Dream or nightmare?
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – Mitt Romney has started to run for the Republican presidential nomination on an economic platform. Oh, he hasn’t begun to offer anything resembling a coherent economic plan or anything, but his talking points are all about how he is, in his words, not an “economic lightweight” like the President or his only serious opponent, Rick Santorum.
What he is getting at, one supposes, is that as a very successful corporate businessman, he is a more appropriate choice to lead the United States than either Santorum, a religious ideologue, or the incumbent President Obama, a onetime constitutional law professor. That he perhaps believes this himself, but at any rate expects this to resonate with American voters, is an indication of a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and function of government. Even the premise – that he is some kind of business genius who can translate his skills to the political realm – is deeply flawed.
It’s important to remember that Romney’ greatest successes in the world of capital, finance, and corporate business were in the dismantling and destruction of companies. He was an expert in hostile takeovers; his company would buy up control of corporations that were undervalued on the stock market, fire the employees and sell off the physical assets for more than the cost of the shares he bought. Think Danny DeVito in Other People’s Money.
As a venture capitalist, it’s worth noting that when he was with Bain Capital, he refused to fund the automobile companies in Detroit that were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy; he even wrote an op-ed entitled: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”. In the absence of any available capital, the federal government at Obama’s instructions stepped in, financed the restructuring of the Big Three, and today the money has all been paid back, interest paid, more employees are working than ever before, and GM is the largest and most profitable auto-maker in the world. Beyond his simple ruthlessness and his flat out being wrong about whether the car companies had any chance of survival, he screwed up because the call was wrong…any capital Bain would have invested would have paid off in spades. His self-avowed business acumen is a myth; that decision alone represents a missed opportunity for possibly billions of dollars in profits for Bain Capital. Bain could have financed the resurgence of the US auto industry and participated in both the financial profits and the accolades for having saved thousands of direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of related indirect ones.
But the key fallacy that is constantly being committed is to equate a nation’s government with a corporation. What Romney and the rest of his friends in the 1% don’t get is that the two are utterly different; they are different in aims, goals, purposes, functions, and structures…everything, right down to their raisons d’etre.
A corporation exists for one purpose and one purpose only: to make a profit. The CEO of a corporation has one purpose: to devise and implement ways to make and maximise the corporation’s profits. In theory, the shareholders of a corporation are its owners and are the beneficiary of those profits. In reality, at least in publically traded corporations, those shareholders are merely sources of revenue to fund the corporation while the board of directors and senior management are the beneficiaries of the corporate profits through bonuses, outrageous salaries, stock options, and other perks. A corporation emphatically does not exist for the well-being of its employees, its clients, society as a whole, or anyone else but the beneficiaries of the profits it can make.
A government, on the other hand, has absolutely no profit motive; or at least it shouldn’t. It certainly shouldn’t have profit for its CEO (president) and directors (congress and cabinet) as its guiding purpose. In that sense, the manner in which a corporation, particularly a predatory one, is run is the diametric opposite of the manner in which a government ought to be run. It is fair to acknowledge that Mitt Romney has a track record of success at making himself and his peers a lot of money; he wasn’t particularly good, but he was successful. The problem is that such success and experience would be at best irrelevant and, at worst, detrimental to the skill set required of the chief executive officer of the United States.
A president of the US needs to understand the circumstances, needs, and desires of the people he represents; Romney bends over backwards to demonstrate that such understanding is far beyond his grasp. Romney can’t seem to rise above his long exercised paradigm of the fabulously wealthy; there is no reason whatsoever to suspect that as president he would be able to leave his elitist and rapacious world view and methods behind. Nobody who gives it any thought could seriously think that Romney, as president, would be capable of undertaking the paradigm shift to fair distribution of wealth and resources, consideration of the rights and needs of the underprivileged, a sense of compassion, or any of the attitudes that are utterly antithetical to his track record.
Romney personifies the 1% that has come into prominence as a direct result of
the Occupy movement. Far more than 99% of the American electorate is so far away from Romney’s economic league that they couldn’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have his kind of money. Romney makes more each day – doing nothing – than the average American family earns in one year through work.
So why is the upcoming presidential election in all probability going to be a close fought battle?
The American dream. Every American (at least every white American) has been brought up on the notion that through hard work, determination, and self-sacrifice, all the bounty of the nation could be grabbed. It’s a myth, and it’s getting to be more of a barefaced lie every day. The truth is that the Romneys of the world spend much of their energy doing their level best to pull up the drawbridge to keep the riffraff out of the winners’ circle; denying them the American dream. Romney was born rich and started out as a member of the inner circle, on the other side of the drawbridge.
With that as his entrée, he enhanced his wealth; now he is dedicated to ensuring that he and the rest of his ilk are protected from having to pay taxes, that the poor and working classes get no benefits but continue to pay tribute to him and his cronies in the form of taxes from which he is exempt or avoids entirely. They got theirs and now they want to change the rules of America to make sure that they keep theirs and no one else has a shot.
But as long as the American Nightmare is in play, people will still believe that they can somehow storm the citadel and succeed in the face of opposition from the very crowd who control the pieces in the game and have made it clear that they neither need nor want the company of any pretenders to the manor. The myth is perpetuated by flamboyant anomalies being paraded as examples of the viability of the “Dream”.
Look at Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg…they made their fortunes while very young through dint of hard work and original ides. True enough; the problem is that as anecdotal evidence goes, these are remarkably unconvincing examples. The truth is that the average person has a better chance of breaking down the deliberately erected barriers preventing them from achieving wealth by playing the lottery.
As long as the 1% is allowed the special privileges they enjoy and as long as the myth of the American Dream allows the 99% to identify with and to envy them at the same time, the 99% will be on the outside with their noses pressed up against the glass while the 1% sit inside in the warmth and laugh up their sleeves at the dupes who voted for this to happen.
While it certainly isn’t necessary to sell your soul to enjoy the fruits of the American Dream…it certainly seems as though it helps.