18 September 2012

Taibbi on Mitt Romney as Preface to Video of Romney Speaking Privately to Wealthy Donors

I should preface this by saying that politics is a dirty business, given the ways of the world. And most politicians are not admirable creatures close up, especially the current crop in the Western world. That is just how the struggle for money and power goes these days. But the quality of public servant, like the tide of freedom, ebbs and flows.

I think this revelation about Romney is important not because of American politics per se, but rather that Mr. Romney is truly emblematic of the spirit of the financialization of American business culture for the past thirty years.

He is the embodiment of Gordon Gekko. And a number of people will resonate to his message. It is an old story, might makes right, and the strong prey on the weak. We the fortunate have worked for what we have, and the unfortunate, after we are done with them, are a drag on us, a burden, losers, things which are to be ignored, used, and eventually eliminated.

As a reader so eloquently put it this morning:
Greedy sociopaths would rather be extremely rich in a suffering nation than modestly rich in a successful nation. The greater the misery, the greater their power, since power is the difference in wealth and influence between one person and another.

At the heart of wealth concentration and economic cannibalism are two simple pieces of tax policy: the interest expense deduction for non-productive activity, and the policy of taxing wages at much higher rates than capital gains and dividends. This is what breathes life into financialization.

Instead of viewing government as a failure, consider the possibility that it is a success. The question we need to ask is: "what is government actually trying to accomplish?"
If in economic policy he is a domestic form of economic hitman, in foreign policy, Romney is what used to be called The Ugly American.

It is not that he is the worst. He just disguises it badly. But he is the epitome of the financialization process, an extractive force that feeds on the real economy around the world.

It is a subtle transformation and a seductive message. But as one looks back, the change can be shocking. See what you are becoming.

First there is a recent video of Matt Taibbi describing Mr. Romney. Quite a few people heard it and dismissed it.  I think Matt confuses venture capital with vulture capital, but lately that is easy to do as financialization has crowded out productive investment.  As you may recall I had a second career in the tech venture capital game in Boston and Silicon Valley, and saw the best and the worst of it.

I had to chuckle at Matt's characterization of Romney as speaking one way to people outside the tent, and another way in private. Especially now in light of this series from Mother Jones.

After Matt's interview there are links to the new Mother Jones videos that show Mr. Romney speaking privately to his wealthy donors in Boca Raton. What he says he believes, and what he believes has rocked his candidacy. But he speaks for a good portion of the wealthy, the one percent. He is their guy.

Before you too glibly swallow this picture of America below, bear in mind that Romney is speaking about roughly half the country. Not only the poor, but the working poor, and a good chunk of the middle class. These are the people who were victimized by the financialization and Wall Street fraud, which has catapulted so many into the ranks of the uber-wealthy.

And before you start cheering for a system where it is acceptable to get ahead by kicking the face of the other guy a rung or two lower on the ladder from you, as you see it, keep in mind that to the people in this room, most of the people in the country are deservedly well below them on the ladder of success, including you.

It is all about values. And western values have been co-opted by a disordered view of what value is and how to measure it. We never seem to learn. These things always seem to end in roughly the same way.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

C. S. Lewis

Mother Jones: Romney Speaking to Wealthy Donors here