Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mitt Romney's problem isn't his gaffes. Its his politics.

Dear A,

Klein is smart, insightful and measured. Unlike the lathered mania characteristic of The Right, Klein is a master of dispassionate presentation.

In the following article, Klein marshals the data to reveal Romney's essence as Dooh Nibor - Robin Hood spelled backward.

Mitt's candid intention is to "rob from the poor to give to the rich." (Hardly a novel idea...) 

"The rich" in question are Fabulously Rich, Inconceivably Rich: they are those whom Reagan Budget Director, David Stockman, describes thus: “In 1985, the top five percent of the households – the wealthiest five percent – had net worth of $8 trillion – which is a lot. Today, after serial bubble after serial bubble, the top five per cent have net worth of $40 trillion. The top five percent have gained more wealth than the whole human race had created prior to 1980.” 

I do not envy these people. 

I pity them.

Either contemporary conservatives are so infused with fundamentalist faith that they conceive Romney as a Magnate Savior, or, they surrender to the magical thinking that trickle-down is The One True Faith, and all others heretics to be burned at the stake.

Notably, trickle-down was nothing but a yellow puddle throughout 8 years of Bush-Cheney. 

Hooked to the oscilloscope, Bush-Cheney's version of trickle-down began as a "flat line," then plunged into meltdown. 

And that was with the tax cuts!

And if World War II finally ended The Depression - rather than Roosevelt's economic policies - why did The Iraq War do nothing of the kind?

If you have not seen "Inside Job," (last year's Oscar winner for best documentary), it is freely available online at 

The first five minutes of this documentary -- an examination of Iceland's economic collapse -- are sufficient to glimpse the new nature of globalized capitalism, a beast appropriately taxonomized as a new genus and species. 

What we have now is not -- at all -- the capitalism of our youth. 

These nouveau capitalists - particularly in America's dominant industry of "High Finance" - are profiteering marauders. 

They are "in it" only for themselves.

They give no real thought to America's good, nor to The Common Good, nor to the good of individual Americans.

Embedded in the recently-mutated DNA of globalized Capitalism is the ineluctable urge to invest most vigorously abroad where profit margins are higher. (Such foreign investment may be "direct," or "roundabout" through "outsourcing" and "off-shoring.")

Admittedly, "trickle down" does favor workers. 

It's just that those workers are Chinese, Indian and Brazilian.

Here at home, trickle down has become trickled upon.

But don't take it from me.

Hear ye! Hear ye! 

Ezra Klein has kindly asked Mitt Romney to speak for himself.

Pax on both houses


PS You can also "get the scoop" on Romney (and other presidential candidates) from the following videos - all of them produced by Republican presidential candidates themselves:
      Newt Gingrich's view of Romney:
      Romney's view of Newt Gingrich:
      Ron Paul's view of Gingrich:

The Washington PostThursday, February 2, 2012
Ezra Klein's Wonkbook
Mitt Romney's problem isn't his gaffes. It's probably better to refrain from saying you're "not concerned by the very poor" and that you "like being able to fire people," but campaigns are long, and all candidates make comments that can be taken out of context to make them look bad. Nor is Romney's problem his tax rate, or his wealth, or his time at Bain Capital. Romney's problem is the interaction all of this has with his policies. In particular, the interaction it has with his tax and fiscal policies.

Romney's tax policy, described simply, is to extend the Bush tax cuts and, then on top of that, sharply cut taxes on corporations, the wealthy, and upper-middle class investors, while letting a set of tax breaks that help the poor expire. The result, according to the Tax Policy Center, would be a $69 tax cut for the average individual in the bottom 20 percent and a $164,000 tax cut for the average individual in the top one percent. And Romney would pay for this through unspecified cuts to domestic programs. Since domestic programs mostly go to the poor and seniors, the regressive tax cuts would be regressively financed.

That's a tough political sell for any candidate. But Romney is a very rich guy who already pays surprisingly little in taxes and has made some oddly callous comments about the poor. And now he wants to lower the tax burden on people like himself, and pay for it by cutting programs for the poor and seniors? That's a much tougher sell.

And it's probably not one that Romney, all things considered, wants to make. His tax plan, as I've pointed out ad nauseum, is the most moderate plan of any candidate in the GOP primary. Rick Santorum's plan would give the top one percent a $341,000 tax cut. Newt Gingrich's plan boosts that to $422,000. Nor is there much in Romney's background to suggest he's particularly interested in shredding the safety net to cut taxes. His big accomplishment in Massachusetts, after all, was universal health care, not a tax cut.

But Romney had to persuade conservatives he was one of them. And in today's Republican Party, tax cuts -- big ones -- are the cost of doing business. So Romney has a big tax cut plan, which was necessary for him to be a strong candidate in the primary, but now he's got to carry that big tax cut plan into the general. Now he has to explain why, with hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank, he wants to cut taxes on people like him and pay for those tax cuts by cutting programs for people who aren't like him.

Political and Economic Reading List:

1.) “The American Dream” by foul-mouthed (but brilliant) George Carlin - 

2.) Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, "Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%" - 

3.) "Our Banana Republic" by Nicholas Kristof - 

4.) "A Hedge Fund Republic" by Nicholas Kristof - 

5.) "How to End the Great Recession" by Robert Reich - 

6.) “A Dogma to Wreck the Country” by Thatcherite conservative, Niall Ferguson -

8.) Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director David Stockman on America's inconceivable wealth inequality -

9.) “War is a Racket,” by Smedley Butler -

10.) Benjamin Franklin  “on Property and Taxes” -


Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris
25 December, 1783
"The Remissness of our People in Paying Taxes is highly blameable; the Unwillingness to pay them is still more so. I see, in some Resolutions of Town Meetings, a Remonstrance against giving Congress a Power to take, as they call it, the People's Money out of their Pockets, tho' only to pay the Interest and Principal of Debts duly contracted. They seem to mistake the Point. Money, justly due from the People, is their Creditors' Money, and no longer the Money of the People, who, if they withold it, should be compell'd to pay by some Law.
All Property, indeed, except the Savage's temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."

Reagan Budget Director, David Stockman, who oversaw the biggest tax cut in the history of humankind: “In 1985, the top five percent of the households – the wealthiest five percent – had net worth of $8 trillion – which is a lot. Today, after serial bubble after serial bubble, the top five per cent have net worth of $40 trillion. The top five percent have gained more wealth than the whole human race had created prior to 1980.” Elsewhere in this same CBS “60 Minutes” interview, Mr. Stockman describes America's obsession with tax cuts as "religion, something embedded in the catechism," "rank demagoguery, we should call it what it is," and "We've demonized taxes. We've created... the idea that they're a metaphysical evil." And finally, this encompassing observation: "The Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves."  -;contentAux   ///^DJI,^GSPC,GLD,DIA,TBT,TLT,UUP   ///  ///;housing  (There is a self-resolving glitch near the beginning of this final clip.)     
Teddy Roosevelt: “Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally does some deed like founding a college or endowing a church, which makes those good people who are also foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country." Theodore Roosevelt - February, 1895 -  

Abraham Lincoln: "In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism. It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life. Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless. Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."  Read more: State of the Union Address: Abraham Lincoln (December 3, 1861) —


                                                                                           War is a Racket

Major General Smedley Butler
United States Marine Corps Commandant 
In his lifetime, Major General Butler was the most decorated Marine ever.
                              In retirement, General Butler, a life-long Republican, ran for a Pennsylvania.

         A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. 
         I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns six percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. 
         I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes, and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket. 
There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism. 
         It may seem off for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. 
         I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. Thus I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers and Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. "During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel that I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three city districts. The Marines operated on three continents."  Excerpt from 1933 speech. 

For all five chapters of Butler's "War is a Racket," please see: 

Thomas Merton: "The terrible thing about our time is precisely the ease with which theories can be put into practice.  The more perfect, the more idealistic the theories, the more dreadful is their realization.  We are at last beginning to rediscover what perhaps men knew better in very ancient times, in primitive times before utopias were thought of: that liberty is bound up with imperfection, and that limitations, imperfections, errors are not only unavoidable but also salutary. The best is not the ideal.  Where what is theoretically best is imposed on everyone as the norm, then there is no longer any room even to be good.  The best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.”  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander -



G.K. Chesterton: The merely rich are not rich enough to rule the modern market. The things that change modern history, the big national and international loans, the big educational and philanthropic foundations, the purchase of numberless newspapers, the big prices paid for peerages, the big expenses often incurred in elections - these are getting too big for everybody except the misers; the men with the largest of earthly fortunes and the smallest of earthly aims. There are two other odd and rather important things to be said about them. The first is this: that with this aristocracy we do not have the chance of a lucky variety in types which belongs to larger and looser aristocracies. The moderately rich include all kinds of people even good people. Even priests are sometimes saints; and even soldiers are sometimes heroes. Some doctors have really grown wealthy by curing their patients and not by flattering them; some brewers have been known to sell beer. But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man, even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egoistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.   

G. K. Chesterton, Toronto, 1930:  The coming peril is the intellectual, educational, psychological and artistic overproduction, which, equally with economic overproduction, threatens the wellbeing of contemporary civilisation. People are inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralysed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves. 

Denis de Rougemont: There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving customers. If the scale registers 15 ounces, you can say: "It's a pound." Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If customers check it, they can see that they are being robbed, and you know by how much you are robbing them: a truth remains as a judge between you. But if the demon induces you to tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the true which is denatured, there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous “class warfare” speech in Madison Square Garden. October 31, 1936. 4 minute audio clip at Entire text of the 30 minute speech is at

Adolf Hitler: "All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying." Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X [1] 


The biggest big business in America is not steel, automobiles, or television. It is the manufacture, refinement and distribution of anxiety.” Eric Sevareid, American news commentator (1912-1992)


“The truth is we live in an economic system which is heartless.” Woodrow Wilson


Does the following caption ridicule Mormonism, or get to the heart of it?

The presenter in the following video, Sandra Tanner, is a great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young - 

Harold Bloom's New York Times article on Mormonism and Romney's Candidacy:

Joseph Smith's First Vision:

Kolob, God's Home Planet:

Did the Lord's Angels Coerce Joseph Smith Into Sex He Didn't Want?


(The above links comprise a very brief exploration of the cumulative weirdness woven into the fabric of Mormonism. For more, see my blog post at

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