Point of View Columns

“Free Stuff” – An American Fairy Tale

The recent appearance by Mitt Romney at the NAACP convention was wrong on so many levels. In retrospect it seems that his sole reason for appearing was to demonstrate to his base that he was capable of strutting into an arena full of black people and telling them what they needed to hear – the Truth According to Mitt. That this was Magic Mitt’s Sister Souljah moment is pretty clear.

Any doubt about whether Mitt Romney was emulating Bill Clinton circa 1992 when then-candidate Clinton sought shore up his center and right flanks by publicly dissing the outspoken black entertainer were dispelled when Romney appeared at a fundraiser to gloat about the hostile reception that he received at the hands of black people. He actually told this private gathering of a distinctly lighter hue than he encountered in Houston that he told the NAACP membership “if they wanted a president who was giving out “free stuff” he wasn’t their man”.

Of course, he never actually said anything about “free stuff” at the convention itself (unless he said it under his breath), but safe in the more comfortable environs of tasseled loafers and St. John dresses, he found his courage to speak plainly and from the heart – at least that part of his heart that isn’t sequestered in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. And, emboldened by his surroundings, Magic Mitt revealed his thinking when it comes to matters of history, justice to say nothing of the role of government in creating a sane and fair society.

The insult uttered by Mitt Romney is truly off the charts. To begin with, the membership of the NAACP is largely educated and middle class and more likely to being paying more taxes on a percentage basis per capita than Mitt Romney and most of his Bain Capital alumni. For Magic Mitt to suggest that because they are black, the convention attendees were mostly interested in “free stuff” is outrageous. The mentality that gives rise to such a comment is born of the most racist and vicious stereotypes.

Moreover, Mitt Romney should be very careful when speaking to any black audience about “free stuff”. The historical reality is that black Americans are the descendants of people who gave over two centuries of free labor through slavery which played a major role in building the economic infrastructure of this country. Black Americans are the descendants of people who were economically disenfranchised during the post-Civil War Reconstruction. Black Americans are still on the wrong side of every economic disparity table in this country from wages to cost of living.

Mitt Romney should be real careful when speaking to any black audience about “free stuff”. The life expectancy for black males is substantially lower than that of their white male counterparts. As a result, millions of black males in this country work for three decades and more, paying into the Social Security system only to die before receiving little if any of the benefits to which they are entitled. Their white male counterparts end of with the “free stuff”.

And what is “free stuff” anyway? Would “free stuff” include food stamps, public housing and medical care? In the Mitt World would “free stuff” include loans for higher education, Head Start and job training?

Or would “free stuff” include the trillions of dollars of tax cuts that billionaires and millionaires have received this country during the past decade? Would “free stuff” include laws that entitle the wealthy to legally shield their wealth from taxation in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland? Or, would “free stuff” include the historically gigantic subsidies and tax relief given to the energy and agricultural industries?

It would seem that Mitt Romney believes that services that the government provides to feed and housing and educating its citizens is not derived from some societal obligation. “Free stuff” is so insulting and derisive that it is clear that Magic Mitt’s perception of social services is at odds with the basic social contract that created and sustained a country that provided him with the environment and opportunity to become a wealthy man.

Like too many wealthy residents of the right wing of the right wing, Mr. Romney believes that he has amassed a great fortune solely by reason of his brilliant self and nothing more. And he obviously thinks that anyone who has not tasted from the cup of success is undeserving of that success and also undeserving of any assistance or support.

It is a mean, nasty and self-centered vision of self and the world that Mitt Romney articulated with his “free stuff” comment. It might have been off the cuff, but it was from the heart.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 6, 2012

The first Weekend Edition of the New Year bears witness to the departure of Michele Bachmann from the national stage. She leaves having locked up the Looney Lifetime Achievement Award. In the meantime we are now witness to the rise of Ron and Rick (Santorum not Perry, who has joined the ranks of the walking wounded). And the latest news shows some welcome good news on the national employment front which makes us want to look at Mitt Romney’s claims of job creation.

The Ron Also Rises

Upon the conclusion of the Iowa Caucus Ron Paul found himself in third place. Somehow getting approximately 25,000 nods of approval in Iowa in the middle of the winter is supposed to legitimize a national campaign for President of the United States.

There are two amazing things about the Paul candidacy. The first is that even though almost all Americans are the direct beneficiaries of the services provided by government Ron Paul’s supporters want to dismantle that apparatus. Apparently Ron Paul’s idea of liberty is the freedom to be poor, ignorant and sick.

The second amazing aspect of Congressman Paul’s candidacy is that he still considered a legitimate candidate even after disclosure of nearly two decades of racist rants and screeds in his newsletter. Ron Paul claims that he never reads the newsletter that bears his name and that is even worse.

That a person responsible for spewing racial slurs, myths and insults could be considered presidential material in Iowa or anywhere else is simply shameful – and a sign of the times.

The Rick Also Rises

Rick Santorum came within 8 votes of beating Mitt Romney in the Iowa Caucus. Americans who remember how adept Republicans were in stealing the 2000 presidential election in another close contest should beware.

Mr. Santorum comes to the national stage as a kind of two trick pony. At every possible opportunity he will proclaim his adamant and absolute opposition to abortion and contraception as well as his intent to impose his value system on every female in America.

Santorum’s other trick is to be totally opposed to any legitimization of the lives and lifestyles of gay Americans. He is (in) famous for comparing homosexuality to bestiality and he is very clear that as president his mission would be to allow gender discrimination to be wrapped in the American flag.

That Rick Santorum is rising in the polls demonstrates once again that the A.B.O. (Anybody But Obama) crowd in G.O.Tea Party is not above scraping the bottom of the barrel to find their man (sorry Michele).

The Bane of Bain

Speaking of scraping the bottom of the barrel, it appears that Mitt Romney is the target of the A.B.M. (Anybody But Mitt) movement. At different points in time Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann and the almost departed Rodeo Rick Perry have all been deemed preferable to the founder of Bain Capital.

Mr. Romney has been touting his creation of 100,000 jobs while he was the head of Bain Capital. As the saying goes there are lies, damn lies and statistics. The fact about Mitt Romney’s statistics is that the overwhelming bulk of 100,000 jobs in companies financed by Bain (Staples, Domino’s, and Sports Authority) were created after Bain cashed out. You might also ask how many Americans seriously aspire to having a career selling pizza, golf balls or pencils.

The fact is that during the past 11 months of the Obama Administration more jobs have been created in the United States than in the entire 8 years of the Bush Administration. A fact that Mitt Romney and the G.O.Tea Party will continue to ignore. But this is a fact that we should all remember.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 18, 2011

WEEKEND EDITION – November 18, 2011
It appears that Rodeo Rick Perry’s brain freeze is contagious as the pizza baron, Herman Cain displayed symptoms while trying to remember what he knew or didn’t know about Libya. But after the laughter is anyone paying attention to what they are trying to say? Mitt Romney continues to preach the gospel of “job creation”, citing his own record as a job “creator”. However, his record as a “creator” of jobs is sketchy at best. Meanwhile Newt Gingrich is continues to tell us not to believe our lying eyes. He claims to be an anti-establishment candidate even though he had a disastrous tenure as Speaker of the House and has hauled down millions of dollars as a D.C. lobbyist/consultant. What a guy!

Brain Freeze as Head Fake

During a recent interview Herman Cain went through an incredible brain freeze that made Rodeo Rick Perry seem statesmanlike in comparison. As he tried to come to grips with a softball question about Libya he commented that a lot of things were “swirling around” in his head. Late night comics and political commentators had a field day. After all, Herman Cain is the gift that keeps on giving right along with the rest of the G.O.Tea Party presidential clown cavalcade.

But there is a real danger of dismissing the message that is being conveyed, no matter its mangled condition. On the matter of foreign policy, the pizza baron was looking to mention that he had invited the 88-year old Henry Kissinger to be his Secretary of State. He is obviously willing to dismiss the sketchier aspects of Dr. Kissinger’s past as they relate to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Mr. Cain’s brain freeze also precluded him from elaborating on his comment regarding the possibility of China becoming a nuclear power. A “possibility” that has been a fact for over forty years.

Meanwhile, Rodeo Rick Perry’s brain attack distracted everyone from his passionate call to dismantle the Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce. This neo-anarchist approach to governance got only passing notice amidst the guffaws, hoots and catcalls. But not one of the other Republican candidates disavowed the idea that tearing down the federal government would do very little to help the people of the United States.

Perhaps the G.O.Tea Party strategy is to distract us with their big noses and floppy pants while they follow a strategy that will spell gloom and doom for most of us when the laughter stops.

Present at the Creation?

Mitt Romney is passionate in presenting his record as a job creator during his time as the head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm. What Mr. Romney neglects to mention is that the business model that he pursued at Bain had a lot more to do with wealth creation, as in wealth for his partners and himself.

Bain Capital engaged in acquiring companies, mostly with borrowed money, selling off assets of these companies and collecting huge fees that the acquired companies would pay by borrowing to the extent of their credit limits. When these companies were depleted of every available dime they would then be sold to another firm.

Ask the employees of some of the Bain companies how many jobs Mitt Romney created while they were laid off. Ask the employees of Bain companies how they liked their pensions being transformed into thinly capitalized retirement funds all to the benefit of the greater glory (and profit) of Bain. And ask the residents of towns that saw key businesses evaporate once the tentacles of Bain (and Romney) were affixed.

Certainly some companies acquired by Bain did grow and prosper. Certainly Bain grew and Romney prospered. But the Good Ship Romney left a lot of shattered lives and broken dreams in its wake.

The New Newt

Newt Gingrich has been suffering from a full-blown identity crisis. He has claimed to be a champion of family values. The fact that he divorced his first wife as she was recovering from cancer surgery is conveniently overlooked by Newt. The fact that he castigated President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky spectacle while participating in an extramarital affair is seemingly of no account to Newt Gingrich.

Now Mr. Gingrich is presenting himself as a Washington outsider. A neat Newt trick since his resume includes a disastrous stint as Speaker of the House of Representatives in……Washington. And now it turns out that Newt Gingrich has been paid millions of dollars as a lobbyist and consultant for FNMA, Freddie Mac and the United States Chamber of Commerce in…………..Washington.

Presumably, Mr. Gingrich can claim to have reinvented himself because he says so. In Newt World, the facts clearly don’t matter.

Have a great weekend!