Mitt Romney — An Ecologically Unsound Choice For President

Before I became a senior editor with Bloomberg Financial News where my work revolved around business and economic issues, I spent years writing about the environment. This background has given me a rather interesting focus — an ability to see some important similarities in the ways the natural world and the world of economics operate. From this perspective, it’s clear to me why Mitt Romney should not be put in charge of the U.S. economy.

Predators and vultures play important roles in both natural and economic systems. Herds of animals, for example, have to be regularly culled to improve the herd’s overall health and viability. Predators do the job. They kill the weak, the diseased, the careless, the inadequately protected young. Then vultures, hyenas and other members of nature’s clean up crew consume the mess and “refashion it” in the form of their own waste, which helps fertilize fields where healthy members of the herd feed.

Things work much the same way in the economic realm. Companies, industries, entire nations show signs of weakness and predators of various kinds attack (think bond vigilantes in world markets). Then the market’s vultures move in to clean up the mess. The result is a healthier economic “herd,” a healthier Main Street, that can grow in healthier ways having been culled of its unproductive or no longer desirable elements.

Mitt Romney’s major business experience, what he is putting forth as his major qualification to reanimate the economy as President, is his work at Bain Capital, a Wall Street vulture fund. In spite of the unflattering image the word “vulture” evokes, as is true in natural economies, these funds play an important and valuable role in keeping economies healthy.

Based on the above, one might suppose that Romney’s history with Bain was something he could truthfully claim qualifies him to get America back on its feet economically. Look a little closer, however, and its easy to see this is actually a work history guaranteed to point a new President Romney in the wrong economic directions.

The reason? Because what was described above is the way things work in a properly functioning natural ecology or environment — one in which the various parts, the herds (whatever they might consist of), the predators, the vultures, are all in balance.

If you come upon a natural ecology where herds have been overly culled, while at the same time lions and leopards are overly well fed, and the numbers and size of vultures and hyenas are enormous, you’ve got a sick ecosystem. If you see an economy in which Main Street is wobbly and anguished, while the predators and vultures of Wall Street wax fatter and fatter, you’ve got a sick economy.

Our own economy today is over-Bained, over-Citied, badly under-Main Streeted. The main economic problem here isn’t the cast of economic players and what each is supposed to do to keep things healthy. It’s that the balance wrought by some of these players, the predators and vultures, has made things very, very out-of-whack.

Culling this herd, culling Main Street more than it has already been culled, won’t improve our economic health. Doing so might not always be the wrong prescription. But it is certainly the wrong prescription for the wrong disease today.

Expecting this reality to be appreciated and acted upon appropriately by a former partner in a vulture fund backed by Wall Street predators is thus a very silly political choice for a mighty sick Main Street herd.

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To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien

 

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Helping Mr. B. Make A Major PAC Decision

Mr. B. You’re back again. Nothing bad on the digestive front, I hope.

No. Selig. I actually came by to talk with you about something important. To get your advice. Can we sit down and chat?

Sit down, sir? This is a washroom. The only places where we could…

Point taken. We can chat standing. Do you know what a political action committee is, Selig? A PAC?

Yes sir. They’re things that promote free speech. They free the media from the clutches of socialist indigents and allow decent rich people to finally get a hearing.

Exactly, Selig. Though I’m surprised a washroom attendant like yourself has this sophisticated level of understanding.

It’s because I listen to a lot of a.m. talk radio when no one else is around, sir. One of my friends is also the attendant at the Supreme Court men’s room in Washington, and he keeps me up to date on the court’s thinking about money and free speech.

The Supreme Court, you say. I’ve always wondered something about those people. Those long black robes they wear. When they have to use a washroom, how do they…you know…how do they manage…never mind. I need your advice on something else, Selig.

I live to serve, sir.

Indeed you do, Selig. Indeed you do. Here’s the thing. Some of the gang here at Goldman are thinking of contributing to a PAC. Naturally this will be chump change for us, but for people in Washington its crumbs to die for.

I’m a bit short of cash right now, Mr. B. Maybe you could come around at Christmas time if I get a bonus this year.

No need to grovel, Selig. I’m not here for a contribution. I just need some advice. The actual contributors would be the firm’s top earners, the best and brightest people, the job creators, the fighters for an opportunity society. Our problem is that being so bright and working so hard to create jobs, we don’t have time for much contact with little people like yourself. In my own case, except for a gardener who I can’t understand half the time, you’re the only little person I meet with on a regular basis.

Perhaps if you changed your diet, sir. That taco parlor you frequent. You might try eating lunches elsewhere, too.

Focus, Selig. Focus. The focus here is on which party — from your average little person perspective — should get our free speech. Should get our money. They both slobber for it. And no matter what they say at election time, they’ll both do our bidding after the election. But I still need your opinion on which to support with our free speech.

Why do you care about my opinion, sir, if both parties are in your pocket anyway?

Because, Selig, in the event that Wall Street brings the world economy to the brink of disaster yet again, people like you will be called upon for another massive bail out. And we want to be sure the folks in power in Washington then are folks who also had little people’s support this election season. So we all share the blame.

I hope you won’t think I’m sucking up, Mr. B, when I say your thinking here is brilliant, and you are one far-sighted investment banker.

Of course I think you’re sucking up, Selig. That’s expected. Now…into which trough do you suggest we throw some chump change slops?

What the heck, Mr. B. Give ‘em both a taste. It’s only fair to PAC the pair.

‘It’s only fair to PAC the pair.’ Very good, Selig. Even rhymes. I like it. I always seem to come up with good ideas — and good catch phrases like this — when I come down here.

A surprising number of Goldman guys achieve clarity in this very washroom, sir. Up for another visit to Booth #8?

Lead on, McDuff. With your help, I am now Booth 8 ready.

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To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

A New Role For The Democratic Party — Comic Relief

Watching elected Democrats in the White House and Congress in the last couple of weeks was like watching a skinny little blowhard getting thrown out of a bar. Lying on the sidewalk he rails at the bouncer who sent him flying, while the bouncer, arms folded, merely smirks as the beaten little guy vents before slouching off.

The Republicans are Washington’s political bouncers these days. They have the measure of the Democrats down perfectly. We won’t compromise, they say, and the Democrats’ response is that if they won’t compromise we must. And like the bar bouncer, the Republicans let the beaten little guy lying on the sidewalk vent because…well, because the scene amuses them.

But why should the Republicans have all the fun? Why shouldn’t the rest of us not share in their amusement — especially those of us foolish enough to have believed the change and hope blather of that articulate Obama fellow, and the twaddle of congressional Democrats that they were actually up to governing effectively? Because once you get over disappointment with the Democrats’ ineptitude, and the shame in yourself for ever having trusted them to advance your interests, these folks are really quite a hoot.

Consider, for example, the amazing misunderstanding of Democratic policy advisers who actually believe that the “compromise” they went along with will give an extra boost to the present “recovery,” and position Democrats to keep the White House in 2012. Forgetting for the moment that this compromise was really a cave in, and the recovery ostensibly going on since June 2009 is a numbers game played by economists with few close links to Main Street reality, even a better economy in 2012 won’t work to the advantage of the President and his party.

Why? Because the Republicans have pulled off a political master stroke. They constrained the Democrats while the latter supposedly controlled all the elected power pieces in Washington, then ran the table during the lame duck session now coming to an end, and will set the agenda completely starting in January. Thus, they will be able to take credit in 2012 for a real recovery if by some miracle one occurs. But if it doesn’t, they will point to Democrats’ numerical control in the Senate and ownership of the White House and again blame the Democrats for economic failure.

Real political power with the option of taking credit for success and avoiding blame for failure. A master stroke. And the Democrats don’t have a clue.

Now ain’t that a hoot? Another great example of Democratic comic relief.

And then there’s the White House’s just initiated attempt to heal things with the liberal wing of its own party. Or the sanctimonious, purist, ungrateful liberal wing of the party as the Obama team likes to say, while folks like James Carville, that well known moderate Democratic strategist, refers to these liberals “gnats.”

Can you just see the meetings between the Obama team and these dissed progressives? The Obama gang desperately trying to triangulate, to appear friendly to the left without looking too friendly because the president’s best-and-brightest advisers are telling him this will turn off independent voters, while the progressives in the room are wondering if they can secret away some of the excellent pastries on the table so they come out of these meetings with at least something of value.

The hoots keep coming. And there’s plenty more to come.

Attention liberals, progressives, lefties, purists, gnats and whatever else they want to call us. We no longer have a dog in this fight. But there’s more to life than politics. A lot more. It’s time to really move on, to focus our energies in non-political realms, and to give our support to people who are worthy of receiving it.
Oh yes. And to read The Times and watch news on Public Television for laughs.