Venture capitalist versus community organizer

Photo Courtesy of newyorker.com

On the evening of the presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney stood at one podium, a venture capitalist that made his living buying and dismantling American business and lining his pockets with the misery of unemployed American workers. Kansas City’s GST Steel was one such company that had been making steel rods for 103 years when Romney and his Bain partners took control in 1993. They cut corners and extracted profit at every opportunity sending GST Steel deep into debt and forcing the company into bankruptcy; 750 workers lost their job and denied their full pension and health insurance. The federal government was forced to step in and bail out the pension fund.

At the other podium stood President Barrack Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate and professor, who made his way in politics by working in communities to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate. In 1985, he moved to Chicago to work with local churches organizing job training and other programs for poor and working-class residents of Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project where people were attempting to survive amid shuttered steel mills, a nearby landfill, and a putrid sewage treatment plant.

On the night of the debate Obama attempted to address issues in an honest and forthright manner and never attacked Romney’s 47 percent comment, Bain Capital experience, tax returns or his record as Governor. But Romney wasn’t interested in issues or honesty. Instead, he attacked an economy created by tax cuts to the wealthy, deregulation, an unfunded prescription plan and two deficit wars during the Bush Administration. Romney came into your living room a venture capitalist looking to close the deal and praying you wouldn’t read the small print or notice what he didn’t say, avoided or misrepresented.

Romney dominated the debate and went on the attack, making statements that caught Obama completely off guard. But there was more to this debate than the accuracy of statements, which occurred when Obama rounded up job creation numbers to 5 million and again when he pointed to Romney’s $5 trillion tax cut—a projection based on 10 years. And certainly Romney’s accusations regarding the use of federal land in the production of gas and oil did not take into account that the gas and oil industry are sitting on 7,000 approved permits to “Drill Baby Drill,” or that oil production on federal lands is higher now than in either Bush Administrations or 2011.

However, all statistics aside, no one can deny that President Obama was lacking the fire, charisma and energy that secured his rise to the highest office in the land. And when he stood toe to toe with Romney, his lack of attack allowed the assiduous and trained salesman in Romney to shine. Yet, his overwhelming and compelling performance made it necessary to examine the substance behind his claims.

Romney promised to reduce the debt, create jobs, lower taxes by 20 percent, reduce regulation and reduce the size of government. These are the same promises he made in Massachusetts with the same plan he is proposing for this country, and that record doesn’t lie. Massachusetts, under Romney, fell to 47th in the nation out of 50 states in job creation. He directed the outsourcing of state jobs to other countries and lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs, twice the national average, during his term in office. His promise to reduce government resulted in an increase of government jobs at six times the rate of private sector jobs. How can this happen to a venture capitalist? Maybe it’s because venture capitalists exploit opportunity; they don’t create it. They create wealth for themselves and their clients, which is exactly what he will do as president. Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz said, “…trickle-down economics is empirically wrong and belied by the facts.” It is synonymous with the new Republican economic proposal of supply-side economics, which supports deregulation of business and lower taxes for the wealthy.

Governor Romney cut taxes for himself and 278 of the wealthiest individuals in Massachusetts. He then raised taxes and fees on the middle class by $750 million a year. If this sounds familiar, it should, because it is the same tax plan he has for America. He said he would cut taxes to everyone by 20 percent and would have to reduce tax credits and exemptions to remain revenue neutral. But he made it perfectly clear that the wealthy would not be affected by these reductions, which places the reductions on the backs of the middle class. He never mentioned that he would eliminate the inheritance tax for the wealthy, in addition to their 20 percent tax cut. Consider that 20 percent of $2 billion is $400 million and 20 percent of $20,000 is $4,000 then reduce the $4,000 by the elimination of tax credits and exemptions. The net effect is a tax cut to the wealthy and a tax increase to the middle class. When Romney was pressed for specifics he said it was too detailed to discuss. In stark contrast, Obama posted his economic plan for all of America to see, because he has nothing to hide.

Romney claimed his plan would reduce the debt because more people would be working and paying taxes. He made the same claim in Massachusetts, and then added $2.6 billion to the debt and borrowed $600 million to pay for general maintenance of state highways and other basic services. Yet, during the debate he swore he would never borrow money to maintain public programs, which is exactly what he did as governor and exactly what his Republican colleague, President George W. Bush did. Romney left a $1 billion debt in Massachusetts and President George W. Bush left a $10.7 trillion debt for Americans.

Romney said he will cut government programs that do not pass his litmus test and send other programs to the state. Surely, this is exactly what a venture capitalist does best. They shut down business, sell off what’s left and outsource the rest. And when you were listening to what he wasn’t saying, in his passionate wild eye speech on charter schools, he didn’t elaborate on public education, but went on to note that the private sector does a better job than government in every respect. He did not say he would privatize public education, but that is exactly his intention. He will reduce funding to public education, making it fiscally anorexic then watch it fail, while voucher children make their way to private schools. He will then sell off public education to the private sector and claim victory. It is what venture capitalists do. He does not know that public office is about service not profit or that the average college bound student can’t simply borrow money from their parents.

Mitt Romney misrepresented his statements 27 times in 38 minutes, as 67 million people watched, according to truth-out.org. On the day following the debate, Romney’s campaign team said he didn’t mean to say that Obama supported 50 percent of the energy companies and he didn’t mean to say that his health plan had a provision for pre-existing health conditions.

At the end of the day you don’t know what Romney means, because he doesn’t mean what he says and misrepresents the rest. He has been trained and honed to say anything that will close the deal. He knows well that there is no buyer’s remorse clause on the ballot. So you must ask yourself, “Do I want this hyped up win-at-all-cost salesman in the White House with his finger on the button?”

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