Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

Sure, they built that… but what do they have to show for it?

Rick Santorum, discussing the GOP presidential loss last year, made a good point while missing a much larger one.

The former Pennsylvania senator recalled all the business owners who spoke at the Republican National Convention.

“One after another, they talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single —factory worker went out there,” Santorum told a few hundred conservative activists at an “after-hours session” of the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”

Well, that would have proved at least as entertaining as Dirty Harry talking to an empty chair: “Hi, I’m a factory worker. As soon as they figure out how a machine can do my job or hire people in another country to do it for slave wages, I’m out of here… with no severance.” Or: “I’m a janitor, who apparently makes so much Newt Gingrich suggests that they give my job to my kid… who’s still in school.” And, of course: “I’m a waitress. I stand on my feet 10 hours a day just to keep my head above water. I have no health insurance, and I make so little, my retirement plan involves falling over into a customer’s steak and eggs.”

And I think their respective companies all had them sign strongly worded documents insisting that whatever they built or might someday build belongs to the company alone.

“When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are Type A’s who want to succeed economically, we’re talking to a very small group of people,” he said. “No wonder they don’t think we care about them. No wonder they don’t think we understand them. Folks, if we’re going to win, you just need to think about who you talk to in your life.”

That’s nice, Rick, but none of your party’s policies makes any attempt to help them. Considering the GOP platform, here’s what would actually make sense:

“Hi, I’m a janitor. I barely make ends meet, but what are ya gonna do? What will really ruin things for my family is if gays could marry. Can you guys handle that?” Or: “I’m a factory worker whose plant is being shut down and its operations sent to China. However, that’s not the worst thing happening in America. Some women are getting abortions when their rapes weren’t legitimate!” And, of course: “I’m a waitress with this persistent cough that I should probably see a doctor about, but if I take time off, I won’t make rent. Anyway, I hear that illegal immigrants are going to take my cushy job!”

Maybe if they do enough of this in 2016, they’ll win.


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Ann Romney’s House of Cadillacs…

Critics quickly pounced on Mitt Romney for comments made at his economic speech at Ford Field.

“I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pick-up truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck, so I used to have all three covered.”

The remark, in an unscripted moment, will add to the image of Romney as so wealthy he can talk casually about his wife having not one but two Cadillacs. Although two cars are not unusual in American homes, two luxury Cadillacs, which range in price from $35,000 upwards, are not.

I’m not sure why this statement is news. Romney has a lot of cars. Did the media not read the stories it’s published regarding his immense wealth?

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who before turning to politics helped found a private equity firm in Boston, estimated his wealth to be as much as $250 million on financial disclosure statements. He earned $21.6 million in 2010, mostly from investments, according to tax returns he released in late January after losing the South Carolina primary to former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Shortly before the release, he had said he earned speaking fees, “but not very much.” His disclosure statements showed the fees totaled almost $375,000 between Feb. 26, 2010 and Feb. 20, 2011.

What do people expect Romney does with all this money? Store it in a money bin and swim around in it? That’s not good for the economy. It could also qualify him for an appearance on A&E’s Hoarders.

Romney earned roughly $57,000 a day in 2010. I wouldn’t be surprised if he owned one of those needlessly complicated breakfast machines that were popular in the mid-1980s.

Perhaps we should be concerned that he has a human chessboard at one of his country homes, but that’s what makes him a job creator.

The Romney campaign — always anxious to make its candidate’s verbal fumbles worse — pointed out that Mrs. Romney has two Cadillacs because she spends time in two different states — California and Massachusetts.

Many middle-class families have two cars. Some even have two homes. A man worth millions can afford to buy his wife a couple Cadillacs — though I don’t know how he got stuck with the pick-up truck. Why does he even need one? Does he do a lot of heavy lifting?

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Political Theatre


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Who can stop the assault on marriage?

Not surprisingly, GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum made dumb, bigoted comments about the overturning of Prop 8, but let’s focus on Mitt Romney’s reaction, as he’s frequently presented as the least horrific of the bunch.

“Today, unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage,” Romney said following the decision. “This decision does not end this fight, and I expect it to go to the Supreme Court. That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own policies and prejudices.”

This loving couple has lowered the value of my 2-carat traditional marriage to that of cubic zirconia

“Unelected judges” is a conservative catchphrase. It is supposed to get your dander up: These “unelected” (that’s not Democratic!) judges just do whatever they want without listening to the will of the people! This misses the fact that judges are tasked with protecting the Constitution. The majority of citizens cannot all agree to deprive rights from the minority. Otherwise, there would be states in which you couldn’t own a gun.

Romney describes marriage equality as a “fight.” How is it a fight exactly? Generally, in a battle, both sides have something to gain or lose. Homosexuals want to enter into a legal contract with a consenting adult. Some heterosexuals want to forbid it. This isn’t a fight. It’s bullying — an unwarranted intrusion into other people’s lives.

“Traditional marriage” is another conservative catchphrase. Fifty years ago, that definition would not have included my own marriage. The use of “protect” implies that strangers marrying will somehow harm your marriage. It’s as if they think all heterosexuals have stock in the marriage corporation, and allow gays to marry will dilute the value of your shares.

Romney then implies that fighting marriage equality is a critical matter in the upcoming election, as if the housing crisis was directly related to interior decorators deciding to get hitched. He vows to appoints judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written. Of course, the Constitution doesn’t say anything about marriage, which is probably why Romney also supports a Constitutional ban against gay marriage.

“There’s been an assault on marriage,” Romney said in the Faith and Freedom teleconference. “I think he [Obama] is very aggressively trying to pave the path to same-sex marriage. I would unlike this president defend the Defense of Marriage Act. I would also propose and promote once again an amendment to the constitution to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”

Where’s the “assault”? The overt implication is that gays marrying each other weakens “traditional” marriage. How? Shouldn’t conservatives opposed to marriage equality provide some modicum of data backing up this assertion? Something I couldn’t counter with the sordid past of Newt “Henry VIII” Gingrich and The Bachelor?

Anything that comes out of Romney’s mouth is as honest as what men tell women in a bar at closing time. He’ll say whatever is necessary for voters to take him to the White House. The tragedy is that he knows that a sizable portion of the United States is irrationally homophobic. Romney can talk about American “exceptionalism” all he wants but most civilized nations already have gay marriage. What makes America so great again? Arrogance and iPods? And the former is the only one we actually make here.


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Mitt Romney doesn’t care about poor people…

Well, that was dumb:

Romney continues his habit of making politically tone-deaf statements. Here, he says he’s not concerned about the “very poor.” This is not surprising to anyone who pays attention to his economic policy proposals, but it’s not really something he should say out loud unless his son made a birthday wish that compelled him to tell the truth for a day.

Romney does state that he’s not concerned about the “very rich.” However, that’s about as true as “People” magazine saying it doesn’t care about celebrity gossip. Besides, as the past 30 years indicate, the country is clearly doing its best for the wealthy.

Romney stresses that his focus is on the middle-income voters who are truly suffering as a result of the Obama years. He seems to miss the fact that the big fear these voters have is sinking into poverty. Once there, Romney has a Scrooge-like regard for their issues. There’s a “very ample” safety net for them. They have “food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers.” Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Much like Scrooge, Romney probably isn’t fully aware of the day-to-day struggles of people caught in this “safety net.”

It takes a great deal of cognitive dissonance to accuse President Obama of “dividing the nation” and engaging in “class warfare,” as Romney has charged, for daring to discuss the country’s growing income inequality while blatantly demonstrating disregard for the poor. Is this the type of unifying rhetoric he expects will cause the lower, middle, and upper classes to join hands and sing songs of brotherhood and love?

I imagine the Romney campaign’s spin would go something like this: Unlike Democrats, who want a permanent underclass that is dependent upon them so that they can retain power, Romney wants the poor to strive for the middle-income status that will arouse a passing interest from him. Only problem is that repealing the Affordable Care Act isn’t going to help the poor, nor are continued tax breaks for the so-called “job creators” who are not actually required to create jobs and are usually rewarded for not doing so.

This is not how you deal with poverty in the U.S. This is how you behave when you’re popular in high school: “Hey, fat girl, lose some weight and I’ll invite you to my parties and sort of be your friend.”

It’s unfortunate. You’d think that after creating so many poor people during his time at Bain Capital, Romney would have a bit more pride of ownership regarding them.

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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Political Theatre


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The Measure of Success in the United States of Rand…

Last night, during the Florida GOP presidential debate, Mitt Romney declared that he was “proud to be successful.” He pronounced this as thunderously as James Brown once said that he was “black and proud.”

Romney has stripped every possible moral qualifier from “success.” Questioning how one defines “success” or how one achieves this success is to question the glorious free-market capitalist system that gave us slavery and Silkwood.

Currently, success is defined as making lots of money. This is great for you in specific and great for all the people whose jobs you’ve created in the most general, non-provable sense. As Mr. Bernstein said in Citizen Kane, it’s “no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want is to make a lot of money.”

This is not to say that everyone can make a fortune. What I question is the pursuit of golden idols as the true measure of success.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in his rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address, said that the United States should be a nation of “haves and soon-to-haves.” This is what has become of the “American dream.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman who no longer has control over her own body or a consenting adult who can’t marry another consenting adult. You’ve succeeded in this country if you “have” things — perhaps even an iPad assembled in China under inhumane conditions.

This is where we’ve come 90 years after the events in The Great Gatsby. If Tom Buchanan confronted today’s Jay Gatsby with the truth of how he made his fortune, Gatsby could retort, “I am proud of my success. How dare you question free enterprise!” True, the reason Daisy stayed with Tom is that Gatsby’s money was new not old (old money tends to be just as dirty as new, sometimes more so), but Gatsby’s business was only illegal due to excessive government regulation (prohibition). The GOP could have made a happy ending out of Fitzgerald’s work.

I recall the GOP redefining success during the 2008 presidential campaign when Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani both mocked Obama’s background as a community organizer. Public service was no longer noble. It was arguably not even a job with “actual responsibilities.” If it bothers you that modern politics has degenerated into a street fight without the splashy choreography of West Side Story, you might ask yourself why the solution to the mess is to elect people who’ve spent their lives dismantling companies or advising banks on how to best exploit consumers.

The classic Karl Rove technique is to turn someone’s strength into a weakness. When your candidate with spotty military service is running for re-election during wartime against a Vietnam veteran, you bring in some people to run down and diminish his accomplishments. Nowadays, the trick is to minimize public service — subtly with teachers and more overtly with elected officials. A “career politician” — someone who has represented the people of his or her community for years — is not to be trusted. I’m not sure why. These are generally smart individuals who could’ve made millions in the private sector. The cynical can only view the appearance of financial sacrifice as a craven grab for power. They’re usually the same people who believe people only become teachers because they couldn’t hack it on Wall Street.

Romney’s campaign is centered on the belief that he should lead the nation because he’s enriched himself for the bulk of his career in the private sector. This Rovian tactic turns on its head what could be viewed as a lack of political experience. The government isn’t a corporation. Corporations don’t usually have to explain themselves or their actions to the public. A corporation’s sole goal is profit. If that’s our nation’s goal, then we’ve already lost. I recall an issue of a comic book I read as a kid that has always stuck with me. A former villain is telling a little boy about how the hero defeated him. The little boy doesn’t know how the hero did it: The villain was stronger, faster, and overall more powerful. The former villain says all that was true but “I was only fighting for myself. He was fighting for something more.”

I’ve had the opportunity to meet several people with professional backgrounds similar to Romney’s. I don’t begrudge them their success. I just never got the impression from any of them that they were interested in fighting for something more than themselves. They were pursuing golden idols. Once they’ve attained them, the Tom Buchanans of the world tend to seek the ultimate idol — power. This power is not used to uplift but to protect their idols from the Gatsbys they fear will try to steal them.

You could probably assemble a short film about a public schoolteacher in which dozens of former students describe the impact that teacher had on their lives. Maybe someone could do that for Romney the venture capitalist and free-market job creator. If not, who really cares? He’s made a lot of money. He’s an American success, but his American “dream” is different from mine. Perhaps because my dreams don’t have borders and don’t involve “things.”

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Capitalism, Political Theatre


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Bob Dole endorses Mitt Romney and proves he’s still alive…

The Atlantic on Mitt Romney’s growing collection of endorsements from failed GOP presidential candidates:

It’s amusing that Mitt Romney’s campaign would tout a warning from Bob Dole that Newt Gingrich’s nomination would lead to “an Obama landslide,” because not only did Dole himself lose to a young incumbent Democratic president, but also because Romney looks a lot like the Dole of the 2012 Republican primary.

According to the piece, Romney’s campaign sent The National Review a statement from Dole regarding Gingrich:

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.  If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices…

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad.  He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

Yes, Bob Dole does not like Newt Gingrich.

Dole gets around to endorsing Romney, sort of, toward the end of his statement, but his endorsement has far less enthusiasm and passion than his tirade against Gingrich.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney. 

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.

Romney’s campaign and its supporters keep saying that the Obama campaign is attacking Romney because it doesn’t want to face him in the general election. I don’t think Romney himself is that formidable a foe. Obama is going after him because he’s the likely nominee, and this will be a tough race for him no matter who his opponent is. So he’s not wasting any time.

Dole’s endorsement might help further raise concerns among primary voters about Gingrich — although some of those voters might like the fact that Gingrich was so contentious toward Democrats, especially Clinton. However, it doesn’t alter Gingrich’s depiction of Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate.”

There’s also an alarming sense of panic in Dole’s statement: Nominating Gingrich would result in an “Obama landslide”? Many Democrats believe that’s the case (I disagree), but a Republican arguing that it’s even conceivable for Obama to defeat a Republican nominee so soundly is simply not good politics. Gingrich himself has said that Romney would lose to Obama — for the historical reasons with which I’m inclined to agree — but he tends to downplay the loss. It would be a squeaker, perhaps, like 2000 and 2004. But the rout that Dole describes does not fit the GOP narrative of Obama as a failed president.

It doesn’t help the image of Romney as politician who’ll say anything, either. Yesterday, he claimed he’d consider Gingrich for the VP slot — clearly, a lie given that his campaign sent this hit job from Dole. Its whole point is that Gingrich would be poison at the ballot — most likely regardless of where his name was.

This makes me think that there’s a true disconnect in Romney’s campaign regarding the current Republican party. He’s trotting out an assortment of establishment politicians with mixed conservative credentials: John McCain, Nikki Haley, and now Bob Dole. He can’t seem to make headway with the usual suspects at FOX News (Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee). Even sending Dole’s endorsement to The National Review is very 1990s.

It’s probably the best Romney can do because the Tea Party branch of the GOP doesn’t think much of him. A competent campaign — having learned anything from South Carolina — would be courting Tea Party caucus leader Michele Bachmann’s endorsement, as she dislikes Gingrich so much you’d think she was one of his ex-wives.

The Gingrich/Romney battle is compelling to watch not just because of the almost Reality TV level snarkiness, but because it shows a GOP in disarray. Backbiting statements against other Republicans would never have happened even 10 years ago. This is normally the disciplined party, in sharp contrast to the Democrats. It makes Obama vs. Clinton look like a screwball comedy with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Political Theatre


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Why S.C. matters…

Reader over at Sullydish questioned the impact of a Gingrich win in South Carolina:

Maybe I’ll feel differently when the SC vote actually comes in, and Mitt loses badly, but I cannot shake the feeling that South Carolina is so different than the rest of the country.  You Lie, pride in treason, hit pieces using John McCain’s children, etc–these are things that play well there.  Surely, the rest of the country is more like Iowa and New Hampshire (where Newt placed fourth), than SC.  Right?  The South doesn’t vote again until Super Tuesday, March 6th.  Nine states take the stage in between.  Sure, Romney could lose, but let a little time pass after this SC politico blood frenzy, and I think Newt ends up a footnote in the Romney nomination story. Right?  Gingrich. Really?

Here’s why I think he’s wrong:

The reason the South Carolina Republican primary matters is because South Carolina represents the Republican base. Plain and simple. When John McCain lost to George W. Bush there in 2000, it was over for McCain. When McCain won the state in 2008, it was a symbolic (though tentative) embrace by the base.

Romney’s collapse is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s in 2008. A South Carolina rout set off a steady decline for her and I think it will for Romney. Clinton was not prepared for a long-game campaign. I’m not sure if Romney is, either. Clinton at least was able to slightly regroup and alter her “inevitability” campaign to one of “seasoned experience” vs “naive inexperience” (turning Barack Obama’s big selling point of “hope and change” against him). She started to play the underdog, the one that the media had turned on in favor of Obama. She also sank to coded speak about Obama’s chances in the general election (“Really, guys? You’re gonna put the black guy up against McCain? We have a chance to win this thing. Don’t squander it.”).

Romney can do none of this. His entire campaign was based on electability and his business background. The former is harder to push when you’re one for three, and the latter has turned into a source of embarrassment. A candidate no one really likes but sort of tolerates because he can beat their Kenyan Muslim Socialist Bogeyman is quickly abandoned if there are other options. And Iowa and South Carolina have been about those other options.

I’ve long believed that Gingrich would have a better chance of defeating Obama than Romney or any of the other sideshow candidates. Gingrich has a history of winning. Romney does not. You can point to Gingrich’s collapse as Speaker but what he accomplished in 1994 is still impressive. Gingrich is a far savvier campaigner and politician. His famous lack of shame allows him to co-opt the success of the 1990s. He can evoke that period, which voters remember with fondness, while Romney can only make vague proclamations about how his business acumen will help him get the economy running again.

I think conservative voters also realize that the United States is not a business. They also recognize the gridlock in Washington and know that a Republican president might have to deal with a Democratic Senate or possibly House. Success in politics requires a skilled politician. It’s better for the GOP that Gingrich remind voters of this now rather than have Obama do it later in the general election.

I’m not impressed by Romney’s “traditional” politics. Better organization is what allowed Obama to win Iowa, to close in on Clinton in New Hampshire and win South Carolina. It allowed him to outfight Clinton “rope-a-dope” style. Romney’s “organization” resulted in his losing Iowa to a guy with a “Google” problem and losing South Carolina to a guy with enough wives to form a rock band (“Newt & the Exes” will play at the 40 Watt Club in Athens next month).

The assertion that Romney is the most electable Republican makes me almost believe there’s a liberal media bias. This belief is based in the notion that independent swing voters will choose a moderate. It arrogantly presumes that independent voters are more inclined to vote for someone like the Democrat but with a different tie. History, of course, has yet to bear that out: McCain lost in 2008, Dole lost in 1996, and Bush lost in 1992. This is the fate of Republican candidates who Democrats “sort of” like — and Romney can’t even claim that.

No, Gingrich reminds me of George W. Bush: Someone most conservatives like and most on the left hate. Remember that U.S. voters elected Bush twice (well, at least once).

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Political Theatre


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Selective Rational Self-Interest…

Charles M. Blow of the New York Times has an interesting piece about the “politics of envy.”

In his New Hampshire victory speech on Tuesday, Romney lambasted his Republican opponents (who have raised real issues about his role at the private equity firm Bain Capital) for following the lead of President Obama, whom he described as a leader who divides us “with the bitter politics of envy.”

The next day on “Today” on NBC, Romney defended the statement, rejecting the notion that there were questions about Wall Street behavior, saying the whole discussion was about class warfare. He even went so far as to suggest that such talk shouldn’t even be openly entertained. When the interviewer asked, “Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?” Romney responded, “I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like.”

Quiet rooms? This isn’t a discussion of Keats in the sumptuously furnished salon of the Earl of Stuffypants. This is a serious issue. As Blow points out, the problem is that we’ve been “too quiet for too long” and I agree with him that if the Occupy movement deserves any praise, it should be for making these issues public and making certain people very uncomfortable.

And it is these people’s “discomfort” that this is all about. They rail about “class warfare” when very real concerns regarding income disparity are raised but are quick to warn voters about the insidious spread of socialism. Please note that the former concern is based on the history of the past 30 years. The latter is based on science fiction.

It’s not that they don’t want to fight a class war. They just don’t want the other classes to defend themselves. Shut up and take it while wondering what the hell happened in the “your quiet room” — before your friends at the bank foreclose on it.

I’ve stated before that Republicans these days sound more like Randians than anything else. However, I’m struck by the level of inconsistency in their beliefs. They have no interest in sacrificing for you but believe you should sacrifice for them. Basically, “one for all and all for us.”

The issue people have with Mitt Romney and Bain Capital (really, who names a company “Bain”?) is not based in “envy” so much as the simple fact that the system didn’t work for them. Should the 1,750 people who lost their jobs at Georgetown Steel applaud Romney’s business acumen in simultaneously doubling Bain’s investment even though Georgetown Steel eventually went bankrupt? The commonly trotted out excuse that Romney and his supporters give is that Bain’s actions “saved” other jobs, but this doesn’t mean much for the people whose jobs weren’t saved. Isn’t that “cold comfort” closer to the “socialism” Republicans revile? Putting the interests of others and of the “corporate state” over their own? How is that in their “rational self-interest”?

I’ve been in the position of having to fire employees whose jobs were being sent elsewhere. The HR talking points I was given had a section regarding how this “decision was not taken lightly” and would “benefit the company as a whole, by allowing it to remain competitive.” I refused to repeat this nonsense — pointing out that even if these statements were true, why should the terminated employee care? The only reason to try to reassure him that the company doesn’t “like” firing people is to avoid negative PR and only serves the company’s interests — from the employee’s perspective, the motivation doesn’t change the end result. And why should he care about the health of the “corporate state” once he’s been expelled from it? It’s not like he has stock in the company that will generate revenue for him even if he no longer earns a salary.

Hostess pulled the same shenanigans when it announced its latest bankruptcy.

In a court document explaining how the company got into this mess, Hostess largely pins the blame on its labor costs, as well as increased competition, poor financial performance and excessive levels of debt. Hostess also says the company didn’t do enough to fix itself during a lengthy prior stint in bankruptcy protection less than a decade ago.

Hostess said it does not “have a competitive cost structure and cannot achieve viability on a long-term sustainable basis,” according to its court filing. ”The company obtained only modest concessions relating to health and welfare, as well as inflexible requirements under their collective bargaining agreements relating to work rules,” Hostess says in its court filing, which says the company and its employees have 372 separate labor agreements.

“Modest concessions” relating to “health and welfare”? So, apparently it’s the unionized labor’s fault for not allowing management to create a more efficient plantation-style model in which they sacrifice for the company’s long-term profit and benefit. Their employees’ well-being seems to mean little to the company so why should the employees be all that concerned about the company?

Why is rational self-interest so selective in this country? Millionaires paying more in taxes is an unfair burden. It’s wealth redistribution. But unionized labor — even teachers — must “sacrifice” for the sake of the nation.

Is this an example of “some animals are more equal than others”? Whatever the bill of good that’s been sold, Americans are slowly realizing it’s a con. We are either all in this together or we’re not. If “sacrifice” leads to “socialism,” then it’s in working-class people’s best interests to advocate for better pay and better benefits (by “better,” I refer to the distant past prior to the Reagan administration). If you’re one of the countless Americans who don’t have health insurance, you are under no obligation to continue to sacrifice for the corporations that need to deprive you of those benefits to “remain competitive.”

Newt Gingrich argues that raising the minimum wage would lead to unemployment. Suppose he’s right (and I don’t) and companies would have to get by with 10% less employees if working-class wages are increased. Isn’t Comrade Gingrich advocating for a socialist system where you take a pay cut for the benefit of your coworkers and the “state” (your company)? If this is a “merit” society, as Romney likes to say before adding more millions to his children and grandchildren’s trust funds, then the best employees would survive the resulting cuts and have more to show for it. Would the company’s profits suffer if the workforce decreased? Perhaps. But if you’re making minimum wage, the minimum you should care is whether the company keeps the doors open.

It does make you wonder who the real “socialists” are in this country. And why the average Americans fear the “public state” more than the “corporate state,” which as far more power over their lives these days.


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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Capitalism, Pop Life


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“You’re fired!”…

Mitt Romney has had his fair share of gaffes during his presidential campaign. He’s claimed corporations are people, which employed the same twisted logic Southern politicians used to try to have slaves counted as people for representation purposes while still treating them like construction equipment. He’s also said he knows what it’s like to be unemployed: He is a millionaire many times over. He’s not “unemployed,” he’s comfortably retired — unlike many people in their early 60s who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and have to struggle to survive or who had their pensions and retirement savings destroyed through Vegas-style investments.

Just in time for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday comes Romney’s latest politically tone-death hit, in which he expresses his pleasure in firing people.

Romney’s previous gaffes received more of a pass because he was still running against the human-sized gaffes that are Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. Now, fresh off his nail-biter, Karl Rove-approved victory in Iowa last week, Romney is receiving true front-runner treatment, which involves his opponents rushing toward any perceived blood in the water. So, he quickly sought to clarify his statement:

“I don’t want to live in a world where we have Obamacare telling us which insurance we have to have, which doctor we can have, which hospital we go to,” Romney said Monday at his news conference, according to The New York Times.

“I believe in the setting as I described this morning where people are able to choose their own doctor, choose their own insurance company. If they don’t like their insurance company or their provider, they can get rid of it,” Romney said.

Let’s look at Romney’s statement more closely, as there are two critical problems with it:

It also means that if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, you know, I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.

"Hey, baby, you want some high-octane, blow-the-doors off health insurance?"

Unlike Romney, whose bank accounts have bank accounts, most people in the U.S. realize that health care in this country is expensive and only growing more so each year. When Romney extols the virtue of “choice” in health care, he might as well tell a minimum-wage worker at Wal-Mart who relies on a car to get to work that she has her choice of $100,000 BMWs. The only question now is whether to go for the one with the “luxurious interior” or the “smooth ride.” At this point, she might as well pick her preferred Enterprise model (1701 — original series, baby!, 1701-A, “Star Trek 4 – 6,” or 1701-D, Pimped-out Picard action) because it’s all just a fantasy.

I’d rather work toward getting her into a reasonably economical mid-size sedan, but even Archie Andrews’ jalopy is more practical than what Romney has to offer her, which are sore feet from walking. People with money tend to distract themselves with limitless options. A thousand brands of toothpaste is one of America’s original sins. If you don’t have money, though, the only toothpaste option that matters is the one you can afford.

The other problem with Romney’s statement is the cavalier manner in which he discusses firing people who don’t perform for him as he’d like. Here he definitely demonstrates his big-business background: “Humans” are interchangeable “resources.” If they miss a beat while tap dancing for your entertainment, then bring in someone else. I worked someplace that referred to and promoted this practice as “churn and burn.”

Any idiot can just fire people who screw up. Look at Donald Trump’s TV career. What takes vision, what takes leadership, is to help people succeed. Once upon a time, employee termination was viewed as a mutual failure. I once worked with an executive who combined the worst traits of all the GOP candidates — the insanity of Bachmann and Ron Paul, the cluelessness of Rick Perry, the Snidely Whiplash villainy of Newt Gingrich, the serpentine quality of Rick Santorum, and a conscience about as pronounced as Jon Huntsman’s visibility. I suspected she was assembled in Dr. Mindbender’s laboratory like the Cobra Emperor from “G.I. Joe.”

If staff performance wasn’t what she deemed it should be, she assumed it was due to incompetence, laziness, or meth addiction. Any recommendation for employee development that wasn’t punitive was rejected as “making excuses” or “being soft.” There was little interest in examining expectations and seriously considering if they were realistic. No, better to keep employees on a rotating hamster wheel of wage freezes and staff reductions while blaming them if performance suffered as a result. You can fire everyone who collapses on their way to a finish line that is constantly moved forward but eventually all you have left is management. Unfortunately, we’ve moved past the point where managers are paid to take a bullet. They are now paid to aim and fire.

In fairness, Romney was most likely referring to firing vendors or companies who provide a service, but as he himself said, these companies are comprised of people. What happens to the people who lose their jobs because of mismanagement they can’t control? I used to think the old lady who wrote an angry letter to a company informing them of why she would no longer buy their products was being churlish, but upon reflection, she is giving them the feedback that is necessary to allow them to improve. That’s more than you’d get from the Romneys of the world. For them, it’s all “churn and burn.”


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How Mitt Romney defines “risk” and “entitlements”…

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently expressed his concern about what he perceives as a growing “entitlement” society:

“In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government. The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.”

“Entitlement” has become a dirty word, but the word “entitle” actually appears in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson argued that these rights were “self-evident” and granted by our “Creator,” but even if you aren’t religious, it seems clear that the American experiment is based on entitlement. If you’re not entitled to anything, then the world is essentially might makes right and Jefferson and his supporters would have had no moral position upon which to base their desired break with Britain.

But I digress — Romney’s statement also illustrates how distinctly differently he and I view the economic system in this country. His new stump speech has the typical conservative poor-bait: Poor people are stupid (“regardless of education”), lazy (“regardless of… effort”) and want to take what you have worked so hard to build (“same or similar rewards”).

I especially take issue with “willingness to take risk.” Who do you think Romney considers “risk takers”? I’d bet $10,000 of his money that he means entrepreneurs, small (and large) businessmen, and investors. That’s not an incorect description but it defines risk metaphorically — perhaps the loss of money or position — rather than literally — loss of life or limb.

What every fashion-forward factory worker will wear in a Mitt Romney administration.

The Daily Beast listed the 20 Deadliest Jobs in America. They include: Fisherman (Avg. Salary: $22,160), Firefighter (Avg. Salary: $47,760), Airplane Pilot (Avg. Salary: $53,990), Police Officer (Avg. Salary: $55,400), Logger (Avg. Salary: $35,360), Roofer (Avg. Salary: $41,200), Sanitation Worker (Avg. Salary:  $37,830), Bus Driver (Avg. Salary: $34,820), Animal Farmer (Avg. Salary: $24,930), Grain Farmer (Avg. Salary: $24,930), Industrial Machine Repairmen (Avg. Salary: $42,220), Warehouse Operator (Avg. Salary: $34,910), Truck Driver (Avg. Salary:  $40,860), Landscaper (Avg. Salary: $29,430), Carpenter (Avg. Salary: $42,750), Steel Worker (Avg. Salary:  $49,020), Construction Worker (Avg. Salary: $46,500), Cement Manufacturer (Avg. Salary:  $39,010).

We need all these people in order for our society to function. Yet most made about a tenth of the $300,000 Newt Gingrich earned for offering his advice as a historian to Freddie Mac. So, if Romney wants to talk about risk, perhaps our discussion should start here.

When Romney talks about “that which is earned by some is redistributed to the others,” I’m sure that gets his supporters’ blood boiling. Man, those poor people again — sitting at home watching their big-screen TVs and cashing their welfare checks while honest Americans are at work. They probably don’t consider how Romney made his fortune. It’s all through investments. His private equity firm Bain Capital had stakes in Domino’s Pizza, Staples, and The Sports Authority, among others. Here’s how it works: The employees at these companies create a product, which generates revenue, which goes into the pockets of the investors.  Sounds like wealth redistribution to me. The workers are paid upfront for their efforts but don’t share in the wealth if the company does well. They merely are the first to share in the misfortune if the company does poorly. That’s hardly equal “risk” to folks like Romney. It’s about as much risk as a plantation owner determining which slave is the largest and most likely to work the hardest and longest before dying of exhaustion. This also sounds like the same retirement plan that Romney would offer the average American worker.

Romney claims that the only people who would benefit from wealth redistribution is the government. Wealth redistribution already exists, as part of the rigged game in which the CEO of “Dangerous Construction Company Unlimited” makes millions while the people actually doing the work barely get by. Romney rightly would fear government regulation because the average person has a direct stake in government. They can vote and steer policy so that the good of everyone is considered as opposed to the good of a few. Why would the American aristocracy support that? Romney’s policies, especially regarding the estate tax, would ensure that the current entitlement culture continues — the one in which his children and grandchildren, who have a blind trust valued between $70 to $100 million, could choose to never work a day in their lives… “regardless of their education, effort, and willingness to take risk.”

Of course, the larger question is that if an entlitement society existed in which everyone had equal rewards and equal outcomes… would that be so bad? OK, I know your socialist sense is tingling, but if you were a lawyer and made $250,000 a year, would it really bother you if a firefighter or construction worker made the same? Even half would greatly alter their lifestyles for the better.

Romney does not seem to argue from the position that such “wealth redistribution” flatly won’t work but rather that we should be offended on the face of it. He says “everyone would be worse off.” Really? Is he honestly concerned about a scenario where a sanitation worker is going to be paid less? Or he is worried about the American aristrocracy of which he is gold-card carrying member? Countless CEOs make enough — even as part of exit packages when they almost ruin their companies — to secure a comfortable living not just for themselves but for their grandchildren who don’t even exist yet. This happens while the “rank and file” employees (I’ve worked someplace where that term was used daily, generally to describe why they weren’t receiving a benefit my colleagues and I were) get by on pre-chewed peanuts.

The fatuous response is to say that this is simply how the market works, and the government cannot legislate “fairness.” However, public companies represent the interests of their shareholders (most of whom don’t work at the company) rather than the interests of all their employees. The board of directors are like pirates who loot the futures of their employees and share their bounty with each other and their closest subordinates. This is not capitalism. It’s theft.

So, when Romney presents himself as the president who will prevent the creation of an entitlement society, he’s engaging in a pathetic and craven sleight-of-hand to distract you from the one that already exists, the one that has slowly destroyed the U.S. middle class over the past 30 years, and the one that he is desperate to protect.


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