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“Incompetent Managers”: Vulture Capitalism Ate Your Twinkies

What happens when vulture capitalism ruins a great American company?

The vultures blame the workers.

The vultures blame the union.

And vapid media outlets report the lie as “news.”

That’s what’s happening with the meltdown of Hostess Brands Inc.

Americans are being told that they won’t get their Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos because the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union ran the company into the ground.

But the union and the 5,600 Hostess workers represented by the union did not create the crisis that led the company’s incompetent managers to announce plans to shutter it.

The BCTGM workers did not ask for more pay.

The BCTGM workers did not ask for more benefits.

The BCTGM workers did not ask for better pensions.

The union and its members had a long history of working with the company to try to keep it viable. They had made wage and benefit concessions to keep the company viable. They adjusted to new technologies, new demands.

They took deep layoffs—20 percent of the workforce—and kept showing up for work even as plants were closed.

They kept working even as the company stopped making payment to their pension fund more than a year ago.

The workers did not squeeze the filling out of Hostess.

Hostess was smashed by vulture capitalists—“a management team that,” in the words of economist Dean Baker, “shows little competence and is rapidly stuffing its pockets at the company’s expense.”

Even as the company struggled, the ten top Hostes executives pocketed increasingly lavish compensation packages. The Hostess CEO who demanded some of the deepest cuts from workers engineered a 300 percent increase in his compensation package.

“Wall Street investors first came onto the scene with Hostess about a decade ago, purchasing the company and then loading it with debt. All the while, its executives talked of investments in new equipment, new research and new delivery trucks, but those improvements never materialized,” explains AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

“Instead, the executives planned to give themselves bonuses and demanded pay cuts and benefit cuts from the workers, who haven’t had a raise in eight years,” said the AFL-CIO head. “In 2011, Hostess earned profits of more than $2.5 billion but ended the year with a loss of $341 million as it struggled to pay the interest on $1 billion in debt. This year, the company sought bankruptcy protection, the second time in eight years. Still, the CEO who brought on the latest bankruptcy got a raise while Hostess demanded that its workers accept a 30 percent pay and benefits cut.”

When BCTGM workers struck Hostess, they did not do so casually.

They were challenging Bain-style abuses by a private-equity group—Ripplewood Holdings—that had proven its incompetence and yet continued to demand more money from the workers.

“When a highly respected financial consultant, hired by Hostess, determined earlier this year that the company’s business plan to exit bankruptcy was guaranteed to fail because it left the company with unsustainable debt levels, our members knew that the massive wage and benefit concessions the company was demanding would go straight to Wall Street investors and not back into the company,” recalled BCTGM president Frank Hunt, who described why the union struck Hostess rather than accept a demand from management for more pay and benefit cuts.

“Our members decided they were not going to take any more abuse from a company they have given so much to for so many years,” Hunt explained. “They decided that they were not going to agree to another round of outrageous wage and benefit cuts and give up their pension only to see yet another management team fail and Wall Street vulture capitalists and ‘restructuring specialists’ walk away with untold millions of dollars.”

On November 6, American voters rejected Mitt Romney and Bain Capitalism.

But that didn’t end the abusive business practices that made Romney rich. They’re still wrecking American companies, like Hostess.

Instead of blaming workers, we should be holding the incompetent managers to account and cheering on any and every effort to rescue Hostess from the clutches of the vulture capitalists.


By: John Nichols, The Nation, November 18, 2012

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Blind To Every Human Virtue”: Mitt Romney And Bain Capital Create Their Own 47% “Victims”

Here’s the 47% Question: If the hedge fund founded by the Republican candidate for president buys a company in a small Midwestern town and then sends all its jobs to China, do those workers thereby become the “victims” Mitt Romney had in mind when he dismissed those who “do not take responsibility for their lives” because they are “dependent” on government?

That’s the situation facing 170 workers at an auto sensor manufacturing plant in Freeport, Illinois after a Bain Capital-owned company, Sensata Technologies, bought out their factory and then decided it would be cheaper to board up the plant and send its parts to China — but not before subjecting workers to the final humiliation of training their Chinese replacements.

In response, some workers have set up a camp across from the factory and are calling “Bainport” to protest the move, according to Dave Johnson at Truthout. Others have asked Mitt Romney to intercede on their behalf with his former company, foolishly taking Romney at his word that, as president, he would “get tough” with China and fight for every American job. Good luck with that.

It’s not as if the company is hurting for money. According to a company financial statement quoted by Johnson, Sensata’s net income last year was $355 million, up 16% from 2010. Its total revenues were $1.8 billion in 2011, up almost 19% from the year before.

Yet, Romney’s former colleague, Sensata board chairman Paul Edgerley, says Bain’s responsibilities to investors demands shuttering the Freeport plant and shipping operations to Asia.

Johnson says the layoffs will surely have a ripple-effect in this small town of about 25,000 that has only three principal employers and a poverty rate well above the national average. And so, Bain’s decision to move the plant to China is a dagger in the heart of this community, says Johnson, and represents “the epitome of corporate America’s lack of patriotism, [with] it’s capital unmoored from any sense of responsibility for the people that make the profits or the communities where they live.”

In moving the plant to China, Sensata is simply operating according to the business strategy mapped out for the hedge fund by Romney himself: Buy assets with little money down. Load them with debt. Raid their pension funds. Break their unions. Then “harvest them” for profits.

On that infamous video disrespecting the bottom 47%, Romney makes a dubious value judgment when he says individuals who are not resourceful or self-reliant enough to make it in the survival-of-the-fittest jungle created for them by cut-throat capitalists like those at Bain Capital are therefore “irresponsible” when they lean on others in hard times, especially when it’s the crutch of government.

That’s the same self-serving justification we hear from conservative economists like Charles Murray who ignore the consequences of globalization and technological change and blame instead the middle class for its own shrunken prospects when average Americans stray from the traditional family values and old-fashioned American work ethic Murray thinks is all that separates rich from poor.

Romney’s is an ethic that equates “morality” with “success.” This may help explain a presidential campaign that justifies egregious falsehoods and elaborate fabrications if they win Romney a point or two with a gullible public.

Newt Gingrich was right when he called out Romney during the Republican primaries as a “predatory corporate raider” who only pretends to be a real capitalist.

A real capitalist, said the original Austrian-school economist Joseph Schumpeter, would know that the fruits of the free market’s dynamic innovations could only be harvested by societies prudent enough to make provision for the victims of capitalism’s relentless change.

Schumpeter, Austria’s finance minister in 1919 and the originator of the famous phrase about capitalism’s “creative destruction,” believed public relief during Hard Times was “imperative on moral and social grounds” and also important to stabilize demand, writes Hans-Michael Trautwein.

“Schumpeter was in favor of unemployment relief as the best way to counteract the effects of the business cycle on workers’ welfare,” says Trautwein in a paper on the great economists’ views on unemployment.

Predators like Mitt Romney, in contrast, want to have their cake and eat it too. They want the benefits that go with destroying other people’s lives for their own profit but without the responsibility to pay the least in compensation.

A real capitalist concerned about the viability of a free market capitalist system in a democratic society would be far more alert to the caveats Schumpeter laid out. And the fact that Romney isn’t, as he speaks contemptuously of the victims his Bain Capital business model have created, exposes Romney as someone who cares little about the free market beyond his own ability to profit spectacularly from the very same unregulated and lightly taxed rigged system he would promote as president.

The irony of the rapacious worldview Romney shares with many in America’s plutocratic class is that it fails as both morals and economics. This is one reasonRomney’s peculiar brand of buccaneer capitalism has so often had to be rescued from itself.

How can it be possible, for example, that a company like Citibank could sell securities it knows to be toxic to one set of customers while at the same time betting on those very same securities to default – and then only getting a $285 million fine from regulators, which is a slap on the wrist considering the monstrous sums involved?

That is what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wants to know when he says of Citibank’s fraud” “It doesn’t get any more immoral than this.”

Romney complains about the 47% he says are parasites. Yet, as Friedman notes, “there is in our economy now a disconnect between pay and performance,” which is a fairly serviceable definition of “parasite” in my book.

Under the rules now in place, says Friedman, Romney’s Bain Capital can make tens of millions of dollars on firms it buys that go bankrupt. A bank like Citigroup can sell toxic securities to a hedge fund that loses hundreds of millions of dollars on the deal while Citigroup still makes $160 million in fees and trading profits betting against those same assets.

Despite the wrong turns it has taken in recent decades, Friedman still believes capitalism and free markets are the best engines for generating growth and relieving poverty — “provided they are balanced with meaningful transparency, regulation and oversight.”

What we’ve lost in the last decade, he says, is that balance. “And if we don’t get it back — and there is now a tidal wave of money resisting that — we will have another crisis. And, if that happens, the cry for justice could turn ugly.”

Mitt Romney sells himself as a successful businessman who “knows” how to create jobs because he “understands” what it takes because Romney himself is rich. In place of policy, in other words, all that Romney has to offer is biography.

Mitt Romney wants to be our president. Yet as Chrystia Freeland reminds us, Romney embraces a “ravage capitalism that is loyal to no nation-state and blind to every human virtue but profit” – a win-at-all-costs ethos that has a familiar, if dangerous, pedigree among history’s self-destructive ruling classes.

What separates successful states from failed ones, says the author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, are governing institutions that are either inclusive or extractive.

Extractive states are those controlled by ruling elites whose sole objective is extracting as much wealth as they can from the rest of society, says Freeland, while inclusive states “give everyone access to economic opportunity.”

Greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity which, in turn, creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness, says Freeland

Elites themselves prosper from these inclusive systems, says Freeland, but there also comes a time when these elites face the self-destructive temptation to pull up the ladder behind them once they’ve extracted wealth from the broader community “to such a degree that the society becomes dysfunctional and mired by social problems.”

Marx’s famous warning about capitalism containing the seeds of its own destruction may be the danger America faces today, says Freeland, as the 1% percent “pulls away from everyone else” by cannibalizing the broad Middle Class Republic that America has built up since the Second World War — with its public investments in education, infrastructure, basic research and development and health and retirement security — and as these elites pursue “an economic, political and social agenda that increases that gap even further and ultimately destroys the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.”

This is the absurdity of Mitt Romney’s comment about the 47% who are “dependent upon government,” says Freeland, since it’s those at the “top of the economic pyramid who have been most effective at capturing government support — and at getting others to pay for it.”

Today’s super-rich may be different from you and me but they are no different from their plutocratic predecessors throughout history, says Freeland.

“Now, as then, the titans are seeking an even greater political voice to match their economic power,” she writes. “Now, as then, the inevitable danger is that they will confuse their own self-interest with the common good. The irony of the political rise of the plutocrats is that they threaten the system that created them.”


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, November 3, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Spine Holding The Book Together”: Bain Is Just Chapter One In The “Book Of Romney”

The real Mitt Romney is finally running for president — but not in his own first television spot, a superficial checklist of issues which provides no insight into who he is or what makes him tick. It’s the Obama commercial on Bain and the destruction of GST Steel that starkly reveals the real Romney as a vulture capitalist. And this is just the beginning of what we will hear about Bain, and of a narrative arc that will position Romney as the candidate of the few, by the few, and for the few.

The Obama ad is so powerful because, like the Ted Kennedy ads in Romney’s losing 1994 Senate race, the story is told not by a smoothly modulated professional narrator, but by working people whose jobs and lives were shredded so Mitt and his men could amass their millions. One of the workers voted for John McCain in 2008 and for George W. Bush before that. Now these authentic blue-collar voices, these Reagan Democrats, are talking directly to swing voters — to folks who could be brothers or sisters, friends or cousins — in the battleground industrial states. It’s a different kind of political media — gritty, unslick, and therefore quite convincing.

My then-partner Tad Devine and I conceived and produced the Kennedy spots in 1994. They hit the Massachusetts airwaves with devastating force. In that landmark Republican year, Romney had a slight lead in September, but he swiftly fell in the polls and then melted down in a televised debate that outdrew the statewide audience for most Super Bowls. On Election Day, the boy from Bain lost in a landslide — by 18 points.

It was fascinating to watch how Romney responded as his campaign unravelled. In fact, he mostly didn’t. He seemed paralyzed — a guilty guy caught in the act. In a token push-back, his spokesman alleged that we had “put words in people’s mouths.” The Boston Globe checked and slapped down the story. The workers were spontaneous and unscripted. No political consultant could ghostwrite the rebuke of a packer laid off after 29 years, who looked into the camera and addressed Romney directly: “If you think you’d make such a good senator, come out here to Marion, Indiana, and see what your company has done to these people.”

The workers boarded a bus for Massachusetts and demanded a meeting with Romney. For days, he refused — which kept the episode in the headlines. When he finally sat down with them, he coldly said he’d consider their comments.

He wasn’t ready then, but that was 18 years ago — and he had to know this was coming at him again in 2012. Newt Gingrich stumbled onto the issue in South Carolina, where Romney was routed. But it was never going to be as devastating in Republican primaries as in the contest with Barack Obama. And the presumptive GOP nominee once again appears unready or unwilling to answer beyond offering up ritualistic bromides about “free enterprise”.

This is the false banner under which he campaigns — the claim that he is a job-creating businessman. The total has oscillated from 10,000 jobs to 100,000, to maybe not exactly that. But the abstract number, unsubstantiated and as soulless as Mitt himself often seems, is no match for a steel worker named Jack Cobb, discarded in Romney’s profiteering deal, but sad and defiant now: “To get up on national TV and brag about making jobs… he has destroyed thousands of people’s careers, lifetimes, just destroying people.”

The ads shatter the candidate’s fundamental rationale — that with his business experience in creating jobs, he’s Mr. Fix-It for the economy. It’s a thin rationale, but voters might have believed it. Now disbelief will deepen as the Obama campaign rolls out a dishonor roll of Bain’s depredations. The campaign already has a website that state by state — just coincidentally the battleground states, of course — pinpoints other companies exploited and extinguished by Bain.

I suspect that Romney will eventually have to abandon his strategy of treating the election as a referendum and not a choice — and attempt to defend his business record in paid media. The 1994 outcome suggests that any other course is a road to defeat.

I doubt he will make an ad repeating his disingenuous and dangerous claim that Obama also cut jobs while saving the auto industry. It’s disingenuous because the president saved GM and Chrysler — and Romney frequently did precisely the opposite to other companies. It’s dangerous because if he hopes to compete at all in Michigan and Ohio, he shouldn’t mention the auto bailout outside a confessional. His approach would have doomed the industry.

More likely, Romney will trot out workers — say, from Staples — to highlight jobs he claims to have created. The problem here is that during his tenure, Bain had two businesses. One was venture capital investing in start-ups. The other, which Romney drove, consisted of buying out a firm, hollowing it out, loading it up with debt, cutting wages — and making millions before the firm went belly-up. The one endeavor doesn’t redeem the other: What’s at issue here is not an accounting question, some mere matter of addition and subtraction, but the crass calculation of pillaging jobs and oppressing workers as a conscious business plan while occasionally grabbing a government bailout along the way.

Moreover, the response irresistibly invites a challenge: Romney should release the records of all Bain transactions from which he profited. He probably can’t afford to because the picture could be pretty grim. Presumably, he’s about as likely to risk this kind of full disclosure as he is to release tax returns for years when he may have paid little or no taxes.

There’s a (literally) rich vein to mine in Romney’s record at Bain. But it’s just the beginning of the narrative arc because the Obama campaign will move from the vulture capitalism of his private endeavors to his failures as a public official and the unfairness of his far-right agenda.

Thus the financial manipulator who decimated jobs in the private sector was a governor whose policies left his state 47th in job creation.

The takeover artist who slashed health benefits for workers would end Medicare as we know it, subject seniors to the harsh mercies of insurance companies, and raise their costs by approximately $6,500 a year.

The mega-millionaire with his offshore bank accounts would slash taxes for the very wealthy, and everything from education to food safety for the middle class.

The rapacious Romney, who in business took a government bailout and then would have let the auto industry collapse, now rails against bailouts and calls for rolling back financial regulation for the Wall Street firms that benefited from them.

The list goes on. The narrative is compelling. We haven’t heard the end of Bain — and we won’t until the end of the campaign — despite the inexplicable comments of Newark’s “Democratic” Mayor Cory Booker, who must be spending too much time cozying up to Republican Gov. (and potential running mate) Chris Christie. On Meet the Press, Booker equated the race-baiting, anti-Obama ads about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright that were recently proposed to billionaire clown Joe Ricketts with Obama’s Bain attack: “It’s nauseating.”

Well, Ricketts and his now-renounced smear job certainly was nauseating. But with Romney, what’s nauseating is what happened at his hands to ordinary hardworking Americans thrown out of work so he could rake in the bucks. And what’s worrying is Romney’s austerity agenda that would drive the U.S. into a double-dip recession, which is what such policies have already done to Great Britain.

Within hours, Booker retracted his comments and conceded the point: It is Romney who has made his business experience the centerpiece of his campaign. Bain is the spine that holds the whole Book of Romney together. As one of the workers in that Obama commercial put it, “If he’s going to run the country like the way he ran our business, I wouldn’t want him there. He would be so out of touch… How could [he] care?”


By: Robert Shrum, The Week, May 21, 2012

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nauseating”: Cory Booker, Surrogate From Hell

If Cory Booker went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday with the intent of helping President Obama, then his appearance was an utter failure. But anyone who’s followed the enormously ambitious Newark mayor’s career closely knows he’s not one to pull a Joe Biden. He’s just too smart and too smooth to screw up so epically.

More likely, Booker went on the show to help himself and to advance his own long-term political prospects. And on that score, his appearance was a success.

You’ve probably seen or are now seeing the headlines Booker generated by calling the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s private equity background “nauseating” and likening them to efforts by some on the right to inject Rev. Jeremiah Wright into the campaign.

“Enough is enough,” Booker said. “Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”

He added: “I have to just say from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this, to me — I’m very uncomfortable with.”

Playing up Romney’s Bain record is, of course, central to Obama’s general election plan. Romney is running as a business-savvy “job creator” and relying on the public’s tendency to associate private sector success with economic competence. There is no overstating how vital it is for Obama and his campaign to break that link, and to establish that Romney’s real expertise is in making investors rich – not adding jobs and improving the quality of life for middle class workers.

In belittling this strategy, Booker isn’t just breaking with Obama, he’s breaking with just about everyone who’s ever run against Romney – including Ted Kennedy, who used criticisms of Bain’s treatment of workers to pull away from Romney in their 1994 Senate race. Essentially, Kennedy created the blueprint that Obama is now using. Booker is also providing Republicans with a dream talking point: A top Obama surrogate not only disapproves of Obama’s use of Bain, he finds it nauseating!

It wouldn’t be surprising if Booker has already heard from the White House, and surely he’s now in for a world of abuse from Obama supporters. But that hardly means he made a mistake, at least in terms of his own ambition. Financial support from Wall Street and, more broadly speaking, the investor class has been key to Booker’s rise, and remains key to his future dreams.

It’s easy to forget, but before the world met Barack Obama in 2004, many believed that the first black president would be Booker. Armed with Stanford, Yale and Oxford degrees and all of the invaluable personal connections he forged at those institutions, he set out in the mid-1990s to craft a uniquely appealing political biography, swearing off lucrative job offers to move to Newark’s Central Ward and take up residence in public housing. Within a few years, he won a seat on the City Council, where he showed an early and consistent knack for self-generated publicity, most notably with a ten-day hunger strike in the summer of 1999.

That set the stage for Booker’s 2002 race for mayor, an ugly contest against incumbent Sharpe James, an entrenched icon of the city’s civil rights generation of black politicians. James, as any self-respecting Newark mayor would do, leveraged his clout for campaign contributions from city workers, vendors and those who aspired to be city workers and vendors.

Booker, meanwhile, had hardly lost touch with his old classmates, keeping one foot in Newark and the other in Manhattan, where he built on the connections to elite donors that he already had. He called the millions of dollars he raised for the race “love money.” The press – and James’ campaign – took note that almost all of it was from outside Newark, nearly half of it was from outside New Jersey, and a quarter of it came directly from Wall Street.

This helped bolster James’ claim that Booker, who grew up in an affluent suburb, was not an authentic Newarker. That attack resonated just enough to save James, who won in a squeaker. It was a pyrrhic victory, though: Booker had captured national interest – there was a Time profile during the campaign, and an Academy Award-nominated documentary followed – and immediately started campaigning for the next race, while a federal investigation soon swallowed up James. In 2006, Booker was elected with ease, while James was on his way to jail.

Since then, the only question in New Jersey has been when – and not if – Booker will seek to run for statewide office. In 2009, the beleaguered Jon Corzine begged him to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket, an offer that Booker wisely refused. He’s often touted as a potential gubernatorial candidate for 2013, but those who know him say his eye is more on the Senate seat now held by 88-year-old Frank Lautenberg, which will be up in 2014.

This is why it’s not at all surprising to see Booker going to bat for private equity. The allies he’s cultivated on Wall Street and in the financial industry (think, for instance, of his chummy relationship with Michael Bloomberg) have made Booker a prolific fundraiser, and when he ventured into the ultra-expensive statewide game, he’ll need them more than ever. Many of them have turned fiercely against Obama over the past few years, convinced that he’s unfairly targeted them. Booker’s words on “Meet the Press” may have enraged the average Obama supporter, but to the Wall Street class they were probably close to heroic – finally, a big-name Democrat with the cojones to call out Obama on his class warfare!

The Booker calculation, in other words, is probably that the average Democratic voter’s memory of his outburst will fade long before 2014 – but that the average Wall Street donor’s won’t.


By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, May 20, 2012

May 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Creative Destruction Of Capitalism”: Mitt Romney Is No Economic Savior

Republicans say they’re eager for the presidential campaign to turn away from “distractions” and focus instead on the economy. Someone should warn them that if they’re not careful, they might get their wish.

It is true that voters’ unhappiness with high unemployment and slow growth poses a challenge for President Obama as he seeks reelection. But for Mitt Romney and the GOP to take advantage of this potential opening, they’ll have to do more than chant the word “economy” like a mantra. They have to make the case that their policies will work better than Obama’s.

And what might Romney’s proposed economic policies be? Why, they’re basically the same as those of George W. Bush, only worse.

Just as Obama owns the recession and the slow recovery, Bush owns the financial crisis that sent the slumping economy over a cliff. But for all his sins — the gratuitous tax cuts, the off-budget wars, the defiance of basic arithmetic — Bush at least demonstrated a certain empathy for Americans who struggle to make ends meet. One of his budget-busting initiatives, for example, was expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs without worrying about how this much-needed new benefit would be paid for.

It’s safe to predict that Romney would never make such a gesture out of compassion for the beleaguered middle class. To this day, he refuses to take back his criticism of Obama for bailing out General Motors and Chrysler — even though letting the companies fail would have meant the extinction of the U.S. auto industry and the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

It is a measure of Romney’s ideological stubbornness that, even with Chrysler rebounding under new ownership and GM reporting record profits, he still insists that his view — let the companies go bankrupt so the “creative destruction” of capitalism could work its magic — was correct.

Romney is something of an expert on creative destruction, I guess, having orchestrated a good deal of it while running the private-equity firm Bain Capital. The Obama campaign recently released an ad about one of Bain’s less successful acquisitions, a small steel mill in Kansas City called GST Steel.

The company, which was more than 100 years old, failed after a decade under Bain’s ownership; GST’s 750 employees lost their jobs, pensions and health benefits. Bain, however, made money, investing $8 million in the company and taking out $4 million in profits and $4.5 million in management fees. The Romney campaign contends that GST, with its unionized workforce, could not compete with cheap foreign steel being dumped on the market. The Obama campaign alleges that Bain burdened GST with crushing debt while sucking the company’s coffers dry.

Is this the genius of free markets at work, or is it “vulture capitalism” run amok? Let’s have that argument. Please.

Let’s also have a long, detailed discussion of Romney’s economic plans versus Obama’s. Romney wants to make tax rates for the wealthy even lower than they are now; Obama wants a small increase for those making more than $1 million a year, whom he challenges to pay “their fair share.” Romney’s entire economic plan, basically, involves tax cuts and deregulation — in other words, a repeat of the Bush-era policies that led to the crisis.

Does Romney have any fresh ideas? Well, when he was governor of Massachusetts, he was smart enough to see that universal health coverage would not only improve the lives of the uninsured but also help rein in runaway medical costs. He found the solution in an innovative idea developed in Republican-leaning think tanks: an individual health insurance mandate.

It worked. In fact, it was Romney’s greatest policy success as a public official. But now he doesn’t talk about it much.

My guess is that Republicans won’t want to talk about the past or the future in much detail. They’d like to keep things blurry, so that we only see Romney in broad outline: a successful businessman who’ll put us back in business. For details, we’ll mail you the prospectus.

I can’t help but think of the “prosperity theology” movement, or scam, in which preachers persuade congregants that God’s will is for Christians to be rich — and that the way to become rich is to put lots of money in the collection plate. It’s not believable unless the preacher looks and acts the part. Maybe he lives in a mansion. Maybe his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs.”

Actually, it’s not believable even then.


BY: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, May 14, 2012

May 15, 2012 Posted by | Economy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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