Posts Tagged ‘Mitt Romney’

‘Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia’

February 6, 2018

          Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia.  But there was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not sufficiently under control.
          Officially the change of partners had never happened.  Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.  The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
                          ==George Orwell, 1984

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Gov. Mitt Romney was criticized and even ridiculed for calling Russia “our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”   President Obama said, “The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for years.”

But now we’re told that Russia is waging war against the United States and always has been.   It’s a funny kind of war, though—more like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” than “Red Dawn.”

No Russian troops are massing on U.S. borders.   The Russian government makes no threat against the United States.

The claim is that the Russians—either the Russian government or certain individual Russians—are exercising a kind of mind control over Americans.   Russian agents allegedly denied Hillary Clinton her due share of the 2016 President vote and allegedly manipulated President Trump into being less anti-Russian than he should be.

But even if all the Russiagate charges are true, which I doubt, what the Russians have done is no different from what the old Soviet Union did, and what the United States continues to do down to this day.  During the time Vladimir Putin has been in office, it is the United States, not Russia, that has announced policies of “regime change” against countries that never threatened Americans.

It’s interesting that congressional Democrats, who say that President Trump is an insane clown, an ignoramus, a would-be fascist and a puppet of Vladimir Putin, have no interest in restricting presidential powers to wage war or bypass due process of law.   The only limit they’ve imposed is limitation of his authority to lift economic sanctions against Russia.


Romney, Fiorina, Trump: who did the most harm?

September 22, 2015

Last week a friend of mine wondered out loud who ruined more lives—Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina or Mitt Romney?

After doing a little Internet research, I would say—probably Mitt Romney, possibly Carly Fiorina, but not Donald Trump.

romney-record-620x1024Mitt Romney was CEO of an investment firm called Bain Capital.  It started out in 1984 as a venture capital firm; its most successful investment was the Staples chain of office supply stores.

But from 1989 to 1999, it adopted a new strategy—borrowing money to buy existing companies, saddling the companies themselves with the debt while meanwhile giving Bain big consulting fees.

Some of the companies collapsed under the burden of debt, some survived.  Having to service a big debt obligation probably tipped many into failure.  Nobody would argue that it helped.  But Romney and the other Bain partners did well whether the companies succeeded or not.

Carly Fiorina became head of Hewlett-Packard in 1999.   Her most notable accomplishment was aquisition of Compaq Computer, which by most accounts didn’t pay off.  The H-P board of directors fired her in 2005.

The Boston Globe estimated that 30,000 employees were laid off during her tenure.  On the other hand total jobs at H-P when she left were roughly equal to the combined H-P and Compaq employment in 2009.

Donald Trump took his companies into bankruptcy—that is, reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code—four times.  These were Trump Taj Mahal in 1991, Trump Plaza Hotel in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.

In each of these reorganizations, Trump took a loss and gave up control.   The businesses continued, and evidently there weren’t any big layoffs at the time.   Trump Taj Mahal filed again for bankruptcy last year, but Trump no longer controls it.


Jeb Bush returns to politics after getting richer

December 18, 2014

Since stepping down as Governor of Florida in 2007, Jeb Bush has been working hard at getting richer.

His financial activities and ties make him a good candidate from the point of view of Wall Street, but may be a drawback from the standpoint of the general public.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush

Before he became Governor of Florida in 1999, he was a successful real estate developer.  After eight years in office, he felt poor because his net worth had dwindled from $2 million to $1.3 million.

To rebuild his fortune, he joined corporate boards, advised corporate clients and, like Hillary Clinton, gave speeches at corporate events for lucrative fees.

Business Week reported that he started a holding company, Britton Hill Holdings, which has launched three investment funds, BH Global Aviation ($61 million), which is incorporated in Wales and supported largely by overseas investors; BH Logistics ($26 million), which is backed by a Chinese conglomerate; and a fund for investing in shale gas ($40 million).  No doubt the Bush name gave him credibility with foreign investors.

Jeb Bush is no Mitt Romney.  He hangs out with mere millionaires instead of billionaires.  He is an entrepreneur, not a takeover specialist.  He doesn’t have a record of aquiring existing companies and laying people off.

On the other hand he is part of the same world as Romney and Clinton.  He was an adviser to Lehman Brothers on the verge of its collapse, and tried, unsuccessfully, to get Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, to rescue Lehman.  He was an adviser to Barclay’s bank (a position he resigned today), which was involved in interest rate rigging and other scandals.

He was on the board of two corporations that went bankrupt and the CEO of one of them was indicted for fraud.

With all of this, based on information from the articles linked below, I don’t see that he did anything illegal or unethical.  The Republicans could do worse.

If Republicans nominate Jeb Bush for President, and Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, it would be the best of both worlds for Wall Street.

I wouldn’t vote for him myself.  He represents the upper 1 percent, and the country needs somebody who speaks for the 99 percent.


Jeb Bush Has a Mitt Romney Problem by Joshua Green for Bloomberg Politics.

Jeb Bush: The Forrest Gump of Financial Improprieties? by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism.

Jeb Bush Was Only a Millionaire When He Left Office, But He Wanted to Be Rich by Philip Bump for The Atlantic Wire.

Jeb Bush’s wealth-building strategy could be problematic in 2016 White House bid by Phil Ammann for SaintPetersBlog.

Wall Street Republicans’ dark secret: Hillary Clinton in 2016 by Ben White and Maggie Haberman for Politico. Wall Street prefers Jeb Bush, but wouldn’t mind Hillary Clinton.

Tea Partiers Are Right: Jeb Bush Is a RINO by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.


Candidate Romney’s management fiasco

November 17, 2012


Mitt Romney campaigned for President as a successful businessman who would be a capable manager of government.  But the Republican get-out-the-vote effort on election day was crippled by a management fiasco called Project Orca.

Poll watchers of the two political parties maintain “strike lists”—lists of registered voters of their parties, whose names are stricken from the list when they vote, so that party workers can concentrate on getting those who haven’t voted yet to the polls.  Project Orca was intended to make this process more efficient by digitizing it.

A Romney campaign worker named John Ekdahl described the fiasco on his blog.

On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly.  Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by “packet”.  Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what.  Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf.  Nothing came in the mail.  Because I was out most of the day, I only got around to seeing it at around 10PM Monday night.  So, I sat down and cursed as I would have to print out 60+ pages of instructions and voter rolls on my home printer.  Naturally, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, my printer would not print in black and white with an empty magenta cartridge (No HP, I will never buy another one of your products ever again).  So, at this point I became panicked. I was expected to be at the polls at 6:45AM and nothing was open.  I was thankfully able to find a Kinko’s open until 11PM that was able to print it out and bind it for me, but this is not something I should have had to do.  They expected 75-80 year old veteran volunteers to print out 60+ pages on their home computers?  The night before election day?  From what I hear, other people had similar experiences.  In fact, many volunteers never received their packets at all.

At 6:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the polls.  I was immediately turned away because I didn’t have my poll watcher certificate.  Many, many people had this problem.  The impression I got was this was taken care of because they had “registered me”.  Others were as well.  But apparently, I was supposed to go on my own to a Victory Center to pick it up, but that was never communicated properly.  Outside of the technical problems, this was the single biggest failure of the operation.  They simply didn’t inform people that this was a requirement

Things got worse.

So, I headed back home to see if I could get my certificate.  I called their official help line.  It went unanswered.  I tried their legal line.  Same thing.  I emailed them. No response.  I continued to do this for six straight hours and never got a response.  I even tried to call three local victory centers.  All went straight to voicemail.

While I was home, I took to Twitter and the web to try to find some answers.  From what I saw, these problems were widespread.  People had been kicked from poll watching for having no certificate.  Others never received their pdf packets.  Some were sent the wrong packets from a different area.  Some received their packet, but their usernames and passwords didn’t work.

There is a lot more to Ekdahl’s post, but this gives you the general idea.

So, the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help.  Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc.  We lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado.  If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity’s sake.

The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters).  Wrap your head around that.

I think Ekdahl is right.  The Republicans would have done better if they had concentrated on getting out the Republican vote instead of their counterproductive effort to limit voting by voters from Democrat-leading groups.

But somebody made money out of Project ORCA, and I doubt that person will suffer any bad consequences as a result of the foul-up.  This kind of thing goes on in the private sector as well.

Click on The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA to read John Ekdahl’s full post.

Click on Trickledown Schadenfreude for more about Romney’s mismanagement of his campaign.

Click on Why Romney Was Surprised to Lose and Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists for more.

Hat tip to Making Light.


Another problem with the electoral college

November 10, 2012

The brilliant statistical election analyst, Nate Silver, pointed out that if Mitt Romney had won the popular vote by as big a margin as Barack Obama did, he would still have lost the electoral vote, provided the distribution of his vote among the states was the same as it was.

Silver-Nate-artSilver said Romney would have had to win by three percentage points—more than any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988—in order to win the electoral vote.  Moreover, Silver said, the Democratic advantage in the electoral vote is likely to persist for the next few elections.

I’m of the opinion that the Presidential candidate who gets a majority of the votes is the one who ought to be declared the winner.  I’m aware that the rules are different, and I don’t blame anybody for playing by those rules, but I think the rules should be changed.

Besides being more fair and just, an election by popular vote would dilute the influence of voter suppression on the Presidential election.  Voter suppression matters most when, as in Florida in 2000, a small number of votes more or less than tip the electoral votes of a big state.

Click on As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are At an Electoral College Disadvantage for Nate Silver’s full report in his FiveThirtyEight column.

Click on National Popular Vote for a plan for reforming the Electoral College.

A German view of the U.S. election

November 7, 2012

On Monday, a writer for Der Speigel, the German newsmagazine, offered this view of the U.S. election.

nullThe United States Army is developing a weapon that can reach — and destroy — any location on Earth within an hour.  At the same time, power lines held up by wooden poles dangle over the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey.  Hurricane Sandy ripped them apart there and in communities across the East Coast last week, and many places remain without electricity.  That’s America, where high-tech options are available only to the elite, and the rest live under conditions comparable to a those of a developing nation. No country has produced more Nobel Prize winners, yet in New York City hospitals had to be evacuated during the storm because their emergency generators didn’t work properly.  ****

Romney, the exceedingly wealthy business man, and Obama, the cultivated civil rights lawyer, are two faces of a political system that no longer has much to do with democracy as we understand it.  Democracy is about choice, but Americans don’t really have much of a choice.

Obama proved this.  Nearly four years ago, it seemed like a new beginning for America when he took office.  But this was a misunderstanding.  Obama didn’t close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, nor did he lift immunity for alleged war criminals from the Bush-era, or regulate the financial markets, and climate change was hardly discussed during the current election campaign.  The military, the banks, industry — the people are helpless in the face of their power, as is the president.

Not even credit default swaps, the kind of investment that brought down Lehman Brothers and took Western economies to the brink, has been banned or even better regulated.


That’s all too true.  If you had asked me 50 years ago which 21st-century nation would have science-fictional technology for surveillance and waging war, while being unable to provide basic services for its people, I would have named the Soviet Union, not the United States.  That’s the kind of society you get when you are ruled by an elite group that is unaccountable to the general public.   I don’t think the United States ever will become like the Soviet Union under Stalin, but unless something changes, we could wind up very like Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But the German writer seems a bit complacent about his own society, and especially about calling the United States an example of “total capitalism.”  Germany is being governed in the interest of its big banks just as the United States is.  The austerity measures that the German government is forcing on the European Union is moving Europe toward the same conditions that the writer doesn’t like in the United States.

Why I’m not for Mitt Romney either

November 2, 2012

I’ve written posts about why I won’t vote to re-elect Barack Obama.  But that doesn’t mean I would consider voting for Mitt Romney who is at least as bad and may well be worse on all the issues on which I find President Obama unacceptable.

Conor Friedersdorf summed it up well.

Romney and Ryan are perfectly comfortable with all of the most sweeping attacks on Madisonian checks and balances that Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over.  The Republican nominee hasn’t just defended detaining people indefinitely without charges or trial.  He’s called for doubling the main facility where it is done! Romney avows that he is alarmed by an advisory board that would decide which treatments Medicare and Medicaid should cover; yet he is comfortable with the literal death panel Obama runs from the White House, where he and his minions add names (including American citizens denied due process) to a secret kill list.

Did Romney defend the Fifth Amendment? (“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury… nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”)  No.  Rather, he defends actions that plainly violate it.

During the war in Libya, waged in violation of Obama’s own articulated understanding of the War Powers Resolution, Romney didn’t point out that the Constitution gave Congress the power the declare war.  And no surprise. Romney subsequently said that if elected, he wouldn’t need to consult Congress before launching a war against Iran.  Is that the position of someone who grasps the wisdom of the Constitution and champions an original understanding of it?  In fact, it shows disregard for the plain text of the document, and ignorance of the reasoning for vesting war-making power in the legislature rather than a single man empowered like a bygone British king.

Other things Romney favors: a secretive federal agency that conducts warrantless spying on millions of innocent Americans; strapping terrorism suspects to boards and forcing water into their lungs right to the edge of drowning them; and constant invocations of the state secrets privilege to shield federal officials from being held accountable for past illegal acts they perpetrated.  In short, Romney is a friend to neither liberty nor the rule of law nor a federal government limited by the Constitution.  He should feel the ire of all limited government conservatives.

… … His position on Afghanistan is incoherent — he vows he’ll be out of the country by 2014, and simultaneously says it’s reckless to announce a date by which we’ll leave.  Even in hindsight, he doesn’t understand that George W. Bush’s War in Iraq was a mistake, and has argued that the U.S. should’ve kept troops there longer.  … …

… … The centerpiece of Romney’s campaign?  A domestic agenda that he obviously cannot enact. As Romney tells it, he’ll cut tax rates 20 percent, repeal the estate tax, refrain from raising taxes on the middle class, refrain from cuts to Medicare, spend more on the military, possibly wage a war against Iran, and reduce the deficit.  Doing all he’s promised is mathematically impossible.

via Conor Friedersdorf.

In much of what Friedersdorf wrote, the differences between Romney and Obama are mainly differences of degree, not of principle.  But there is another important respect in which Governor Romney is more dangerous to American freedom and democracy than President Obama is.

That is the attack of his supporters on the right to vote.  Republican state governments are throwing up obstacles to voting, ostensibly at the non-existent problem of voting by ineligible voters but actually intended to discourage voting by African-Americans, poor people, old people and college students.  In a close election, this may be the margin of victory.

This is a reversal of the whole direction of American history, starting with the Mayflower Compact in which people who were not of noble birth asserted their right to form their own government according to their own decision, and continuing with the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of the right of self-government, and with the extension of the franchise to the property-less, to women and to African-Americans.  In the civil rights era, people sacrificed their lives for the right to vote.   Now leaders of the Republican Party are willing to turn back the clock to the days of the poll tax.

Click on Why I Refuse to Vote for Mitt Romney for Conor Friedersdorf’s complete article.

Click on Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama for Friedersdorf’s earlier article.

Click on Voting Wrongs by Elizabeth Drew and my earlier post on The new battle over voting rights for comments on voter suppression by Republicans.

Click on Romney’s Claims of Bipartisanship as Governor Face Challenge for a New York Times report on Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts governor.  It was a mixed record, and not all bad.  If Romney’s record as governor was all I had to go on, I might be tempted to vote for him.

Click on Greed and Debt: the True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital by Matt Taibbi for a damning report on Mitt Romney’s business career.

Click on At the Olympics, Mitt Tried to Convict an Innocent Man for a report by Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator.  [Added 11/3/12]

On the other hand, there is one respect in which Barack Obama is worse than Mitt Romney.  Obama has been able to reconcile liberals to the policies of George W. Bush, which Bush himself was never able to do and Romney would not be able to do.  In editorial after editorial endorsing Obama, the issue is framed as a greater or lesser degree of continuous war, a greater or lesser police state, a greater or lesser catering to the Wall Street oligarchy, rather than of how to achieve peace, liberty and justice.

I hope that principled Republicans will vote for the Libertarian Party ticket, just as I hope principled Democrats will vote for the Green Party ticket.

Which is the real Mitt Romney?

October 4, 2012

Which is the real Mitt Romney?  The ruthless Bain Capital financial operator?  The moderate and competent governor of Massachusetts?  The radical right-winger of the Republican primaries?  Or the compassionate conservative of last night’s debate?

Poor President Obama was at a loss, because he was debating the positions Mitt Romney took a couple of weeks ago, not what Romney was saying last night.   I am old enough to remember the New Nixon, supposedly a kinder, gentler version of the previous Richard Nixon.   Now we have a New Romney.   As I did with Nixon, I wonder how long this will last.

Four reasons Romney might still win

September 25, 2012

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Governor Romney’s presidential election campaign is in disarray, and polls show President Obama with a small lead in the popular vote nationwide and the key swing states.  But economist Robert Reich, an Obama supporter, says it’s too soon to count Romney out.  Here’s why.

1. Between now and Election Day come two jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – October 5 and November 2.  If they’re as bad as the last report, showing only 96,000 jobs added in August (125,000 are needed just to keep up with population growth) and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981, Romney’s claim the economy is off track becomes more credible, and Obama’s that it’s on the mend harder to defend.

With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.

2. Also between now and Election Day are three presidential debates, starting October 3. It’s commonly thought Obama will win them handily but that expectation may be very wrong – and could work against him. Yes, Romney is an automaton – but when the dials are set properly he can give a good imitation of a human engaged in sharp debate. He did well in the Republican primary debates.

Obama, by contrast, can come off slow and ponderous. Recall how he stuttered and stumbled during the 2008 Democratic primary debates. And he hasn’t been in a real-live debate for four years; Romney recently emerged from almost a year of them.

3. During the next seven final weeks of the campaign, the anti-Obama forces will be spending a gigantic amount of money.  Not just the Romney campaign and Romney’s super PACs, but other super PACS aligned with Romney, billionaires spending their own fortunes, and non-profit “social welfare” organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s “Crossroads,” and various Koch-brothers political fronts—all will dump hundreds of millions on TV and radio spots, much of it spreading lies and distortions. Some of this money will be devoted to get-out-the-vote drives—to phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to identify favorable voters, and vans to bring them to the polling stations.

It’s an easy bet they’ll far outspend Obama and his allies.  I’ve heard two-to-one.  The race is still close enough that a comparative handful of voters in swing states can make the difference – which means gobs of money used to motivate voters to polling stations can be critical.

4.  As they’ve displayed before, the Republican Party will do whatever it can to win – even if it means disenfranchising certain voters.  To date, 11 states have enacted voter identification laws, all designed by Republican legislatures and governors to dampen Democratic turnout.

The GOP is also encouraging what can only be termed “voter vigilante” groups to “monitor polling stations to prevent fraud” – which means intimidating minorities who have every right to vote.  We can’t know at this point how successful these efforts may be but it’s a dangerous wildcard.  And what about those Diebold voting machines?


And even if Obama is reelected, more hard work begins after Inauguration Day—when we must push him to be tougher on the Republicans than he was in his first term, and do what the nation needs.

via FOCUS.

Robert Reich appears to be operating on the theory that President Obama’s shortcomings as President are a result of him giving in to his Republican opponents.  But what if Barack Obama’s pro-Wall Street and pro-militarist politics are what he in fact believes in?   Pushing Obama to do what the nation needs will be a lot  harder than re-electing him.

I can’t see Barack Obama as anything more than a lesser evil than Mitt Romney, and perhaps not even that.   If Mitt Romney wins based on the poor economy, or on performing better than Obama in the debates, or even on spending more money, so be it. But the Republican voter suppression campaign is in a different category.  A Romney victory based on voter suppression would be an attack on the American democratic process itself.

Click on Four Reasons Why Romney Might Still Win for the full comment by Robert Reich on his web log.

Click on FiveThirtyEight for the expert and impartial analysis of polls and statistics by Nate Silver for the New York Times.

Click on Obama vs. Romney Electoral Map for the Huffington Post’s updates and summaries of poll results.

Click on TPM Electoral College Scorecard for Talking Points Memo’s map updating and summarizing poll results.

Hat tip to Hal Bauer for the Robert Reich link.


The 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes

September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney thinks the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes are “takers” who leech off the remaining 53 percent.  But the majority of the 47 percent pay payroll taxes, and most of the rest are elderly people who (presumably) paid income and payroll taxes during their working lives.

There are three main reasons why so many Americans do not pay federal income taxes.

  1. During the Clinton administration, the Earned Income Tax Credit was enacted as part of a program which reduced eligibility for welfare payments, under the theory that poor people should be given an economic incentive to work, even at poverty-level wages.  In my opinion, this is a good thing, not a bad thing.
  2. During the Bush administration, income tax rates were cut for Americans in all tax brackets, which made the cuts for taxpayers in the upper brackets more palatable.  In my opinion, it would be wrong to allow those tax reductions to expire for low-income Americans while retaining them for high-income Americans.
  3. As a result of the Great Recession, there has been a huge increase in the number of  Americans who are unemployed or working for poverty-level wages.  The best way to get them to pay income taxes would be to create a high-wage, full-employment economy.

Here is a breakdown of the different reasons the 47 percent do not pay income taxes.

Mitt Romney goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his U.S. income tax payments as low as possible.  He said he pays just under 15 percent of his income in federal taxes.  If your worthiness as an American citizen is based on what percentage of your income you pay in taxes, I am far more worthy than Mitt Romney.

Click on Why Do People Pay No Federal Income Tax? for information from the Tax Policy Center.

Click on Memo to Mitt Romney: the 47% Pay Taxes Too for a report by Janet Novack in Forbes.

Click on Romney’s theory of the “taker class” and why it matters for comment by Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Click on Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes and Mysterious IRA for a report in Vanity Fair about what’s known and not known about Romney’s finances.

Click on Controversial fund-raiser video shows candid Romney for CNN Political Ticker’s report on the video.

In the United States, there are income taxes, which fall most heavily on the rich; residential property taxes, which fall most heavily on the property-owning middle class; payroll taxes, which fall most heavily on wage earners; and sales and excise taxes, which fall most heavily on poor people.  Why is it that income taxes are the only tax that right-wing politicians ever talk about reducing?


Bipartisan bad idea: Delaying Medicare eligibility

August 21, 2012

Both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are reported to be toying with the idea of raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, along with Social Security.  This is a bad idea.  It will save the government money, but it will not save the public money.  Instead it will shift the cost to individuals and private businesses.

Medicare delivers health insurance at a lower cost than private insurance.  That is because it doesn’t siphon off part of its revenue as profits for owners and shareholders, and because it doesn’t hire actuaries to figure out who to disqualify because they’re unhealthy.  The Center for Budget and Public Priorities did a study that showed that raising the Medicare eligibility age will actually raise the cost of health insurance because of the ways it will shift the burden.

That is assuming that the people who are disqualified from Medicare for two years will get health care and health insurance from other sources.  Many of them probably won’t.  When you’re laid off from your job in your 50s, as many people have been, it is unlikely that you’re going to get a new job with health insurance benefits.  It’s not certain you’re going to get a new job at all.  I know of people who put off getting medical checkups or certain medical treatments until they become eligible for Medicare.  Raising the eligibility age will mean more people without coverage waiting longer.

Click on Raising Medicare Eligibility Age Would Increase Costs, Not Reduce Them for the full report of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Click on Obama Offered To Raise Medicare Eligiblity Age As Part of a Grand Debt Deal for a report by Sam Stein for Huffington Post.

Click on Romney Adviser Says GOP Would Extend Medicare Solvency By Raising Eligibility Age for a report by Aviva Shen for Think Progress.

Click on Raising the Age of Medicare Eligibility for a summary of a report by the Kaiser Foundation.

Minority turnout will decide 2012 election

August 21, 2012

The turnout of minority voters—Hispanics, African-Americans and others—will determine the outcome of the 2012 election.

Click to enlarge.

If they turn out in the same proportion as they did in 2008, and vote for President Obama in the same proportion as they did in 2008, Obama is almost sure to win.  Otherwise, not.

Democratic candidates for President have won a strong majority of the votes of members on minority groups for more than 20 years, and Republicans have won a majority of the votes of non-Hispanic white voters.  In 2008, the turnout of minority voters was greater than in 2004, and the turnout of white voters was less.  That was enough to change the result from Republican in 2004 to Democratic in 2008.

The Brookings study indicates that if non-Hispanic white voters turn out and vote for Mitt Romney in the same proportion as they did in 2004, and minorities turn out for Barack Obama as in 2008, Obama will win.

So it may not be enough for the Republican Party to get a good turnout of non-Hispanic white voters.  They would need to hold down the turnout of minority voters.  That’s the explanation for all the proposed voter ID laws and other schemes to make voting more difficult, such as the new limits on early voting in Ohio.

Click to enlarge.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the [Franklin] county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”

via The Columbus Dispatch.

The largest minority voter group is Hispanics.  That’s why immigration from Mexico has become such a hot issue. Unless things change, more legal Hispanic immigration means more Democratic voters. and why President Obama at this time announced his path to citizenship for certain children of unauthorized immigrants.

My opinion is that either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama could appeal to voters across ethnic and racial lines if either had a realistic plan or firm intention for addressing unemployment, low wages and mortgage foreclosures.

Click on Why Minorities Will Decide the 2012 Election for the full Brookings Institution report.

Click on Why Does the Census Divide People by Race, Anyhow? for a Slate article on the history of racial classifications on the United States.

Click on The new battle over voting rights for links to more information about voter restrictions.

Click on We whites need not fear minority status for charts showing demographic trends.

As the maps below show, we non-Hispanic whites have already lost our majority status in some parts of the United States.


The trouble with Paul Ryan

August 12, 2012

Rep. Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate is a bad thing.  Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee, is a radical right-winger who has proposed privatizing Social Security and wants to replace Medicare with an inadequate voucher program.  His budget proposals would entail not only eliminating most of the social safety net, but most governmental services.  He proposes drastic tax reductions for rich people, while increasing taxes for working people.

It would be a disaster for the country if Mitt Romney were to be elected, and then die in office, making Ryan President.  Or if Romney were to follow Ryan’s lead in domestic policy, as President George W. Bush followed Vice President Richard Cheney’s lead in national security affairs during his first six years in office.

But even if Romney loses, the Ryan choice changes the terms of debate.  President Barack Obama has offered to cut Social Security and Medicare, protected Wall Street from business failure and criminal prosecution, and done little or nothing to help labor.  But with Romney and Ryan as his opponents, he can define these as progressive positions.

Click on U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan for Ryan’s home page.

Click on The Legendary Paul Ryan for a profile of Paul Ryan by Jonathan Chait in New York magazine.

Click on How Paul Ryan Captured the G.O.P. for a profile of Paul Ryan by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker.

Click on Six Things to Know About Ryan (and Romney) for analysis of Ryan’s record by Jonathan Cohn in the New Republic.

Click on Mitt Romney Would Pay 0.82 Percent in Taxes Under Paul Ryan’s Plan for a report by Matthew O’Brien in The Atlantic Monthly.

[Update 8/19/12]

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones pointed out that Paul Ryan has a new Medicare plan which (arguably) is not as bad as last year’s plan.  The new plan would call for private insurers and Medicare to submit competitive bids, and for the government to issue vouchers equivalent to the second-lowest bid.   People would be covered for the two lowest bids and could pay extra if they wanted premium coverage.

The problem with this, as Drum pointed out, is that this won’t necessarily hold down Medicare costs, since premiums for private insurance have gone up faster than Medicare—even though private employers (presumably) get competitive bids for their employee health insurance plans.  What happens if the bids come in higher than what Ryan wants to budget for vouchers?  Who pays the difference?  The government? Seniors?


Harry Reid’s source and Mitt Romney’s taxes

August 8, 2012

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said somebody told him that Mitt Romney paid no income taxes over a 10-year period, and said there’s no way to know whether this is so unless Romney releases his income tax records.  Romney said he paid a great deal in taxes, but refuses to release the records.

There is a way to resolve this.  Let the two of them agree on an impartial arbiter.  Since both of them are Mormons, maybe it could besomeone in the Latter Day Saints hierarchy.  Reid could bring an envelope with the name of his informant.  Romney could bring thick manila folders giving his income tax returns.  The impartial arbiter could report on (1) whether Reid had an informant, without revealing the name, and (2) how much, if anything, Romney paid in income taxes, without revealing details about Romney’s business dealings.

Somebody figured out how it is theoretically possible for Romney to have paid little or no income taxes over a 10-year period.  Click on Missing the Key Issue? to read how it could be done.

Click on Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes and Mysterious IRA for more about Mitt Romney and his secrets.

Click on The global financial elite’s invisible empire for a report on how the economic elite hide a big chunk of the world’s wealth in secret tax havens.

Romney vs. Obama on the economy

August 7, 2012

On economic policy, American voters in November will be offered a choice between Mitt Romney, who is part of the problem, and Barack Obama, who is not part of the solution.

I’m not happy with President Obama, but Gov. Romney is no improvement.  Neither Obama nor Romney have realistic plans for unemployment or mortgage foreclosures.  Both regard the federal budget deficit as a higher priority problem.  But Obama at least has a realistic budget plan, and his record on federal spending is much more conservative than most of his admirers or detractors admit.  Romney proposes further tax cuts for upper-bracket taxpayers, which will make the problem worse.

Obama has not shown the least willingness to curb the irresponsible behavior of the financial elite which has brought on and prolonged the current economic recession.  Romney is part of that financial elite.

Both Obama and Romney regard Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” which need to be cut back.  Obama repeatedly has offered up cuts in Social Security and Medicare as part of a grand bargain for balancing the budget.  Romney is an admirer of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin whose ultimate goal is to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Romney scapegoats poor people, while Obama doesn’t talk about them at all.

President Obama’s economic policies follow in the footsteps of President Eisenhower and the first President Bush.  Governor Romney’s policies, based on his statements and his choice of advisers, would follow the second President Bush and the Tea Party movement.

If Obama and Romney were my only choices, and economic policy the only important issue, I would reluctantly vote for Obama.  But since I live in a state where third party candidates are on the  ballot, I will vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or perhaps Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

Click on How Paul Ryan Captured the G.O.P. for a profile of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the architect of Republican economic policy, by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker.

Click on Romney Tax Plan on Table, Debt Collapses Table for a report on a bipartisan analysis of Gov. Romney’s tax proposals.  Romney has not given specifics for an excellent reason.  It is mathematically impossible for him to deliver his proposed tax cuts for rich people and still balance the budget by closing loopholes.

Click on Obama spending binge never happened from MarketWatch and Who Is the Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It’s Barack Obama? from Forbes for President Obama’s record on government spending.  If I were a conservative Republican who believed that cutting government spending was the overriding issue, I probably would vote to re-elect the President.

Click on Obama’s Second Term Agenda: Cutting Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid for analysis by Matt Stoller of the Roosevelt Institute, based on the President’s proposals and appointments during his first term.

Click on U.S. poverty heads for highest level in 50 years for a Chicago Tribune article on a subject neither candidate talks about.  The nonsense about Barack Obama being the “food stamp” President reflects the fact that the deep economic recession has made huge numbers of people eligible for the program that was put in place in the 1970s.

What ever happened to honesty?

August 2, 2012

Click on John Deering for more cartoons.

Hat tip to Balloon Juice.


New articles links: Magna Carta, Adam Smith

July 28, 2012

Here are recent additions my Articles menu.  If you find my posts interesting, you probably will find these items equally interesting or more so.

Noam Chomsky and the endangered heritage of Magna CartaHat tip to Jack Clontz.

This is the text of a lecture given by Noam Chomsky, the distinguished linguist and radical political activist in June at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as part of its observance of its 600th anniversary.  The Great Charter issued unwillingly by King John in 1215 is the basis for the tradition of rule of law in the English-speaking world.  Chomsky noted that it has two parts: the Charter of Liberties, to protect the individual from the arbitrary power of the crown, and the Charter of the Forest, to protect the commons from the rapacious landed aristocracy.  He traced the history of the expansion and contraction of the basic principles of Magna Carta and concluded that these principles are in eclipse today.

Barack, Mitt and Adam Smith. Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker pointed out that Adam Smith, a classic defender of free enterprise and the founder of the modern discipline of economics, would not necessarily align with Mitt Romney or the Republican Party of today.  Smith was critical of corporations; he favored high wages, public works, public education and provision for the poor; and he believed in the moral sentiments that allow you to imagine yourself in somebody else’s place.  He did have more sympathy for enterprising merchants and manufacturers than for the landed aristocracy and chartered corporate monopolies. For him the free market was a means of limiting the power of businessmen and forcing them to serve the public interest.  It is a stretch, though, to say that Smith would have been more in sympathy with Barack Obama.  The issues of Smith’s day divided people along different lines than the issues of our day.

Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes and Mysterious I.R.A.

Vanity Fair ran this article in its August issue.  Nicolas Shaxon describes legal and ethical grey areas in Mitt Romney’s sources of wealth and evasion of U.S. taxes, and shows his financial operations are still largely hidden from public view.

Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil.

Andrew Levine in Counterpunch rebuts the argument that liberals should vote for Barack Obama, unsatisfactory as he is, because he is a lesser evil that Mitt Romney.  Both candidates serve the interests of what Franklin Roosevelt called the “economic royalists,” he said, but the great evil of the Obama administration is that President Obama has co-opted the liberal opposition.  Violations of basic human rights which would have outraged liberals under the Bush administration are accepted and even boasted about under Obama.

Academic Fraud: Does Anybody Care?

Diane Ravich, who writes for Education Week, tells public schools and private consultants boost student test scores through fraudulent methods.  Her article reminds me of what I read about the old Soviet Union.  Communist economic planners set high quotas which local managers could not realistically meet.  The result, which should have been predictable, was that some managers cheated, and some managers technically met their quotas in ways that were counter-productive for the overall economy.  I think the same dynamic is at work in the high-stakes testing in the federal No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top education programs.

Now They’re Even Outsourcing “Local” Journalism.

The hollowing out of the U.S. economy is not limited to manufacturing industry.  When I was a newspaper reporter, I used to console myself with the thought that I held a job that couldn’t be sent overseas.  That isn’t true of today’s reporters for local newspapers.

Is Obama really the lesser of two evils?

July 26, 2012

Many liberals who are dissatisfied with Barack Obama intend to vote for him anyway because they think Mitt Romney is worse.  But is President Obama really the lesser of the two evils?

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are committed to tearing up the Bill of Rights in the name of the so-called war on terror.  Both are aligned with Wall Street financiers, and to continued war overseas.  On the other hand, Obama is less extreme than Romney, probably will make better (or less bad) Supreme Court appointments and make be better on social-cultural questions that don’t threaten the wealthy and the powerful.  But none of these things make him the lesser evil.

What the Obama administration has done, which the Bush administration did not do and the Romney administration probably would not be able to do, is to destroy the liberal opposition.  Democrats in Congress defended Social Security against President Bush; they have not defended it against President Obama.  They questioned President Bush’s claim of authority to imprison and torture people on his personal say-so; they have not questioned President Obama’s claim to kill people on his personal say-so.  If President Romney started a war with Iran, I’d expect a certain number of Democrats to oppose him; if President Obama did the same thing, not so much.

Republicans in Congress have been justly criticized for partisan obstructionism, but on issues of civil liberties, waging war and protecting financiers, there is a remarkable bipartisan consensus.  I would have thought Republicans would oppose President Obama’s assertion of unilateral power to commit acts of war, target people for killing and cloak his actions in secrecy, but on these issues they are at one with the Democrats.

I expect to vote either for Jill Stein, the candidate of the Green Party, or for ex-Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, the candidate of the Libertarian Party.  It doesn’t really matter, since it is a foregone conclusion that President Obama will carry New York, but I would not vote for Obama or Romney even if New York were a battleground state.

Click on Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil for a good article by Andrew Levine in Counterpunch which makes this point.

Reasons for voting 2012

May 4, 2012

The only good reason for a principled liberal Democrat to vote for Barack Obama is that he is not Mitt Romney.

The only good reason for a principled conservative Republican to vote for Mitt Romney is that he is not Barack Obama.

That is probably the reason that Negative Ads Dominate 2012 Election, Study Shows.

Romney would be one of richest Presidents

February 15, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

Mitt Romney, if elected, would be among the three or four richest Presidents in American history.  By one estimate, his estimated net worth would make him No. 3, behind Presidents John F. Kennedy and George Washington, but ahead of Thomas Jefferson.

Another estimate would put him behind Washington and Jefferson, but ahead of JFK.  Now these figures are at best informed guesswork.  Writers will differ on how to estimate the wealth of historic figures and as to how to state it in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars.  What the figures do show, even if they’re not exact, is that Mitt Romney is a peer of the richest American Presidents in terms of wealth.

The 24/7 web site says the wealthiest American Presidents, at the peak of their wealth calculated in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars, were as follows:

  • John F. Kennedy, estate worth nearly $1 billion.
  • George Washington, $525 million.
  • Thomas Jefferson, $212 million.
  • Theodore Roosevelt, $125 million.
  • Andrew Jackson, $119 million.
  • James Madison, $101 million.

These figures are the Presidents’ estimated net worth at the peak of their wealth, which did not necessarily last a lifetime.  Thomas Jefferson was rich during his lifetime, but he died broke and in debt.

Only a few Presidents have not been the equivalent of millionaires.  According to the 24/7 Wall St. web site, they were James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, U.S. Grant, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman.

Great wealth is not a reason to vote against against a candidate, in and of itself.  Our greatest Presidents have been found in all income categories.  All other things being equal, I would rather vote for a rich financier than for a candidate who begs rich financiers for money to campaign on.  Many Presidents of great wealth have been champions of the common people.  It just so happens that Romney is not one of them.

Click on The Net Worth of the American Presidents, from Washington to Obama to … for financial snapshots of the American Presidents from the 24/7 Wall St. web log.

Click on How Does Romney’s Wealth Compare to Other Candidates? for the source of the top infographic and background information.

Click on Romney Is Richest Candidate in a Decade for comparisons of Romney with recent wealthy candidates of the past decade.

Click on Tax rates of presidential candidates for effective income tax rates of the candidates.


A Mormon in the White House?

February 13, 2012

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is an issue in the election.  This is something new, or so it seems to me.  I don’t recall anybody playing the religion card when Mitt’s father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, sought the Republican nomination for President in 1968.  Nor when Arizona Rep. Mo Udall ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976 as a liberal alternative to Jimmy Carter.  I’m not aware of anybody being bothered about the Mormonism of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader, or ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah.

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I have a good impression of Mormons I’ve met.  As a group, they seem like honest, decent, family-oriented people.  The Mormon practice of stockpiling food in case of emergency is a good idea.  Many friends of mine who are interested in genealogy use the Latter-Day Saints archives in their research.  The Mormon tradition of looking after their own is admirable.   I enjoy the singing of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Mormon theology seems bizarre to me, but probably any revealed religion looks that way to people who don’t believe in it.  So what’s the objection to Mitt Romney’s religion?  John Willson, a professor at Hillsdale College, who says that some of his best friends are Mormons, states the case as follows:

Latter Day Saints are not Christians.  I am well aware that coals will be heaped upon my head for saying so, but it is true.  Christians, for whatever else they do not have in common, are Trinitarians: God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one.  This is not the belief of Mormons.  Nor do they believe that Holy Scripture is the Old and New Testaments complete and unified, and the Word of God, as Jesus is the Word. 

The Book of Mormon is to the Old and New Testaments exactly what the New Testament is to the Old in comparing Christianity with Judaism. In fact, and this is the most important theological fact that Christians must understand about the Latter Day Saints, they stand in relation to Christianity exactly as Christians stand in relation to Jews; that is, they “complete” what Christians started, and make it full and true. … …

I don’t mean to suggest that Mr. Romney will urge upon us anything apocalyptic or immoral.  As a Latter Day Saint, however, he is not invested in the same traditions of the church or of the rule of law or the deep archives of sacrifice for the civilization of the West as I am, or most of you are. 

He is a problem-solver, it is true; but from where does he pull up the resources to see the problems clearly?  Mormons tend to be triumphalists, they see an end to history that has them at the center of it; and I see that Mr. Romney has gathered around him neocon triumphalists who care relatively little about limited government, but who wish mightily to engage the dragons around the world who seem to be threats to our hegemony of “democratic capitalism.”

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I don’t see this argument.  My experience is that knowing somebody’s religious affiliation tells you very little about their beliefs, including their religious beliefs.  Martin Luther King Jr. and Jerry Falwell were both Baptists.  Attorney-General John Ashcroft and Surgeon-General Everett Koop were both Pentecostals.  Cesar Chavez and Pat Buchanan were both Catholics.  President Barack Obama’s policies are diametrically opposed to the preaching he heard from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

As to Mormons not being Christians, the United States already has had Presidents who were not Christians by the standard creedal definition.  Thomas Jefferson notoriously made his own cut-and-paste version of the Gospels, eliminating the miracles of Jesus and the Resurrection.  The conservative Republican William Howard Taft was a Unitarian who openly rejected the divinity of Christ.

Click to enlarge

Now, if Mitt Romney were an unknown figure, it would be reasonable to draw inferences about his thinking from Mormon teachings, but since he has an actual record as a business executive and as Governor of Massachusetts, it is not necessary to resort to guesswork and indirect evidence.  We have all the information we need to make a judgment (a negative one, in my case).

Article VI of the Constitution of the United States says that there should be no religious test to qualify for public office.  This applies to eligibility for office, and does not apply to voting, but I think it is a good idea for voters to make their choice in this spirit.

Click on Latter-Day President for John Willson’s complete remarks on The Imaginative Conservative forum.  I recommend reading the entire article and the comment thread.

What if Obama loses?

February 1, 2012

What happens if President Obama loses the election?   The Washington Monthly has a good special issue making the case that it could be worse than you would think.

Mitt Romney, the most probable Republican nominee, is, like Barack Obama, a defender of the status quo rather than a radical of the right.  But a Republican victory would mean not only Romney, Newt Gingrich or a dark horse Republican as President, but a new Republican majority in Congress.

Experience teaches that Republicans will use their majority more effectively than the Democrats do.  The Republican leadership will never tolerate the abuses of the filibuster and cloture that the Democrats have, and will be much less likely to either desire nor need compromise.

According to the Washington Monthly’s team of writers, we can say goodbye to the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law before they are even implemented.  We can forget about any meaningful action on global climate change, and a more brass-knuckle approach to foreign policy.  As a friend of mine summed up, the objective is to make United States like Rick Perry’s Texas writ large.

Click on the following links to read the series.

This Time It’s Different

What If Obama Loses?: imagining the consequences of a GOP victory

Campaign Promises: what they say is how they’ll govern

The Tea Party: picking the candidates and writing the agenda

Congress: the good news is … no more gridlock

The Courts: the conservative takeover will be complete

Foreign Affairs: the “more enemies, fewer friends” doctrine

The Environment: the end of the EPA as we know it

Financial Regulation: back to the good ol’ days of 2008

Obamacare: it’s toast

I agree a Republican victory is likely to take the country from bad to worse, but I see little to hope from a continued Democratic incumbency.  The Republicans would move the country in the direction it already is going, but at a faster and more reckless pace.

With a supposedly liberal Democrat in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate, the United States is drifting toward war with Iran.  The United States is waging war in more countries than it was under President George W. Bush.  President Obama has claimed even more un-Constitutional powers than his predecessor did.

The two most significant reform laws enacted during his administration, the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, are complicated, hard to understand, hard to implement, easy to sabotage and require great integrity and capability in the way they are administered if they are to work.  The authors of these laws consciously rejected simpler and stronger measure, such as a public option on health insurance, or a limitation on the size and activities of banks with insured deposits.  Maybe the ACA and Dodd-Frank will help; the odds are against it.

There is little point in enacting new legislation if existing laws and regulations are not enforced.  President Obama has been actively hostile to prosecuting financial fraud; he evidently thinks that a threat to Wall Street is a threat to America’s financial stability.  I don’t mean to say that every single thing he has done has been wrong.  Some of his policies, such as repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or his modest public works program, are good; others might turn out to be good; others arguably are less bad than the Republican alternative would be.  But the case for re-electing President Obama is not hope for something better, but fear of something worse.


Barack Obama lucky in his opponents

January 28, 2012

Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has been lucky in his political opponents.  When he first ran for Illinois State Senate in 1996, his only opponent in the Democratic primary was Alice Palmer, his predecessor, who only decided at the last minute to run for re-election.  Obama was able to show that two-thirds of the signatures on her nominating petitions were invalid, and so he ran unopposed.  In his district, nomination in a Democratic primary was tantamount to election.

In 2004, when Barack Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate, the two strongest potential candidates, incumbent Republican Peter Fitzgerald and predecessor Democrat Carol Moseley Brown, decided not to run.  The Republican front-runner, Jack Ryan, a Goldman Sachs partner who retired to become a parochial school teacher in inner-city Chicago, was embarrassed when the Chicago Tribune sued successfully to have his sealed divorce papers made public.  The papers revealed that his wife, the actress Jeri Ryan, accused him of pressuring her to go to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris. Ryan withdrew from the race, and Obama’s opponent was the eccentric Alan Keyes, whom he defeated overwhelmingly.

In 2008, with Barack Obama ran for President, he faced a formidable Democratic primary opponent in Hillary Clinton.  But in the general election, Republican candidate John McCain proved surprisingly inept, and then chose the even more inept Sarah Palin as his running mate.   Given the unpopularity of the George W. Bush administration, it is unlikely any Republican could have one.

Now, in 2010, the likely Republican candidate is either Newt Gingrich, a symbol of political sleaze and corruption, or Mitt Romney, a symbol of corporate wealth and economic privilege.   President Obama’s opponents, and not his record, are his best hope for re-election.

Nate Silver thinks there is a possibility that the Republican nominating convention will choose a candidate other than the ones who’ve signed up for the marathon primary race.   I don’t think that is likely, but it would be a way to nominate a better candidate—that is, one better qualified to be President of the United States.

Click on Some Signs G.O.P. Establishment’s Backing of Romney is Tenuous for Nate Silver’s reasoning in his FiveThirtyEight web log and column.

George Romney and Mitt Romney

October 7, 2011

George Romney, like his son Mitt Romney, was a successful business executive before he became governor of a state and a presidential candidate.  George Romney was a hero of American business.  Mitt Romney was not.

George Romney’s success was based on creating value.  Mitt Romney’s success was based on extracting value.  As CEO of American Motors Corp., George Romney gave back compensation to the company when he thought it was excessive.  As CEO of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney profited even when the companies that Bain took over went bankrupt.

George Romney

George Romney worked for Alcoa, the aluminum company, and the Automotive Manufacturers Association before going to work in 1948 for George W. Mason, who merged Nash Kelvinator with Hudson Motors to form American Motors Corp.  Romney headed development of the Rambler, a compact car, and became CEO of American Motors in 1954 after Mason’s death.

From then until his resignation in 1962, he focused American Motors on development of compact cars—a contrarian strategy, because General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, the big three auto manufacturers, were building ever-larger gas guzzlers.  Romney reorganized the company, cutting management jobs and reducing executive salaries by an average of 35 percent.

The Rambler brand became highly successful.  Sales increased during the late 1950s recession when sales of large cars declined.  In 1960 and 1961, it was the third most popular U.S. car model.  American Motors’ stock went from $7 to $90 a share.  George Romney became a millionaire through stock options, although in some years he gave back what he considered excess pay to the company.

He resigned from the company in 1962 to successfully run for Governor of Michigan and was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1968.   His successors at American Motors diversified away from Romney’s compact car strategy.  Eventually AMC formed a partnership with French automaker Renault, which acquired a controlling interest in 1983.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney worked for two business consulting firms, Boston Consulting Group and Bain and Co., before becoming head of an investment firm, Bain Capital, in 1983.   The theory was that Bain Capital would invest in companies and use Bain management methods to make them grow.  Bain began as a venture capital company.  Its most successful venture was Staples Inc., the office supply chain, which returned Bain’s investment sevenfold.

In a few years, Romney shifted Bain Capital’s emphasis to leveraged buyouts.  Bain bought existing companies largely with borrowed money, with the companies themselves collateral for the loans and repayment company out of company profits.  When corporate assets were more valuable for their resale value than for the profits they generated, they were sold off.  Sometimes the companies Bain acquired thrived and grew, despite the handicap of their large new debt, but Bain was able to profit by means of fees and dividends even as the companies were going bankrupt.

The New York Post gave examples.

Bain and Goldman Sachs … put $85 million down in a $415 million 1994 leveraged buyout of Baxter International’s medical testing division (renamed Dade Behring), which sold machines and reagents to labs. … …

Bain reduced Dade’s research and development spending to 6 to 7 percent of sales, while its peers allocated between 10 and 15 percent.  Dade in June 1999 used the savings as part of the basis to borrow $421 million.  Dade then turned around and used $365 million from the loan to buy shares from its owners, giving them a 4.3 times return on their investment. … …

In August 2002, Dade filed for bankruptcy.

This was not an isolated case.

* Bain in 1988 put $5 million down to buy Stage Stores, and in the mid-’90s took it public, collecting $100 million from stock offerings.  Stage filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

* Bain in 1992 bought American Pad & Paper (AMPAD), investing $5 million, and collected $100 million from dividends.  The business filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

* Bain in 1993 invested $60 million when buying GS Industries, and received $65 million from dividends.  GS filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

* Bain in 1997 invested $46 million when buying Details, and made $93 million from stock offerings.  The company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

Romney’s Bain invested 22 percent of the money it raised from 1987-95 in these five businesses, making a $578 million profit.


As the Boston Globe noted, Bain Capital sometimes invested in companies that later thrived and grew, but the growing companies did not necessarily deliver a higher return than the companies went bankrupt. 

In many cases, such as Staples Inc., the Framingham retailer, and Steel Dynamics Inc., an Indiana steelmaker, the companies expanded and added thousands of jobs.  In other cases, such as AmPad and GS Industries, another steelmaker, Bain-controlled companies shuttered plants, slashed hundreds of jobs, and landed in bankruptcy.

But in almost all cases Bain Capital made money.  In fact, the firm earned substantially more from Ampad than Staples.  Staples returned about $13 million on a $2 million investment; Ampad yielded more than $100 million on $5 million, according to reports to investors.

via The Boston Globe.

Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign claims that his business success shows that he knows how to create jobs.  But his business endeavors were never about creating jobs.  That would be a new mission for him.