Sarah Palin 2008. — to be his base mollifying running mate. Fear the future.
2. Mitt’s 99 percent coalition. So far, exit polls show Romney’s voters were the elderly, independents (who made up 47 percent of primary voters – nearly matching the 49 percent registered Republicans)… people whose main concern is the economy, tea partiers (read: elderly) and rich people. Not exactly the working class white voters the GOP has become increasingly dependent on, but hey, that’s New Hampshire. However, Romney’s shtick about “envying success”may not go down as well as he thinks among people outside his relatively well off core supporters. A lot of blue collar white folks have felt burned by crony capitalist slicksters, too. Not saying they’d vote for Barack Obama, but Romney is going to need a better answer for the House of Bain revelations than President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial, and so do my opponents.
3. Newt and Perry may have miscalculated. Hitting Romney on his corporate raiding at Bain may have made great TV, and the Obama campaign team surely enjoyed it (plus as I said, there are basers who believe the crony capitalists are just as much to blame as The Obama for their woes…) but as a way to win over movement conservatives, the strategy of calling Romney’s venture capital firm a bunch of vultures and corporate raiders could prove to be a mistake, and could wind up being unhelpful to the Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich campaigns. Sure, regular Joes will relate to the message and it could sour them on Mitt, but the attacks failed to stop Mitt in New Hampshire — even with tea partiers — didn’t help Newt at all (nor did the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, and that’s gotta smart…) and may have alienated Newt and Perry from conservative opinion leaders otherwise in a position to bolster either candidate for the next big contest to come, in South Carolina. Seeming to be “against capitalism” is no way to make friends with RushLimbaugh and Fox News. All these attacks are doing are giving the talk radio gadfly crowd and excuse to flip flop into Willard’s arms.
4. Jon Huntsman is done. This has always been true, but it can’t be said enough. Now that Hunts got beaten in the one state he really campaigned in … By Ron Paul, maybe my media friends will stop dreaming that dream and let Captain Beefheart go.
5. The only real anti-Romney candidate is Ron Paul. As loopy as Paul can sound — especially during his “victory” speaches … jeesh, just the nervous, “put me on my meds” laugh alone … and despite his obvious, serious, and downright creepy flaws (helloooo, Woolworth’s lunch counter!…) he remains the only Republican presidential candidate with a significant constituency that’s distinct from Romney’s. Mitt beat two Catholic candidates — Gingrich and Santorum – among New Hampshire Catholics; he won tea partiers and indies, and he’s still got those old folks and rich people. The other candidates simply don’t have enough of any of those groups to pose a real threat at this point. The one who might have: Perry, is looking like dust in the wind. BTW, there’s a third party opportunity for Paul in November if he wants it. Now the only question is, does he want it, or would he rather try to influence the platform and pave the way for Rand.
Newt Gingrich “is out with his first ad attacking Mitt Romney in South Carolina, and it’s a doozy — targeting the former Massachusettsgovernor’s record on abortion rights,” the Washington Post reports.
“The former House speaker has repeatedly denounced negative ads, but in recent days he has declared his intention to draw ‘contrast’ with Romney. Whatever Gingrich wants to call it, this is a negative ad.”
Here’s the video:
[…] Romney’s reward for all of this: 11 days of political hell, starting first thing tomorrow morning and lasting until the polls close in South Carolina two Saturdays from now. The Palmetto State’s primary is the test that the former Massachusetts governor’s nomination ambitions have been building toward for years.
On paper, the state embodies all of the demographic realities and intraparty dynamics that have made him such a tough sell to the party base. If Romney’s Mormonism really is a deal-breaker with the religious right, we will find out. About 60 percent of the state’s GOP primary universe is composed of evangelical Christians, a group that Romney has struggled with in both of his presidential campaigns. The state is also the unofficial capital of Tea Party Republicanism, with its emphasis on ideological purity and intense suspicion of the party establishment. Romney, with his economically moderate past and reputation as the “next in line” guy, reeks of the type of Republican South Carolina conservatives turned on in 2010. His Yankee roots surely don’t help, either. No wonder Romney won just 15 percent in the state in 2008 — by far his worst showing in any early contest that year.
The bigger problem for Romney, though, is that the candidates who will oppose him in South Carolina are desperate — and at least one of them will be aided by an avalanche of cash.
That would be Newt Gingrich, who it should also be noted is on a personal mission to destroy Romney, payback for the barrage of negative ads that a pro-Romney Super PAC dumped on the former House speaker in Iowa (and that Romney pretended,unconvincingly, to know nothing about). Gingrich will head to South Carolina intent on exploiting every one of Romney’s vulnerabilities in the state, and he’ll be aided by at least $5 million from a casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, who is bankrolling a Super PAC that aims to do to Romney what Romney did to Gingrich in Iowa.
Gingrich is now billing the race as a contest between a “Reagan conservative” and a “Massachusetts moderate,” but the heart of his assault (and the Super PAC’s assault) will involve Romney’s business record. In the past few days, Gingrich has begun blasting Romney as a corporate “raider” who “looted” companies, fired workers, and lined his own pockets. The volume of this will now increase radically. It echoes the case that Mike Huckabee, who nearly won South Carolina in 2008, made against Romney back then, when he said that Romney tends to reminds people of “the guy who laid you off.” It also mirrors the case that Democrats are already making against Romney.
And the Gingrich attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. Rick Perry, who barely registered in New Hampshire, is attempting to make a campaign-saving stand in South Carolina. He won’t, of course, but he has plenty of money to burn and he’s already using the same script as Gingrich to go after Romney. Huntsman, too, has no chance of winning the nomination, but if he does press on to South Carolina, he and his allies could potentially toss a few million more dollars into the anti-Mitt pot. And while Santorum is vowing not to join the Bain pile-on, he’s just as desperate as Gingrich and the others to stop the Romney train — meaning that he can be counted on to play up any potential vulnerability that Romney has with the Christian right (and there are many of them).
Romney enters South Carolina as the favorite. A poll last week, just after Iowa, put him at 37 percent, his best showing of the entire campaign and nearly 20 points ahead of the next candidate. The numbers showed that Romney is very capable of winning the state, especially if the rest of the field remains split (Santorum finished second in the poll with 19 percent, while Gingrich was at 18 — meaning that together they accounted for the same share of the vote as Romney). But the numbers also came with a giant asterisk: Millions and millions of dollars in vicious attack ads aimed at reminding South Carolinians of all of the many reasons they have to be suspicious of Romney had not yet run.
Those ads will hit the airwaves tomorrow and won’t stop until the 21st. Romney may still emerge with a victory, and thus the nomination. But it’s not going to be pretty.
[…]Still, Gingrich and Perry are likely to face enormous pressure in the coming days from conservative commentators to at the very least tone down the “corporate raider” talk if they wants to keep up their flagging campaigns. Michael Royston, a Gingrich volunteer from Connecticut admitted to hearing some blowback from Republicans while phone banking on Tuesday who were concerned Gingrich was on a kamikaze mission against Romney.
“People are talking about his ‘scorched earth’ politics,” he said. “But I kept telling them, Newt is in it to win it.”
Things are unlikely to get any friendlier in South Carolina, a state that’s hosted some of the ugliest primary fights in recent memory. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson is donating $5 million to a pro-Newt Super PAC that’s planning to run a short film skewering Romney’s Bain career in the harshest possible way. And Rick Perry, who did not compete in New Hampshire this week, is already previewing plenty of rough attacks of his own, referring to Bain Capital as a “vulture”on Tuesday.
“They swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that and they leave the skeleton,” Perry said.
After broadcasting Romney’s victory speech on FOX News in Columbia, South Carolina on Tuesday night, two of the next three ads were attacks targeting the frontrunner: a spot from Paul and another from Gingrich accusing Romney of pursuing “pro-abortion” policies as governor.
But there are signs that the tide may be turning. In stark contrast to Gingrich’s jarringly combative Iowa caucus speech, he refrained from attacking any of his rivals on Tuesday night, by name or otherwise. Could this be the first step towards disarming a campaign that’s on the verge of going nuclear?
Romney can claim some momentum from his New Hampshire showing. A big South Carolina win could go a long way to cut the primary short, preventing a long slog through the mud that could easily continue through Super Tuesday and lend more bipartisan credibility to Democrats’ anti-Romney messaging. Unlike what was until recently the dominant critique of Romney on the right — that he isn’t conservative enough to Republican voters’ liking, the notion that Romney is a callous Gordon Gekko type will be a critical part of Democratic strategy should he secure the nomination.
The big question now is how far Gingrich et al are willing to go before they decide they either can’t win or it isn’t worth damaging their standing with the party to continue lobbing bombs at the likely nominee.
Calvin Trillon, The New Yorker:
When Mitt Romney introduces himself to voters, he has a peculiar habit of guessing their age or nationality, often incorrectly. (A regular query: “Are you French Canadian?”)
When making small talk with locals, he peppers the conversation with curious details. . . . Mr. Romney has developed an unlikely penchant for trying to puzzle out everything from voters’ personal relationships to their ancestral homelands. . . . Mr. Romney likes to congratulate people. For what, exactly, is not always clear.
—The Times, December 28, 2011.
The moment President Romney entered the room where the opening reception of his first G-8 summit was being held, he was approached by a small man who shook his hand and said, “Je suis Nicolas Sarkozy.”
“Are you of French-Canadian origin?” President Romney said, smiling broadly.
“I am French,” Sarkozy replied, looking somewhat puzzled. “I am, in fact, the President of France.”
“Congratulations,” President Romney said. “Lipstick contains a substance made from fish scales.”
Before Sarkozy could reply—in fact, before he could think of anything to say on the subject of lipstick manufacturing—they were approached by Angela Merkel, of Germany, who looked eager to greet the newest leader in the G-8. President Romney peered at her briefly and then said to Sarkozy, “Your aunt? Your mother?”
“This is Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Sarkozy said.
Chancellor Merkel looked somewhat taken aback at being mistaken for Sarkozy’s aunt. When she’d regained her composure, she said to President Romney, “I know you will have much to add on the question of the debt crisis in the euro zone, Mr. President.”
President Romney looked at the German Chancellor carefully, up and down. “I’d say you’d go about one-forty, give or take five pounds,” he said. “Am I in the ballpark?”
Chancellor Merkel, hoping she might have misunderstood the President, said, “I believe the future of the euro will dominate our discussions in the coming days.”
“The city that has more bridges than any other city in the world is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” President Romney said. “Congratulations.”
“Congratulations to Pittsburgh?” Chancellor Merkel asked.
President Romney thought for a moment. “No,” he said. “Just congratulations.”
Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, joined the group and introduced himself to President Romney.
“Are you of French-Canadian origin?” President Romney said.
“No, I’m not,” the Prime Minister replied. “But I am Canadian.”
“The state stone of Michigan is the Petoskey stone,” the President said. Then, spotting a gentleman standing a few feet away, he asked, “Are you of French-Canadian origin?”
“No, I am David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” the man said.
President Romney looked at Cameron and then at Harper and then at Cameron again. “Brothers?” he said. “Cousins? Uncle and aunt?”
“No,” Cameron said.
At that point, the group was joined by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, of Japan. He and President Romney were introduced. “What are you—around fifty-five or sixty?” the President asked. “Am I close?”
“I am fifty-six years of age,” the Japanese Prime Minister said, rather formally.
“Yoshihiko sounds French-Canadian,” the President said. “I don’t suppose you’re of French-Canadian origin, are you?”
“No, I am not,” the Prime Minister said.
“Congratulations,” the President replied. “Saul Rogovin, of the Detroit Tigers, hit a grand-slam home run in 1950, and it wasn’t until 2008 that another Jewish pitcher hit a grand-slam home run.”
“Congratulations,” Chancellor Merkel said.
“Yes,” the others murmured. “Congratulations.”
For some inexplicable reason, Ron Paul is the only candidate in the race who seems to have decided not to be the anti-Romney. Paul has labeled Romney as a “member of the establishment,” but has not mounted a serious effort to assail Romney’s economic or social record, both of which are a train wreck.
Paul could be under the mistaken belief that he may be chosen as a vice presidential candidate, however a statement from Paul today suggests he hasn’t attacked Mitt Romney’s economic record because he doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
Ron Paul has differentiated himself from his Republican rivals again, this time by opting not to join the chorus that is relentlessly attacking Mitt Romney. While Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have been more than eager to assail Romney for his much-publicized “fire people” gaffe and time spent at Bain Capital, Paul has thrown the GOP frontrunner a life raft. According to CNN, Paul decried Romney’s critics for “unfairly attacking” the former Massachusetts governor for remarks that were taken out of context. Paul added that those who are criticizing Romney for his time at the venture capital company “don’t understand” the free market.
We do understand. We understand quite well.
We understand that an unregulated and unchecked “free market” leads to the kind of financial manipulation firms Bain represents. Vulture capitalists who will do anything to make a buck because anything is legal.
We understand that an unregulated and unchecked free market lead to the 2008 financial crisis.
In Ron Paul’s wild west version of free market capitalism, Bain would be the rule, not the exception. And it would be up to you, the individual, to ensure you don’t get fucked by Corporate America. Because in Ron Paul’s America, no is going to watch out for you.
I can’t imagine a starker contrast than Ron Paul’s idea of absolute capitalism compared to President Obama’s recess appointment of a director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And any self-described liberal promoting Ron Paul as a suitable alternative to President Obama should take some time off and rethink their life.
[…] The Mitt Romney portrayed by his opponents was a callous corporate raider who slashed jobs as head of Bain Capital and paid himself and his investors hundreds of millions in management fees earned off the misery of discarded middle-class workers.
The reaction among Republican-leaning financial industry executives and their Washington allies to this populist line of attack has been — inpart — outrage: the Club for Growth, for example, called Gingrich’s attacks “disgusting.”
But there is also a good bit of quiet relief that the inevitable pitchfork attacks on Romney are coming now from within his own party and not from an Obama political machine Wall Street fears as much as it loathes.
This line of thinking holds that it’s better for Romney to face these attacks now than in October, when a sustained assault from the Obama campaign would have more impact.
If Romney can’t respond effectively to the current attacks on his Bain record, this thinking goes, how would he possibly hold up under what could be a nearly billion-dollar assault from Democrats this fall?
To be sure, there’s also plenty of anger directed at Romney’s GOP opponents.
“I think the what the Democrats are able to do now is to say their message has been validated by the former speaker of the House and the governor of the second largest state in the nation,” said Jim Courtevich, managing partner at Sphere Consulting who was an adviser to former GOP Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas and Warren Rudman of New Hampshire. “They are not testing an issue and readying someone. They are validating the main Democratic message heading into the general election.”
But the anger is tempered by a calculation that learning to deal with the attacks will make Romney stronger by the fall, when with any luck — in their view — Bain will no longer be of interest to voters and the media.
“I think it is dangerous rhetoric and most of it is totally and ridiculously wrong, ” said one senior Wall Street executive who declined to be identified by name to maintain cordial relations with all the possible GOP nominees.“But this was always going to come out.
“The Obama campaign, I’m sure, has details on all of Romney’s deals at Bain. It’s probably better that it comes out and we have this discussion now and see how Mitt responds. The question is, does it make him a better and more effective candidate and make this kind of ‘old news’ in the fall? Or does it knock him out?”
But another executive worries that the Romney campaign’s response to the attacks thus far has been lackluster. The former Massachusetts governor has mainly stuck to his talking point that the deals he worked on while at Bain have created a net of 100,000 jobs through today, many of them coming from Staples, the Sports Authority and other big name companies. Neither he nor his campaign has disclosed how the “net-net” figure was arrived at nor how many jobs were cut at companies acquired and restructured by Bain.
And it has not responded nimbly to the highly negative short film “King of Bain,” which a super PAC supportive of Gingrich has said it will turn into a South Carolina TV ad, featuring workers who say they were laid off because of Romney.
“I am surprised they don’t have more high-profile surrogates lined up to defend Bain in specific ways and on specific deals and to take on Gingrich by saying it’s a cold day in hell when Republicans are trying to tear down the system of capitalism and free enterprise and that these are arguments we usually hear from Occupy Wall Street and the fringe left,” said a top banking lobbyist who also declined to be identified by name because he will support whoever gets the GOP nomination.
“How do they not have B-roll lined up of workers saying that Bain saved their companies and their jobs? If they don’t, they better get it now and have it ready for the fall.”
This executive and others described the current round of attacks as something of a dress rehearsal for Romney as well as inoculation against later attacks.
“I didn’t think the ad [for “King of Bain”] was particularly effective, but it’ll be less effective when it’s not even new,” said a GOP banking lobbyist. “They took a little bit of the newness away from it when [the Obama campaign tries] to roll it out there after the conventions.”
Executives at private equity companies are feeling particularly angry over the GOP attacks — Perry on Tuesday referred to Bain and other private equity companies as “vultures” who wait for “companies to get sick” and then “eat the carcass.”
While in the 1970s and 1980s, this might have been close to a fair description of the early leveraged-buyout industry, these executives argue it does not even remotely reflect what private equity firms do now, which is to take struggling companies out of the public markets and try to improve them — sometimes by selling or closing units but sometimes not — and then sell them at a profit either through a stock market offering or to another investor.
The returns from the most successful of these sales, while certainly generating handsome profits for executives at private equity firms such as Bain, also generate steady gains for investors such as university endowments and public pension funds, industry officials say.
“I think this is a case where the political attacks are not grounded in current economic reality,” Steve Judge, interim president and CEO of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, told POLITICO. “Private equity invested $150 billion into the U.S. economy in 2010, a time when few were willing to invest in U.S.-based businesses. You can’t create value for your investors by destroying companies.”
Even as some on Wall Street say the attacks on Bain now could ultimately be helpful to Romney in the fall, others say they are simply creating more sound-bite fodder for the Obama campaign.
The latest examples of this, according to industry officials, include the installation of Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a controversial recess appointment when the Senate was technically in session. The move infuriated Republicans and industry executives who argued that as currently structured, the CFPB has far too much unchecked authority.
Obama also rankled the industry by installing three members of the National Labor Relations Board through similar recess appointments.
The attacks on Romney are just a distraction from that larger battle — and according to one banker, will likely come to a stop if — as he hopes — Romney wins a resounding victory in New Hampshire.
“Hopefully this will all be over in a few hours,” the banker said Tuesday afternoon.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a Romney supporter and chairman of a House subcommittee charged with overseeing financial services, was also optimistic.
“If Newt’s testing the Obama message, then Gov. Romney can show momentum, dispense with this, and then the Obama White House is left with very little; they’re just left with their awful jobs record.”
Obama supporters, or course, can’t contain their glee — the Democratic National Committee has been forwarding to reporters every mention of Bain by the GOP candidates.
But they’re not impressed by any argument the candidates are making.
“It’s just a game with no substance at this point,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic aide to Vice President Joe Biden and an economist with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The film depicts Mitt Romney as a financier “more ruthless than Wall Street” and a son of privilege responsible for laying off thousands of workers. It attacks Romney’s record as the CEO of Bain Capital and highlights the stories of workers who lost their jobs after the companies they worked for were acquired by Bain.
Says a laughing Romney: “Make a profit. That’s what it’s all about, right?”
Looking back over the last several months, nothing has caused as much trouble to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign as C-SPAN archives. Eagle-eyed researchers have relied on these archived clips to catch Romney saying all sorts of unfortunate things (see here and here, for example).
And is it turns out, the archive is still being tapped for additional gems. James Carter posted this clip from 1999.
At the time, Romney had recently taken over as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Olympic organizing committee, which had been plagued by scandal. In the clip, we see Romney explaining the importance of transparency, and vowing to share materials with the public, even correspondence between Romney and other Olympic officials.
This, Romney said at the time, was a way to demonstrate “ethical conduct.”
In hindsight, it’s interesting he’d put it that way.
This is, of course, the same Romney who, shortly before departing the governor’s office, oversaw the purchase of 17 state-issued hard drives,in order to purge his administration’s email records in advance of his presidential campaign. Romney admitted the move was intended to hide official correspondence from the public and keep potentially-embarrassing information from “opposition research” teams.
This is also the same Romney who seems a little too eager to hide his tax returns from public scrutiny.
What would 1999 Romney have to say about 2012 Romney? I suspect “ethical conduct” isn’t a phrase that would come up.
“We help clients ensure that IT offshoring and outsourcing decisions are based on business strategy and help set up deal structures, capability networks and sourcing agreements to deliver enduring results–lower costs now and flexibility for the future.
Strategic sourcing is the process by which organizations determine how to access the right IT and business capability at the right cost. Sourcing must be managed effectively across the four key dimensions of management, resources, services and business processes.
Outsourcing of IT or business processes is just one option of sourcing strategies, often unleashing tremendous value. With strategic sourcing, Bain can enable clients to ensure sourcing decisions are based on business strategy and to help set up sourcing agreements to deliver value now and flexibility for the future.”
“Are you going to fire the baby?”
— An activist in New Hampshire, quoted by BuzzFeed, tweeking Mitt Romney as held a child while greeting voters.
All politicians have gaffes. But Romney’s are of a character all their own.
As a fabulously wealthy man running to be the president of a country that prides itself on its middle class identity, Romney is permanently striving for the common touch while somehow keeping it real about just how different his life is from the average Americans’.
Alas, it’s a balance he has a very hard time striking.
In the now classic model of a Mitt-ism, Romney stumbles his way into a painfully candid expression of what he really seems to think about wealth, privilege and economics. In other cases, his cringeworthy efforts to identify with ordinary folk collapse under the weight of their own preposterousness.
With so many and with the voting now underway, we’ve decided to rate them individually.
1.) “I’m also unemployed” June 16, 2011
A lesser-known Mitt-ism. Trying to commiserate. But not really. Confusing unemployment with being independently wealthy. Not great when unemployment is still at stratospheric levels. Not the most damaging Mitt-ism. We rate this one “tone deaf”, 2 stars.
2.) “Corporations are people, my friend” August 11, 2011
Damaging, yes. Revealing, definitely. Yes, corporate profits all make their way, in one fashion or another, to old-fashioned living, breathing people. And corporations are legal persons. But c’mon. Corporations aren’t people. They’re corporations. This Mitt-ism gets a 5 star for iconic, memorable value. And it even comes with video.
3.) “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals” October 18, 2011
Like the Velvet Underground until the mid-1980s, a hidden classic only well known to specialists and aficionados. Back in the early days of the campaign when Romney was still making his anti-immigration bones with Rick Perry, he slipped into a classically candid Mitt moment when he remembered canning the firm who had illegal aliens working the ground of his property. Fine, use illegals Romney seemed to say. But, Dear God, man, I’m running for office! You know how this works, man!
Destined to remain a cult favorite and never catch on with the masses, it was still deeply revealing. A totally fair hit. We rate it 3 stars.
4.) “I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?” December 10, 2011
You ever made a $10,000 bet? Neither have we.
Mitt got hit pretty hard for this one at the time because it came during the height of the Newt surge when people thought Gingrich might actually bring Romney down. Maybe $10,000 was just a taunt because Mitt knew he couldn’t lose. And even Rick Perry, who has somehow made a bundle during his tenure in office, could manage a $10,000 bet.
So reasonably revealing and a genuine Mitt-ism. But not one of the classics. We rate it a 1.5 stars.
5.) “I like being able to fire people” January 9, 2012
The Mitt-ism that proves the rule. The words purely on their own are about as toxic as you can imagine — especially for Mitt Romney, whose business model as a private equity guy actually is about firing people. Still, Romney was talking about being able to choose or can health care insurers — something a lot of Americans would like to be able to do. Somehow he just stumbled into saying it in the worst possible way. Maybe habits just die hard. Or maybe firing people is fun after all.
Because it clearly wasn’t what he meant and thus it’s not clearly a cluelessly candid statement of actual belief, it doesn’t qualify as a bona-fide Mitt-ism. We rate it 1 stars.
6.) “There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip”January 8, 2012
We guess his heart was in the right place. But c’mon, Mitt. Let’s just agree that in the realm of your professional life you’re talented, lucky and basically things have been wall-to-wall awesome. You’ve never had to worry about getting a pink slip. And if you did, the severance package would probably be more than most people make in a lifetime. Now let’s talk about abolishing Obamacare and privatizing unemployment insurance.
This is a classic in the subcategory of Mitt-ism: the hapless and totally uncredible attempt to identify with the problems of average folk. We rate it 3.5 stars.
7.) “It’s for the great middle class – the 80 to 90 percent of us in this country” September 21, 2011
Mitt Romney’s net worth is not public knowledge — and as he’s stated several times, it won’t be public knowledge for as long as he can help it.
But America knows he’s rich. Really rich. Rich enough to be well beyond the 80 or 90 percent of “us” in the country.
Sure, he was talking about the country as a whole, but it came off as crass, and wholly laughable. A solid 2.5 stars.
8.) “I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.” April 5, 2007
This is an overlooked Mitt-ism from the last campaign after Mitt overplayed his hand in trying to identify with the gun rights crowd. After declaring himself a hunter — i.e., common man of the people — Mitt perhaps realized he’d gone too far and tried to put his he-man-ness in context: “I’m not a big-game hunter. I’ve made that very clear. I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will. I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then. More than two times.” The video capture the exquisite awkwardness of a true Mitt-ism.
Use of the word “varmints” alone qualifies this for 3 stars.
9.) “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” October 17, 2011
As a solution to the housing crisis, Mitt’s policy frankness wasn’t accidentally revealing or a mistake. A politically unpopular policy statement — even when phrased in an especially tone deaf way — doesn’t meet the rigorous standards for a Mitt-ism. 0 stars.
10.) “Who let the dogs out? Who, who”
This one is a little bonus from the last time the Guy-Who-Never-Wanted-To-Run-For-President was running for president. We’ll let the video speak for itself.
From Main to Bain
Nickolas Kristof, The Weekly Standard:
There’s a lot of silliness on all sides of the Bain Capital debate.
On the one hand, Newt Gingrich’s attacks (and the follow-on assaults by Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry) on Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital have been unfair, over the top, and, for that matter, all over the place. Gingrich, Perry, and Huntsman deserve much of the criticism they’ve received from conservative commentators.
On the other, Mitt Romney’s claim throughout his campaign that his private sector experience almost uniquely qualifies him to be president is also silly. Does he really think that having done well in private equity, venture capital, and business consulting—or even in the private sector more broadly—is a self-evident qualification for public office? One assumes Mitt Romney would agree that Chris Christie is a better chief executive of New Jersey than Jon Corzine, and that Rudy Giuliani was a better mayor of New York than Mike Bloomberg. But Romney’s biography looks a lot more like Bloomberg’s or Corzine’s (leaving aside Corzine’s recent misadventures) than like that of Giuliani (pre-mayoralty) or Christie. Past business success does not guarantee performance in public office. Indeed, Romney sometimes seems to go so far as to suggest that succeeding in the private sector is intrinsically more admirable than, e.g., serving as a teacher or a soldier or even in Congress. This is not a sensible proposition, or a defensible one.
And the unqualified defense of the virtues of Bain Capital by some on the right is also silly. Criticism of any behavior by a private firm? Outrage! An Assault on Capitalism! Haven’t they read Schumpeter? Don’t they know the glories of Creative Destruction? And, of course, all such destruction must be assumed to be creative!
Yikes. If this is where some in the conservative movement and the Republican party are inclined to go—four cheers for finance capitalism!—good luck. Indeed, it’s useful to flush out this tendency now, and subject it to debate. Because it’s a recipe for political disaster—and intellectual sterility.
Post 2008, capitalism needs its strong defenders—but its defenders need also to be its constructive critics. The Tea Party was right. What’s needed is a critique of Big Government above all, but also of Big Business and Big Finance and Big Labor (and Big Education and Big Media and all the rest)—and especially a critique of all those occasions when one or more of these institutions conspire against the common good. What’s needed is a willingness to put Main Street (at least slightly) ahead of Wall Street, and a reform agenda for capitalism that strengthens it, alongside an even more dramatic reform agenda for government that limits it.
Bain Capital shouldn’t be demonized. It may not even deserve to be criticized. But in laying out a way forward, conservatives might remember that Bain Capital isn’t capitalism, that capitalism by itself isn’t freedom, and that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the Gospel of Wealth.
Mitt Romney did an excellent job running Bain Capital. His purpose was to create wealth for shareholders. He more than doubled their investment. But he’s doing an awful job selling Bain Capital.
Romney has taken to suggesting that what he did at Bain was “create jobs.” That’s not true. Worse, it’s an argument Romney can’t win. It’s impossible to net out the effect of the hundreds of investments Bain made into different companies. It’s impossible to say how many of the companies that Bain managed into bankruptcy would have gone bankrupt anyway. It’simpossible to calculate how much credit Bain deserves for growth that happened after it let go of a company. But it’s very, very, very possible for Romney’s Republicans challengers — and, eventually, the Obama campaign— to find people who were fired while Romney was in charge. And Romney’s fuzzy math is no match for their heartrending stories.
So Romney has two problems. First. he’s committed himself to generating a figure he can’t prove through honest, rigorous means — Glenn Kessler gives his jobs claims so far three pinocchios — and that’s making him look slick and untrustworthy.
Second, he’s framed the success of his tenure at Bain around job creation rather than wealth creation — and Bain, as many of its actions and former employees will testify, was not in the job creation business. As Kessler notes, the Bain prospectus says “The objective of the fund isto achieve an annual rate of return on invested capital in excess of the returns generated by conventional investments in the public equity market and the private equity market.” It never mentions “jobs,” “job,” or “employees.” Those simply aren’t the objective. Sometimes, in fact, they’re collateral damage.
Perhaps Romney had no choice. Perhaps he was always going to have to answer for Bain’s record on jobs rather than its record on wealth, and his best hope was to define the conversation first. But I doubt it. He could have pitched himself as the guy who understood the creative destruction inherent in capitalism and thus understood how the modern economy worked. Or he could have played down his work at Bain, as he did in past elections, and played up his work governing Massachusetts and saving the Olympics.
But he didn’t. Given the health-care plan that was the centerpiece of his time in Massachusetts, and mindful of the Republican Party’s preference for private-sector accomplishments, Romney pitched himself as a professional job creator, and now it turns out he exaggerated on his resume.
The irony of all this is that it scarcely matters how many jobs Romney created when he wasn’t trying to create jobs. President Romney’s economic plan is not to replicate his experience at Bain Capital: he will not try and turn the economy around by issuing public debt to purchase private companies and wring out their inefficiencies. Rather, he’ll propose tax cuts and nominate a new Federal Reserve chairman and try to cut the deficit.
As Paul Krugman writes, “running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. . .A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods.”
Romney invited the electorate to judge his economic chops by judging his success at something he wasn’t trying to do and that isn’t relevant to the policies he would pass as president. The more energy he invests in this narrative, the larger his eventual losses will be.
ppppolls: Santorum and Obama tie in NC at 46%, Obama slightly ahead of Romney at 46-45
Indiana Democrats are once again walking out of the state legislature, in order to tie up a “right-to-work” bill that would hinder labor unions.
The development came after a committee hearing Tuesday morning — lasting only six minutes — in which the majority Republicans voted to send the bill to the floor, and without hearing any debate or Democratic motions to amend the bill.
The Indianapolis Star reports:
The House tried and failed to come in to session at 1:30 p.m., with only 64 lawmakers on the floor. They need 67 to have a quorum to do business.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat who was on the floor and not participating in the Democratic walk-out, called the GOP handling of this morning’s hearing on the bill a “visceral attack” on the democratic process.
“It makes it very hard” for Democrats to return to the House chamber to let business continue in light of it, he said.
Meanwhile, the Dems have rolled out a new online petition, called “Don’t Touch My Paycheck” — based on the premise that right-to-work legislation would result in lower wages throughout the state — to build up a political base against the bill, and to call for for continued public hearings.
From their defiant press release, with emphasis in the original:
The Democratic Caucus launched www.Dont-Touch-My-Paycheck.com, a online petition and rallying point for Hoosier families who believe Governor Daniels, Speaker Bosma and the Republican House Caucus should focus on creating good-paying jobs, not lowering paychecks of working families across Indiana. Caucus members will be live-commentating the State of the State of the State Address on the site.
Democratic Leader Bauer said, “Working families want good-paying jobs, not lower paychecks. Their response to the Governor is simple – Don’t Touch My Paycheck. Instead of playing partisan, political games, let’s work together to boost our small businesses, support our workers, and create jobs right here in Indiana.”
The Indiana state constitution requires a two-thirds majority on the floor in order to form a quorum. The Democrats, who are outnumbered 60-40, began employing the parliamentary tactic last Wednesday: By holding caucus meetings in the state Capitol, a form of official business — but without enough of them going to the floor at the same time to allow a quorum.
The Dems returned to the House on Monday — just as a law might have kicked in that sets stiff fines for frustrating a quorum — but did not make any guarantees that they would not throw a monkey-wrench into the debate again.
The “right-to-work” law would go beyond the current crackdowns on public-sector unions, by forbidding private-sector companies and unions from negotiating a contract that would require the collection of partial union dues from non-members.
Unions must, in fact, negotiate on behalf of all employees within the bargaining unit, not just their own members. Thus, right-to-work laws enable employees to free-ride on labor negotiations, with the effect of damaging union financing and overall organization to begin with.
Right-to-work laws are very common in the South and the West. There are 22 states that have such statutes. But as the New York Times has pointed out, this would make Indiana the first state to adopt the law in the traditional manufacturing belt, which stretches from the Midwest up through New England.
Last year, the state House Dems fled the state in order to block the two-thirds quorum on a variety of legislation, including the right-to-work bill. They returned to the state after securing a number of concessions, including an end to the right-to-work push by the Republican majority. (When the Dems fled, the same tactic was being used, though ultimately without success, by Wisconsin Democrats against an anti-public employee union measure.)
Afterwards, an “anti-bolting” law was passed, imposing a fine of $1,000 per day if legislators ever again fled in order to block a quorum for three days or more. The Dems were potentially leaving themselves open to those fines, with the three-day trigger occurring this past Friday — but their return to the legislature, even if only temporary, might have defused the situation.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Fotoshop, the beauty product
On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.
We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.
Occupy the Courts will be a one day occupation of Federal courthouses across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday January 20, 2012.
Move to Amend volunteers across the USA will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.
Americans across the country are on the march, and they are marching OUR way. They carry signs that say, “Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT Speech!” And they are chanting those truths at the top of their lungs! The time has come to make these truths evident to the courts.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.