Monday, September 3, 2012

Funny Money II

I've prided myself during my adult life for trying to be open minded, willing to listen to both sides of arguments and not making up my mind on an issue until all the facts are in. As far as politics is concerned, while I've cast the majority of my votes for one particular party, I've done my best not to be controlled by that party's ideology. I've always given the other party the benefit of the doubt and have cast my vote in their direction a number of times. But circumstances have changed in recent years and after listening to a good portion of the Republican National Convention last week, I think I can sum up the event in one word: bullshit.

I understand that in the art of politics, the bullshit factor is unusually high compared to other fields of endeavor. Let's face it, it's a game of salesmanship and the Republicans want to win the election in November. I will not be surprised if the Democrats at their convention this coming week, dish out plenty of their own. But this go around the Republicans have raised the bullshit bar to staggering heights. If shoveling the you know what were an Olympic event, the current crop of G.O.P. members would be the Michael Phelps of shovelers.

Where to begin? One of the most irritating themes of the speeches last week was the inevitable mention of the humble origins of the speakers. If the speaker wasn't poor at one time, the parents were, if not them, the grandparents, and so on. Big deal; unless you're related to British royalty, chances are pretty good that on some branch of your family tree, you will come up with someone who had to struggle to make a living. Republicans, at least this crop of them have been accused of not understanding poverty. One or two uplifting rags to riches stories would have been sufficient, but dozens of them? I just didn't buy it.

Then there was the incessant pandering to women. Polls show the Reps trail the Dems significantly among half the population. It didn't help when Missouri Republican congressman and senatorial candidate Todd Akin claimed that a woman who is "legitimately raped" will not become pregnant. Fellow Republicans had to distance themselves from the comment, and the congressman as fast as their legs could carry them. Speaking of distancing themselves from one of their own, Where was Sarah Palin?

Another recurring theme of the convention was the reaction to a comment made by the president that was taken out of context. President Obama was talking about the system in place in this country that enables people to become successful, and the moral imperative of giving back a little to the society that helped make them that way. He said: "If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own." Admittedly he could have framed that sentence better, but what he said was obvious even to the point of being a truism. Frankly I'm not sure how any reasonable person could argue with it. Unfortunately at one point in the speech, the president while caught up in the moment, let slip the awkward and unfortunately timed remark: "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." The "that" he was referring to was specifically roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure that obviously were not built by individuals. The Republicans of course lifted those words verbatim and had a field day with them, someone even wrote a song called "I Built That". For being less than crystal clear in his choice of words, the president set himself up and has only himself to blame. However he may have the last laugh as the GOP's insistence on dwelling ad nauseum on a non-issue made themselves look disingenuous and foolish. You decide for yourself:

Mitt Romney's choice for running mate, Paul Ryan gave a speech that was filled with so many misleading statements, falsehoods and outright lies, he was called out by none other than the bastion of conservatism, Fox News. Here's the money quote:
to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.
Egregious as Ryan's blatant falsehoods were, perhaps the biggest, most tragic lies were perpetrated by the presidential candidate himself, Mitt Romney. In his acceptance speech and the build up to it, much was made about Bain Capital, the company Romney headed, and its contribution to the creation of jobs in this country. Staples, the nationwide stationery chain was sited as a success story which was made possible by Bain and Romney. The CEO of that company Tom Stemberg got up and lavished praise upon Romney and ridicule upon the president. It's true that the jobs created at Staples are a success story. So are the jobs at Sports Authority and Dominos Pizza, two other companies that were nudged along with the help of Bain. But did you wonder where all the other success stories were and why they weren't exploited by Romney and his friends? It's because they don't exist. When Romney counts the number of jobs he helped create while a businessman in the private sector, he singles out those three companies that created jobs in America. What he fails to mention, are all the companies that were forced to eliminate jobs, outsource them overseas, or in some cases driven into bankruptcy as a result of the corporate mergers and takeovers instigated by Bain. No one knows for sure but Mitt Romney and his company may have been responsible for more jobs lost to this country than gained.

This article in Rolling Stone gives a far more nuanced view of Romney and his work at Bain than the candidate and fellow Republicans gave us at the convention. Entrepreneurs of the past whose hard work and willingness to take great personal risk, created businesses that built things and created jobs. Those entrepreneurs had a tremendous stake in the success of the companies they built. This is hardly the case with new entrepreneurs such as Romney, who make their money buying and selling businesses, not creating them or involving themselves in their day to day operation. I wrote about this very topic almost one year ago. Whether the businesses they bought into create jobs or lose them, whether the companies succeed or fail makes no difference, this new breed of entrepreneur makes money either way. They and their clients (the investors not the customers) simply move on to other investment opportunities while the folks who worked for the companies, and the businesses whose own success depended upon them are left holding the bag.

Romney and his cronies would have us believe they want to return to a simpler time in America, where anyone who wanted to, given faith in God and themselves, and the will to work hard, could be successful. It could be argued that time never really existed in this country. The choice of actor Clint Eastwood with his ridiculous "make my day" bluster, to address the convention underscores the Republicans' attempt to sell us this fantasy.

The tragedy in all this is that fact that there are tens of thousands of unemployed Americans who buy into the notion of Romney the "job creator." I know some of them. They believe in Mitt Romney as their hope for the future.

Mitt Romney plays up the role as a successful businessman as his chief qualification to be president. In that vein he says he is poised to successfully address the problem of high unemployment in this nation. Today on Labor Day he is bemoaning the fact that millions of Americans woke up this morning not knowing where their next paycheck will come from. This is indeed a tragedy.

What he fails to mention to us is that in his role as businessman at least, he was part of the cause, not the solution.

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