Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

Mr. Darcy & American Aristocracy

So apparently Romney pays around 13% a year in taxes on an income of over 20 million dollars.  Paul Ryan paid 20% on $323,000 in 2011.  And many of the most wealthy people in the United States, billionaires even, are paying less than 10% (CNN).

This is because wealthy individuals gain most of their income through return on investments, quite often in the form of capital gains which is taxed at a lower rate.  This is because not all real income is real income.  Some of it cannot be spent on whatever the new owner of fake income wants to buy.  And much of it cannot be deposited in a savings account because it can spontaneously combust.

Lately I have had a strong sense that I live in an immoral society—tt assails me like a stiff wind—not because everything about America is awful, indeed I love my country, but because we are thoroughly corrupt in at least this respect: as a society we have decided to favor, and to create, an upper-class.

Until quite recently, the English aristocracy was alive and well, and dominated English society.  I love Victorian movies and books (I’m still a hardass though!) and recently my curiosity was piqued by the constant discussion of income, “Mr. Darcy has 20,000 pounds a year!”  Do they mean wages, capital gains, or what?

I looked into it, and it turns out that to be an English aristocrat you usually had to make over $3 mil. a year (adjusted for inflation).  They did not acquire this income through business ventures, mercantilism, wages, or through any great talent on their part really.  It came from speculation, investments (most often chosen by others), and rents from large estates and tracts of land — it came from pre-owned wealth.   The Duke of Marlborough, one of the richest aristocrats of the time, pulled in $52.5 mil annually.  To put that in perspective, Warren Buffet pulled in $62 mil. last year, also from pre-owned wealth (admittedly cleverly invested wealth, likely more cleverly I imagine than the Duke of Marlborough).

But Victorians considered the Duke’s income as real income while we pretend it is not, at least not as real as income made from wages.  Indeed, wages, the money received based on time, skill, expertise, and effort, should be taxed heavily.  That stuff simply should not be incentivized.  Don’t these people know they should already have wealth to invest?  Rather, aristocrats sitting on pots of gold and passing it down to their children…that is the stuff civilizational dreams are made of.

So if you love this American economy
Than vote for Mitt Romney
And I won’t forget the men who died
So I could make money,
And I’ll gladly stand up
For freedom
To speculate at low tax rates
Cause their ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA

(Based on the chorus of Proud to be An American)

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Courageous Ryan Pick Mystifies Me

Does the Ryan pick make Romney a political Jedi Master?

I have combed through dozens of articles, by conservatives and liberals, but I cannot get away from this fact: Ryan was known only for his ‘Ryan Budget.’  Without it he is just 1 of 435 House members.  And I do not know why Romney wants to make the Ryan Plan central to his campaign.  Regardless of whether you like it or not, the Ryan Plan is objectively quite unpopular.

I feel like only a couple of years ago, most everybody, Republican and Democrat, appreciated and respected Ryan, but saw him as politically toxic because of his entitlement reform plans.  In fact, he was never seen as having a chance at President or Vice President, or any greater ambition really.  His was an important voice that deserved applause but not an embrace.  While the Republican party might have changed recently, I do not see his views as any less offensive to moderates and independents.   Romney’s embrace of Ryan also reinforces the narrative that “rich Romney loves tax breaks for the rich” (the Ryan Plan calls for tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by spending cuts in entitlements that come into effect a decade or so later).

This choice also undercuts Romney’s talk about how governorship and business experience (executive experience) is what America needs right now.  As I argue in Boardwalk, Park Place, & Veepstakes, he should have put all his chips into one argument:  America, hire the uber-competent team of Mr. Fix-Its.   There was a degree of magic in a Pawlenty pick.  Though a bit boring, that would have been in fact a strength: it would have made the campaign about Obama’s record instead of an extremely unpopular budget proposal.  (And it looks like the Obama high command was very afraid of a Pawlenty pick too.  But Ryan is great to run against.)  In contrast, Paul Ryan has DC legislative experience only and has “never run anything”–not a business, city, or state–much like criticism someone else received  in 2008 (his name rhymes with Osama).

Maybe Romney picked Ryan to show that he is capable of making tough choices?  This choice certainly makes Romney appear substantive.  Ryan is bold, smart, and offers specific policies, but I’m not sure the substance is something they can win on.  However, this is the one of the best arguments I have read.  Romney needs to look like less of a sleazy hair-do.

Maybe Romney picked Ryan to get Wisconsin?  But Ryan has not campaigned statewide; most Wisconsonians have never heard of him.  And even if picking Ryan does get him Wisconsin, that is only 10 electoral votes.  Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is almost certainly lost because Ryan’s entitlement reforms don’t play well with older populations, and the Ryan pick will drag down the vote in older populations everywhere else in the country.  In contrast, picking Rubio would have helped Romney win Florida (Rubio was a Senator), and help with latino turnout in ever single state with latino populations, including important swing states like Nevada and New Mexico.

Maybe Romney did it to keep the focus on the economy and domestic policy, compared to foreign policy where Obama has a comparative advantage?  But that did not need to be done; the conversation was already going to be about the economy and domestic policy.

Maybe Romney did it because he wanted to leave the party with a legacy of thoughtful articulate conservatism?  He did not want to elevate a Sarah Palin.  Laudable, but I feel that Romney wants to win now.

But Romney is smart and savvy, s0 here I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Until then, this VP pick looks like courageous political suicide.  I am kind of impressed actually.

Romney, we hardly knew you. 


Boardwalk, Park Place, & Veepstakes

According to Politco’s swing state map, if the general election was held today, Obama would win a whopping 332 to 206 in the electoral college.  If somehow Obama loses all the states where he is currently winning by 4.5 or less points (Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire) he would still win 271 to 267.  So I do not understand all the hubbub about Obama being super weak.

Of course, while everything can change, some changes are less likely than they might usually be.  For example, it is unlikely that some damaging piece of Obama’s bio comes out.  And though we cannot rule out a major disaster, those unite the country behind its president as often as not.  Also, a series of major gaffes by a typically disciplined Obama is not likely either.

So the economy, already a major factor no matter what, is likely the whole ball game, and we simply do not know what it will do.  Also, as I argued earlier in Political Jedi Master, the economy is the only leverage point with which anyone can beat Obama, and Romney, despite obvious flaws, is best suited to maximize that leverage.

So, with his back up against the electoral wall, what running mate should Romney pick?

I grew up playing monopoly and probably kept playing past the age when normal people stop.  One of the strategies adult-Jer learned seems relevant:

When it is down to the final two players, when you have hardly have any money left and your opponent has the majority of properties with plenty of houses and hotels, it is tempting to slowly sell houses evenly and keep enough money so that you can withstand a hit or two.  Of course, when it is neck and neck, this strategy makes sense: avoid unnecessary risks.  But, when your back is up against the wall, playing it safe will lead slowly, but inevitably, to defeat.  Instead, sell and mortgage everything, even if you do not immediately need to, except for Boardwalk and Park Place and put all your money into building hotels.  Even if you get lucky on your own rolls, if your opponent does not land on Boardwalk or Park Place, you will lose; if your opponent lands on them, but they are not super expensive, you will also lose.  The only way you win is if you get some luck and you were ready to capitalize on it by making Boardwalk and Park Place a mortal hit.

(I won using this strategy several times.  My brother would complain that it was dumb luck.  I would say it was luck…and clever cleverness.)

Romney’s Boardwalk and Park place is the economy; in order for him to win he has to get lucky (the economy has to decline) and he has capitalize on it when it does.  Rounding himself out by picking Condeleeza Rice for foreign policy, African Americans, and women, or Marco Rubio for the Latino vote, Florida, and a compelling biography, is like hedging his bets by keeping houses or hotels on other properties.  Instead, he needs to commit to the only winning strategy that exists for him: the economy is in decline and though he might not have an incredible personal story, snazzy oratorical skills, or middle-class roots, he is supremely competent.  He is Mr. Fix-it #1 and captain of the the Varsity Mr. Fix-it team.

For that reason, I think Romney should pick a former governor (executive experience) with a job creation record, a business record, and a Washington outsider, and they must have a persona of no frills, getting things done; they must exude competence like crazy.  I am thinking Tim Pawlenty or someone similar (Jon Huntsman cannot because “I’m a Mormon from Utah too!”).  I am sure there are other good names out there.  Maybe perusing through their bios and picking one will be another post.

Also, unlike Mccains pick of Palin, Romney needs to make a pick that reflects his main argument against Obama, “Obama is not uber-competent on the economy like me.”  (Mccain picked Palin under the banner, “Country First.”  No matter what you think of Palin, you have to admit that there were other candidates much more qualified to be President, and Mccain did not reinforce his case with his VP pick.)

So I am excited to see who Romney picks as VP.  Maybe it will make my list of brilliant political plays and Romney will prove himself  the ultimate political Jedi Master…or maybe he will not pass go and not collect 200.

Either way, I can’t wait!  This is history happening in front of our faces!

Incredible discussion going on regarding gun control.  I will post more on that soon.  Thanks for your comments!


Political Jedi Master: Bush Tax Cuts & Romney’s Returns

Politics is intellectual football.  Here are two recent and brilliant Obama plays.

#1 Extending the Bush Tax Cuts in 2010

I was pretty upset in 2010 when Obama let the Bush tax cuts be extended without much of a fight, but it was genius.  Not only did it coax a little more stimulus out of the Republicans for an insipid economy, money he could not have gotten for anything but tax cuts, but Obama timed the new expiry date for the extension perfectly.  Right before the 2012 election the Republicans were going to publicly position themselves against the middle class: “if we can’t cut taxes for the wealthy, than nobody gets a tax cut.”  And here we are!

Early on Obama’s team had to know, as all political operatives do, that re-election prospects would most likely be tied to how quickly the economy recovers, and how good the Republican candidate would likely be on economic issues and  related experience.  Even if the economy did poorly, an economy-deaf candidate like Mccain would likely mean an Obama victory.  If the economy did well, Obama’s broad like-ability would mean an Obama victory too.  Foreseeably, the only possible way that Obama could lose a 2nd term is if the economy continued to stagnate and an economic “can-do” Republican was nominated (I think this is why Herman Cain ran).  So, in 2009, what economic “can-do” guys were out for the Obama team to worry about?

In 2008, it was obvious to everyone Romney was that man and that he was going to run again.  In fact, I told people at back then, not because I am brilliant but because it was blindingly obvious, that Romney is likely the only Republican candidate who could seriously have a chance at beating Obama, because he could win on Obama’s only serious weak point.  Afghanistan was not likely to become a big enough problem.  ObamaCare riles Republicans, but not many others.  Pro-life or anti-gay issues?  No way.  That is a losing demographic battle.  Obama’s team was only worried about a Republican economic guru; and a guru happened to be the frontrunner at the time.

So how do you neutralize Romney’s economic bonafides?  Simple: by making him and his party look more like robber barons than Mr. Fix-It.

So, in addition to timing the debate, the 2010  Bush tax cut extensions was a brilliant move by Obama for another reason: while Republican Party holds middle-class tax cuts hostage to upper-class tax cuts, but the standard-bearer for the party, Mitt himself, is one of those wealthy individuals for whom his party is sacrificing the middle-class.  Do you think this debate would be as big of a deal if Rick Santorum was the nominee? If anything, a middle-income standard bearer would give this fight for the wealthy some integrity (though a middle-income standard bearer also would probably not have experience in the economy making millions of dollars).

Finally, while health care was a major campaign issue in 2008, Obama needed a new issue to excite his base.  The obvious alliance between the Republicans and wealth was ripe for political exploitation.

Well-played sir…well-played.

#2 Having Harry Reid Accuse Romney of a Decade of Tax Evasion

According to Harry Reid, a Bain investor called his office and told him that Romney has not paid taxes in 10 years.  Reid then said as much in an interview last week with the Huffington Post and then in a speech on the floor of the United States Senate.  Republicans have gone postal, demanding “dirty Harry” take it back, and have attacked the Obama Team for not denouncing this unsubstantiated claim.

But the Obama team has played it super cool and asked, why doesn’t Romney take 10 seconds, reach into his filing cabinet, and cough up some tax returns to the nearest reporter.  He could prove Reid a liar in seconds; why would he not want to so easily discredit the 2nd most powerful Democrat in the country?

If Romney does not release his taxes, then he, the richest man ever to be a major party nominee, as his party fights for his tax cuts, is seen as hiding something (especially because, between the precedent set by his dad and Nixon, and every presidential candidate for the past 50 years of releasing 8 or so years of returns, he already looks like he is hiding something).  But, if he does release his tax returns, then the media gets to tell lots of stories about how rich he is and how he got his wealth.  (He did not create a conventional business from the bottom up, like Andrew Carnegie or Henry Ford.  Instead he bought and sold businesses themselves, often after lay-offs, re-organizing, and ‘stripping them for parts,’ though admittedly it is more complex than that.)

Now, I have no evidence for this, but I find it hard to beleive that Reid, an early supporter of Obama who initially encouraged the man to run for President in 2007 when everyone thought Hillary had the nomination locked up, who depended on Obama for his own re-election campaign in Nevada, who is Obama’s staunch ally, would get this phone call from a Bain investor and unilaterally take it straight to the Huffington Post and put it in a speech.  Assuming he got the call at all, he probably g-chated Obama immediately and asked,

Harry_#1Senator:          What should I do?”

Ice.cold.Obama:            Do what you think is best ; )

Well-played sir…well-played.


Adams vs. Jefferson Repeat in 2012

In 1800, John Adams was accused of being an out of touch, arrogant, elitist while his opponent, Jefferson, won with the image of a real American, a man of the people, and a champion of liberty.  For example, in a well-publicized national discussion, when the new republic was trying to decide what to call the president, Jefferson pushed for the title “Mr. President” while John Adams was willing to call him “His Excellency” or something that lent the position more gravitas.  Adams, spending years abroad in England and France, was viewed as having been poisoned by aristocratic and foreign sensibilities and communism was to Joe McCarthy’s USA as monarchy was to Jefferson’s.  As part of the Federalist Party, albeit a reluctant member, Adams wanted to consolidate government power while Jefferson, of the people, by the people, and for the people, had spent his whole life in America and was the people’s man.  He wanted their freedom and saw the small-holding farmer, as opposed to industry, as central to American life.

But biography is ironic.  Jefferson was the son of a rich plantation owner.  At age 21, he inherited 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land, 52 slaves, livestock, his father’s notable library, and a gristmill.  In 1768, he used his slaves to construct a neoclassical mansion known as Monticello.  In 1773, the year after Jefferson married a young widow, her father died. She and Jefferson inherited his estate, including 11,000 acres and 135 slaves.  With these additional slaves, Jefferson became the second largest slaveholder in Albermarle County with one of the biggest estates. The number of slaves from this time forward would fluctuate around 200.

Jefferson enjoyed an enormous income for his entire life, yet was almost always deeply in debt.  He spent lavishly and was constantly remodeling Monticello for no particular or practical purpose.  He spent great sums of money while abroad, especially in France, where he enjoyed the French aristocracy and their way of life.  He loved fine wine, expensive furnishings, and speculation, and died 1-2 million in debt.

Adams, on the other hand, was raised by a farmer who farmed the land himself.  Young Adams loved farming and he ran a farm his entire life, which he worked whenever possible, shoveling manure and plowing fields without the aid of slaves.  (Adams thought the only sensible investment was in land.)  As a boston lawyer, he had trouble making ends meet, and had to farm.  He hated taking cases without merit.  In fact, he took the case defending the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre, the case that launched his public career, in part because he was having trouble finding work.

Throughout his public career, Adams was frugal with his modest income, especially while serving abroad in the company of high socieity, which, unlike Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, he hated.  He could not stand the theatrics, the sleaziness, the politics, the make-up, the decadence, or the rich food; it disgusted him and he never fit in.  In fact, Franklin had the Continental Congress recall Adams against his will because he was too blunt and impolite; he was a “bull in a china cabinet.”

Nonetheless, for decades, no matter what he did, Adams could not shake the public image of an elitist snob who had been poisoned by foreigners, and Jefferson won the 1800 election.

Barack Obama has also been called an out of touch, arrogant elitist.  I hear it daily.  Indeed, he has given some fodder for this charge.  During his 2008 campaign, he mentioned that rural Americans can “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”  He called the economy “fine” a few weeks ago.  He spent some parts of his life in foreign countries.  Maybe he is out of touch with real America?

But Obama, we must remember, was raised by a single mom who worked for non-profits.  Mitt Romney’s dad, George Romney, was a successful businessman, a multi-millionaire, Governor of Michigan, Sec. of HUD, and ran for President against Nixon.

Obama finished paying off his school debt in 2004 and, though he is a millionaire now, only became one from book sales after his 2008 campaign picked up.  Romney, on the other hand, is worth over $250 million, making him the richest man ever to run for president — he always has been the 1%.

Obama was a community organizer working closely with underserved populations in Chicago before he became a lawyer, professor, state senator, Senator, and then President.  Mitt Romney worked as a Mormon missionary in France, a high-powered business consultant, a wildly successful venture capitalist executive for 14 years with an initial $37 million, chaired the 2002 Winter Olympics, became governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007, and has been running for President ever since.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what “out of touch” is supposed to mean.  Everyone is “in touch” with something.  As for me, I like Obama because he, like me, is multi-cultural and has been exposed to poverty.  Like me, he knows what it is like to worry about school debt and making ends meet since the majority of his life he paid close attention to electricity bills, travel expenses, and food prices.  He understands why they are important.  Romney seems like a good guy, but he has been enormously wealthy nearly his entire life.  Romney is Wall Street to Obama’s Main Street.

Did you hear about the $12 million expansion to his Ocean Front property in San Diego?  It includes a car elevator.  But car elevators can be super cool right?  Romney could be just a rich guy having everyman fun, like Obama when he enjoys the perks of bringing the musicians he loves to perform in the White house, or flying up to NYC for a dinner and a show with Michelle.  But surely all excess does not signal everyday humanity.  Maybe some excess is just excessive, such as the time and ink spent on this whole discussion of who is more ‘out of touch.’

So, vote for Obama?  It’s not really my point.  Instead, let’s just all try mightily not be as out of touch as the electorate in 1800.


Ron Paul = Mitt’s Best Friend

If Mitt Romney is the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, it will be because of Ron Paul.  Consider:

1) If Ron Paul wasn’t running, those votes would be going for anyone but Mitt Romney.  Paul’s success eats into Romney’s opponents.

2) Ron Paul’s substantial but not-substantial-enough following will continue putting him in second or third place, distancing Romney, the front runner, from all the other competitors.  He creates a barrier between Romney and everyone else by making them look small.

A democracy is funny when ideological opposites help each other achieve power.  A new poll puts Jon Huntsman at 17% in NH.  Ron Paul is at 16%.  Mitt Romney is 40% and everyone else is small.  This echoes Iowa, where Ron Paul got second, Santorum tied Romney for first, and everyone else was small.  If Mitt is going to be defeated, that person in second place at least needs to be the same person every time, but if they are not, and Ron Paul keeps the rest of the field at a distance….”hello, President Romney.”

(However, the economy just added 200,000 jobs and we are now at 8.5% unemployment.  If the economy continues to improve, Obama will likely win.  Maybe that is why Huckabee, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio sat out this round out.)

I miss posting more!  I love it and all the comments from last time.  It really is a great way for me to stay engaged with so many friends and family (and strangers, which is cool) all over the world.  Thanks for staying in touch.  


Politics is Intellectual Football (I’m a Confirmed Idiot #1)

Sometimes I have thoughts worth sharing, but I don’t share them because they are in various ways self-congratulatory.  If subtexts had vocal chords they might scream, “See!  Aren’t I great?”  Don’t get me wrong.  That’s a wonderful message which the world needs to hear.  It is just problematic when it is so obviously preached by me.  So sometimes I avoid ideas and messages worth sharing, things I believe in, that may help people, in the pursuit of looking like a nice guy.  But no longer!  I am starting a blog series called “I am a confirmed idiot.”  Basically, I am requiring myself to start any post containing obviously self-congratulatory subtext with a formulation in which I confess a unrelated humorously humiliating personal act.  This frees me to make my points with righteous passion, holding nothing back, for, as it says in Leviticus 27:35, “If you are humble for a moment, feast on the joy that comes from being full of yourself the rest of the time.”  Specifically, I will start these posts by saying, “I am a confirmed idiot.  After all, I once….” then I’ll tell of my stupidity, and I’ll end with “…however…”and then state my idea.  For example: 

I am a confirmed idiot.  After all, I once hit my friend in the head with a brick after excitedly bounding over to show her how high I could throw bricks.

However, unrelated to that, I do treat serious topics, like politics, the way that they should be treated, with marked levity.  Politics, for instance, is no fun unless you watch it like intellectual football, which I do, which is why I stay informed and will continue to stay informed.

I was talking to a friend today.  She’s smart, she cares about the world, and she wants nothing to do with politics because it is so depressing.  I feel like I talk to a friend like this once a week.

This is horrible.  We can’t be losing the attention of smart and loving people.  All we will have left are the angry, jaded, and unintelligent people.

Instead, we gotta make jokes and relish the clever games that politicians play.  We need it to be fun.

“But real lives are at stake,” they tell me.  “Exactly,” I respond, “that’s why we gotta enjoy the crap out of it.”

Alternatively, we can pay attention to non-depressings things that do not matter.  On Tuesday I had lunch with a fun group of African American ladies and a few of them got into a friendly and spirited discussion about the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.  After some fightin’ words, and laughs, and more trash talk, I remained conspicuously silent.   Finally, I blurted it out, “I must confess.”  They stopped and stared as I paused and lowered my head, “I don’t watch football.”  They laughed their heads off.

Football is interesting.  There are personalities involved.  Sneak plays.  Talent.  Vanity.  Cleverness.  Aspirations.  Competitions.  Macho-ness.  Smackdowns.  Sometimes, when an enemy quarterback gets run over, you can’t help but bite your knuckles in delighted surprise.  Sometimes, a penalty gets called that you stand up from the couch to “boo,”  but when you see the instant replay close-up that shows your favorite lineman doing something very naughty, you also bite your knuckles in delighted surprise.

It’s a moment when my Honduran friend might rase his hand and say, “No [SNAP] he [SNAP] didn’t [SNAP]!”

Those ladies loved their football, even though football doesn’t matter.  What mattered is the entertainment value, and nobody is above that.

Fortunately, politics has all the drama of football, except it is more interesting because, obviously, something is at stake.  Like football, the smack-downs are usually obvious and well-reported.  For example, when Gingrich told Romney on last week’s ABC debate that the only reason he was not a career politician is that he lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994–good smackdown.  But here are two political plays that really made me bite my knuckles in glee (the best are always sneak plays):

Perhaps you saw it.  Last Tuesday, Newt Gingrich had a one-on-one debate with Jon Huntsman.  At first, Newt’s choice puzzled me.  Why would the frontrunner choose to elevate one of his opponents?  Ahhh… he wanted to elevate Huntsman because a Huntsman rise is likely to chip into Romney’s numbers rather than his own, and Romney is of course the bigger threat.  Did you see the new poll that came out today in New Hampshire?  Newt’s play picked up a couple of yards for him (and Huntsman).

Nice…I bit my knuckle with glee.

Perhaps you saw it.  Mitt Romney is running a TV spot in which he talks of debt reduction as a moral responsibility.  Ok.  No big deal, right?  Wait…am I crazy, or is this commercial really about Newt’s infidelity and two divorces?  (Note the happy couple at the end who have been married for an often mentioned 42 years.)  Without being negative, the ad turns personal morality into something which actually makes one better at fostering a good economy.

Oooh… well-played Mitt.  Well-played.

I am sure some of my readers will find these “sneak plays” depressing.  Some of those people might also be disgusted at me for how I find so much glee in them.  But I am more disgusted in their disgust than they are disgusted in me.  Enjoying the serious topic of politics as intellectual football is the only moral choice I know of that a loving and smart person is able to make.

So grab the popcorn, don your favorite candidate’s hat or over-priced t-shirt, gather some happy loud-mouth friends, and turn on the news.  The game never stops.