In a better America, Mitt Romney would be running for president on the strength of his major achievement as governor of Massachusetts: a health reform that was identical in all important respects to the health reform enacted by President Obama. By the way, the Massachusetts reform is working pretty well and has overwhelming popular support.
In reality, however, Mr. Romney is doing no such thing, bitterly denouncing the Supreme Court for upholding the constitutionality of his own health care plan. His case for becoming president relies, instead, on his claim that, having been a successful businessman, he knows how to create jobs.
This, in turn, means that however much the Romney campaign may wish otherwise, the nature of that business career is fair game. How did Mr. Romney make all that money? Was it in ways suggesting that what was good for Bain Capital, the private equity firm that made him rich, would also be good for America?
And the answer is no.
The truth is that even if Mr. Romney had been a classic captain of industry, a present-day Andrew Carnegie, his career wouldn’t have prepared him to manage the economy. A country is not a company (despite globalization, America still sells 86 percent of what it makes to itself), and the tools of macroeconomic policy — interest rates, tax rates, spending programs — have no counterparts on a corporate organization chart. Did I mention that Herbert Hoover actually was a great businessman in the classic mold?
In any case, however, Mr. Romney wasn’t that kind of businessman. Bain didn’t build businesses; it bought and sold them. Sometimes its takeovers led to new hiring; often they led to layoffs, wage cuts and lost benefits. On some occasions, Bain made a profit even as its takeover target was driven out of business. None of this sounds like the kind of record that should reassure American workers looking for an economic savior.
And then there’s the business about outsourcing.
Two weeks ago, The Washington Post reported that Bain had invested in companies whose specialty was helping other companies move jobs overseas. The Romney campaign went ballistic, demanding — unsuccessfully — that The Post retract the report on the basis of an unconvincing “fact sheet” consisting largely of executive testimonials.
What was more interesting was the campaign’s insistence that The Post had misled readers by failing to distinguish between “offshoring” — moving jobs abroad — and “outsourcing,” which simply means having an external contractor perform services that could have been performed in-house.
Now, if the Romney campaign really believed in its own alleged free-market principles, it would have defended the right of corporations to do whatever maximizes their profits, even if that means shipping jobs overseas. Instead, however, the campaign effectively conceded that offshoring is bad but insisted that outsourcing is O.K. as long as the contractor is another American firm.
That is, however, a very dubious assertion.
Consider one of Mr. Romney’s most famous remarks: “Corporations are people, my friend.” When the audience jeered, he elaborated: “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets.” This is undoubtedly true, once you take into account the pockets of, say, partners at Bain Capital (who, I hasten to add, are, indeed, people). But one of the main points of outsourcing is to ensure that as little as possible of what corporations earn goes into the pockets of the people who actually work for those corporations.
Why, for example, do many large companies now outsource cleaning and security to outside contractors? Surely the answer is, in large part, that outside contractors can hire cheap labor that isn’t represented by the union and can’t participate in the company health and retirement plans. And, sure enough, recent academic research finds that outsourced janitors and guards receive substantially lower wages and worse benefits than their in-house counterparts.
Just to be clear, outsourcing is only one source of the huge disconnect between a tiny elite and ordinary American workers, a disconnect that has been growing for more than 30 years. And Bain, in turn, was only one player in the growth of outsourcing. So Mitt Romney didn’t personally, single-handedly, destroy the middle-class society we used to have. He was, however, an enthusiastic and very well remunerated participant in the process of destruction; if Bain got involved with your company, one way or another, the odds were pretty good that even if your job survived you ended up with lower pay and diminished benefits.
In short, what was good for Bain Capital definitely wasn’t good for America. And, as I said at the beginning, the Obama campaign has every right to point that out.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 5, 2012
Mitt Romney is back to accusing President Obama of having no plan for economic growth:
The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it. I know he’s been planning on going across the country and celebrating what he calls ‘forward.’ Well, forward doesn’t look a lot like forward to the millions and millions of families that are struggling today in this great country. It doesn’t have to be this way. The President doesn’t have a plan, hasn’t proposed any new ideas to get the economy going—just the same old ideas of the past that have failed. [Emphasis added]
The political world has all but forgotten the American Jobs Act, but it remains on the table as Obama’s plan for juicing the economy. If passed in full, the Jobs Act would cut payroll taxes for businesses, double the size of the payroll tax cut for individuals, give aid to states to prevent public sector layoffs, and increase infrastructure spending. All together, the Jobs Act would create 1.9 million jobs over the next year.
Romney, on the other hand, doesn’t have a plan for generating demand and creating short-term economic growth. What he has is a plan designed for long-term problems; he wants to expand domestic energy production, sign new trade agreements, cut the corporate tax rate and confront China over currency manipulation. What’s more, he wants to dramatically reduce the size of government and shrink the federal workforce. As Greg Sargent pointed out last month, this agenda—particularly the plans to cut federal spending—would have a negative shock on the economy. If you assume Romney intends to implement the Ryan budget—which he has said on multiple occasions—his plan would cost the economy 1.3 million jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The only jobs plan on the table right now is the one proposed by the Obama administration. Republicans should be pressured to pass it, and Romney should be challenged on his assertion that the White House has nothing to offer.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 6, 2012
Campaigns often feature a division of labor when it comes to speaking about the candidate’s opponent, one in which the candidate makes polite but firm criticism, while the surrogates (campaign staff, other elected officials) say much harsher and more personal things. A good campaign makes sure that the two proceed along the same thematic lines so that they reinforce one another, but the fact that the candidate himself is more genteel in his language is supposed to preclude a backlash against him for being too “negative.” Frankly, I’ve always thought this is overblown, particularly the strange custom whereby it’s deemed a bit unseemly to refer to your opponent by name, such that saying “Mitt Romney is a jackass” would be horribly uncouth, but saying “My opponent is a jackass” is somehow more acceptable.
As the campaign goes on, this protocol fades away. Candidates’ comments take on a harder edge, beginning to resemble the comments their staffs make. It seems we may be entering this phase, as witnessed by this, which Obama said in an interview yesterday:
And the fact that a whole bunch of Republicans in Washington suddenly said, this is a tax—for six years he said it wasn’t, and now he has suddenly reversed himself. So the question becomes, are you doing that because of politics? Are you abandoning a principle that you fought for, for six years simply because you’re getting pressure for two days from Rush Limbaugh or some critics in Washington?
One of the things that you learn as President is that what you say matters and your principles matter. And sometimes, you’ve got to fight for things that you believe in and you can’t just switch on a dime.
That last part sounds identical to the things George W. Bush said about John Kerry in 2004, and it’s more personal than what we usually hear from Obama when he talks about Romney. Obama is talking about this not because a majority of the public agrees with him on the Affordable Care Act (it’s a wash) but because it is all but impossible for Mitt Romney to talk about health care without twisting himself into a logical pretzel that reinforces everything people believe about him being a flip-flopper. The personal attack (Mitt Romney is unprincipled) is the point, not the substantive attack (Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the mandate).
The election is in four months, and I think we’ll be hearing more and more of these kinds of criticisms from Obama. One of the big reasons is that when David Axelrod says Mitt Romney has no principles, it isn’t news, but when Barack Obama says it, it is.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 6, 2012
Mitt Romney is betraying his calling.
He brings to the presidential race a record of accomplishment to which few White House contenders can lay claim: W. Mitt Romney knows how to make money.
Some may argue that a money-making ability alone is no qualification to be president. I agree that having a high net worth is insufficient reason to be declared presidential timber.
But attaining a personal fortune of as much as $250 million, as Romney has done — and not through inheritance or grand theft — is a testament to creative abilities, a strong work ethic, a focused mind and keen understanding of the economic environment.
Romney, however, is blowing it by seeking to appeal to the average voter by selling himself as something he’s not. He also is running away from the opportunity to show voters that he, above all other candidates, knows how Americans can reap a better return on the investments they are making of time, energy and talent in our country.
For the record, and as regular readers of this column know, I regard the political and moral priorities of the current White House occupant to be more in tune with my own. That said, Romney, by reason of experience, has a legitimate claim on the presidency.
A year ago, I said on the TV program “Inside Washington” that Romney understands how the economy works and that he should use the campaign to explain the private sector’s critical role. That point didn’t go down well with some of my liberal friends. Maybe it’s because I was wearing my banker’s hat at the time. Ten years as a commercial banker and bank director were more than enough time to convince me that a thriving business sector is key to economic growth and expanding opportunity. Romney, I believed last year, was well suited to make that case.
Instead, he has made a mess of it, misrepresenting his history and shying away from the truth, apparently out of fear that by sticking up for the country’s privately owned enterprises he will be portrayed as a heartless, money-grubbing capitalist and scourge of the poor. Of course, in this political climate, that might happen anyway. Still, there’s no reason to dissemble.
That’s the only way to describe Romney’s suggestion that job creation was the motivating force behind his work in the private sector. Beyond the question of whether Romney created 100,000 jobs — as he has claimed — is his implicit buy-in to the argument that the private sector’s purpose is to produce jobs.
Romney knows better, even if his critics don’t. The private sector operates to make profits, not jobs.
True, a majority of Americans work in the private sector. But General Motors, Giant Food, the TV networks and others don’t exist in order to employ Americans.
General Motors sells cars, Giant sells food and the networks sell entertainment to make a profit for their owners and investors.
Without question, a payroll is a necessary ingredient in building and selling vehicles, groceries and entertainment.
But owners, regardless of industries, are obligated to control costs. The fewer workers they employ, the better.
Romney portraying himself as an entrepreneur who altruistically created employment opportunities is not only incorrect but also conveys a false picture of free enterprise. That, in turn, skews public understanding of what the private sector can and can’t do; creating a more equitable and just society is one of the things businesses don’t set out to do. Romney seems ashamed of touting financial performance as an essential factor in economic growth, choosing instead to come across as a one-man hiring hall.
The pander is apparent in other ways. Take the Obama campaign’s charge that the private equity firm co-founded by Romney, Bain Capital, “invested in companies that moved jobs overseas.” The Romney camp responds by touting the former governor’s “record of job creation in the private sector.”
What clumsiness, if not cowardice.
There is nothing wrong with a company legally outsourcing jobs domestically or even sending jobs offshore if the effort allows the company to reduce its costs and operate more economically.
In this globalized economy, America must adjust to competitive forces. Certainly there are costs and downsides that come with outsourcing and offshoring jobs. That is not at issue. Change is constant. Workforce adjustments must be made. Government has a role to play. But adapting to competition at home and abroad is mandatory if we are to survive economically.
Romney, more than most, knows better, and he won’t touch this reality.
He betrays his calling because he’s willing to say — and be — all things to become president.
By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 6, 2012
When Rep. Joe Walsh looks back on his brief and inglorious career in Congress, he will have many moments to blame for his demise, but none more colorful than Thursday afternoon, when he managed to utter the word “Ashleigh” 91 times over the course of a 12-minute interview.
This bizarre verbal obsession had origins in the freshman tea party Republican’s town hall meeting in Illinois a few days earlier, when he unfavorably compared his opponent, who lost both legs in combat in Iraq, to John McCain, who Walsh claimed was reluctant to talk about his military service.
“He talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes,” Walsh said. “Now I’m running against a woman who, I mean, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.”
So Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, who earned a Purple Heart in 2004 when the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit, is not “noble” or a “true” hero because she talks about her military service? It was similar to what Walsh told Politico a few months earlier: “I have so much respect for what she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country. Ehhh. Now let’s move on.”
If this isn’t enough to persuade voters to “move on” from Walsh, the lawmaker continued his self-destruction by appearing on CNN and declining host Ashleigh Banfield’s invitation to cast his remarks as a “slip-up.” Instead, he scolded “Ashleigh,” using her first name repeatedly when he wasn’t calling the 44-year-old anchor “kiddo” or asking the recently naturalized citizen whether she served in the military.
“No, no, Ashleigh. No, Ashleigh, this wasn’t a slip-up. I don’t regret anything I said,” Walsh declared.
Banfield tried to read a list of things Duckworth has talked about other than her military service.
“No, she hasn’t, Ashleigh. No, Ashleigh, no, she hasn’t.”
“Do you want to hear it, Congressman? Do you want to hear it or do you just want to rail on me?”
“I’ve got the list here.”
“No, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.”
Banfield read part of the list.
“Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh,” Walsh replied. “Hey, Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.”
All indications are that Walsh’s first term in the House may be his last, as challenger Duckworth, a failed candidate in 2006, is favored to win Illinois’s 8th District, redrawn to favor Democrats.
But Walsh’s antics should be of concern to Republicans far beyond the congressional district, both because they are the type of tea party histrionics that raise doubts about the GOP’s readiness to govern, and because they point to a potential Republican vulnerability among veterans, usually a reliable voting bloc.
Polls are conflicting, ranging from a Gallup survey in May showing Mitt Romney with a 24-point lead among vets to a Reuters poll the same month giving Obama a seven-point lead. (McCain won vets by 10 points in 2008.)
Regardless, Obama tends to do better among veterans under 60, and his campaign, seeing a potential inroad, is planning to make veterans’ issues central to the Democratic convention in Charlotte. Obama’s pitch to veterans is that he has sponsored various jobs programs for them and proposed steady increases while Romney backs the House Republican budget, which would cut domestic discretionary spending by 19 percent — likely costing vets tens of billions of dollars.
Walsh is a ripe target for reasons well beyond his crass putdown of Duckworth. During his term, he failed to show up to a court hearing on his ex-wife’s claim that he owed $117,000 in child support (there were earlier tax liens and a foreclosure). His driver’s license was suspended last year for the second time in three years. He called Obama a “tyrant” and accused the president of “lying.” He even squared off with the other Joe Walsh, of the Eagles, over unauthorized use of the song “Walk Away.”
And now there’s Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.
Walsh acknowledged to Banfield that all veterans are heroes, but he defended his claim that Duckworth isn’t a true hero because she spoke about her service. He made this argument primarily by repeating the host’s first name 91 times by my count.
After many such Ashleighs — “Hey, Ashleigh, well, Ashleigh, look Ashleigh” — the interviewer responded in kind with “Yes, Congressman, Congressman. Yes, Congressman.”
“Whew,” Banfield said after the final “Ashleigh.” “I need to take a big breath.”
So should Illinois voters — and send a true hero to Washington in Walsh’s place.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 6, 2012