In The Long Run, We Are All Bained

This has been probably the oddest of political primary seasons. We have an incumbent President who is the mad combination of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale. Obama ran in 2008 with the promise of being a “centrist” but has ruled, not governed, this country with all the aplomb of a bull in a china cabinet.

In 2010, the people of the United States under the mantra of a Tea Party gave the President and his political party a shellacking at the polls. Not only did the House of Representatives change hands but so did over 20 State legislative bodies; some for the first time in over a hundred years. The momentum for 2012 appeared to be ready to oust Obama and the Senate Democrats. In response to the election results of 2010, did Obama and Harry Reid work to assuage the Tea Party momentum? No, they just doubled down.

The Senate has, in violation of law, not submitted a budget for over 1000 days. What Obama can not get from an unwilling Congress, he gets by bureaucratic fiat and regulations. The GOP momentum has been for all intents, neutered.

With this in mind, the GOP primary season began with a series of candidates who ranged from losers to wannabes to the never were. Missing from the race were formidable and vetted conservatives such as Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, and Paul Ryan. Now, the GOP is left with four candidates. From these, it appears two (Gingrich and Romney) are contenders, one (Santorum) is vying for VP, and one (Paul) is just trying to be an influence at the convention. Of these, I want to focus on Romney.

Mitt Romney has been running for president since he became Governor of Massachusetts in 2003. He was considered a weak and feckless Governor and for the last two years of his term, a running joke. Under his watch, RomneyCare was enacted and gay marriage was found to be constitutional by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Budget shortfalls were made up with increases in taxes and user fees. When outraged people of all political stripes demanded Romney do something to overcome the aforementioned Supreme Court decision, Romney did nothing. Yes, he decried the decision but he frustrated any effort to amend the Massachusetts Constitution. In the end, Romney fought for nothing and believed in nothing but himself.

During his first run for the Presidency in 2008, Romney had the backing of many conservatives who did not like or trust John McCain. Romney became for these folks the “Anyone But McCain” candidate. I watched in amazement as none of his rivals liked Romney. He was treated with disdain and contempt. It was assumed it was because of their contempt for his support. It was only later, we found out their frustration with Romney surrounded his attempts to destroyed candidacies through a sordid whisper campaign in the media.

In the race for 2012, the real Romney has emerged and it is not pretty. In the four years since he dropped out of the 2008, Romney has embarked on a takeover of the GOP political process.

First, states like IA and NH moved up their Caucus and Primary dates. FL also moved up their primary date; even at the price of half their delegates. VA, with their strict ballot access rules, made access to their ballot even harder to access. The beneficiary of all these moves was Romney. He has the money and organization to accomplish these moves. It is almost as if Romney had taken the Bain Model to co-opt the GOP primary process. His willing accomplices in the conservative media saw nothing wrong and remained quiet.

Second, get the polls to show Romney is the only one who can beat Obama. This is pretty easy when the narrative is pushed through the media (Mainstream and Conservative) by political operatives. The narrative is reflected in the polls and a front-runner is born.

Next, when anyone begins to threaten the frontrunner status, destroy the contender. When candidates like Herman Cain seemed to threaten Romney, stories of sexual harassment and marriage infidelity magically appeared. Cain, in a fit of pique, put all his troubles on other candidates; notably Rick Perry. When Newt Gingrich then became the contender to Romney, he was systematically destroyed in Iowa and Florida by a full frontal negative assault. Gingrich was also attacked in SC but still won that election. Once again, his willing accomplices in the conservative media see nothing wrong and remained quiet.

Lastly, create a relevant message and stick to it. In response to the horrid economy, Romney promises to create jobs by stating that only he knows what is needed to create jobs. To that end, he constantly points to his time at Bain Capital, a private equity financial firm. This is the proverbial “fly in the ointment”.

Bain Capital is a financial animal that is needed when private companies need an infusion of cash. It also comes at a high price. On top of the high fees, there is debt. Some companies survive, some companies do not. Bain is interested in making money, not creating jobs. When I think of what Bain does, I am reminded of the Henry Hill narration from the movie Good Fellas when the restaurant owner takes Paulie Cicero as a partner:

“Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? F*** you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F*** you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F*** you, pay me.”

Yet, when Rick Perry decried Bain Capital as “vulture capitalists”, a cacophony of conservatives accused Perry (and Gingrich) of being “anti-capitalists” and “attacking Romney from the Left”. The classic definition of a capitalist is someone who takes a long term risk to provide goods and services to the public. They invest their money, time, ideas, and expertise into the business while sacrificing everything to succeed. How is what Bain does any different than Paulie Cicero?

Romney’s mantra of knowing how to create jobs is belied by three other issues:

Romney’s support of a minimum wage tied to the rate of inflation.

One of the biggest criticisms of the minimum wage is that it causes unemployment, especially among Black youths. Conservative economists have decried the devastating effects the minimum wage has had on hiring. Yet, Romney pushes the idea.

The latest unemployment numbers.

The latest statistics from the government show 243,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate dropping to 8.3%. Romney’s response was basically he would have done this in quicker time. No where does Romney point out that 1.2 Million people have quit looking for work and that our labor force is at its lowest level since 1983. To be fair, even the vaunted Wall Street Journal says the 1.2 Million are likely retiring baby boomers. But as the blog Zero Hedge notes; as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million. At this rate, the government should be able to declare unemployment at 6.5% by November. Romney is not prepared to face this challenge.

RomneyCare

RomneyCare is a huge problem for Romney. Ann Coulter can make three cheers for the idea but the consequences of RomneyCare are dreadful. Business owners will have some tough decisions to make. Either they do not hire or expand, or they shift the burden of paying the premium to the employee. All the insurance plans in Massachusetts have to be approved by the State. They are also expensive.

The real problem with Romney is that Romney wants a centralized control economy. RomneyCare not only accomplishes much of that but it drastically changes the relationship between the government and the people as the government dictates to us how we are to spend our money. If this concept is accepted as legitimate, there is no limit to the authority of the government over us. If you think the government will stop here, you are living in a fool’s paradise.

Romney ignores the collateral damage of his ideas, His ego is so large, he can not comprehend that any part or use of his ideas can and will produce disastrous results. Perhaps, his way of creating jobs is to have the government hire more bureaucrats with the purpose to go into each private business no matter how large or small to see if they running properly and at full capacity. These bureaucrats will be able to streamline jobs or demand more hiring by diktat.

Conclusion:

I believe Romney’s career at Bain Capital makes him uniquely unqualified to become President of the United States. If Bain were interested in and believed in the concepts of Free Enterprise, then why all the heavy tactics that result in the loss of Free Enterprise?

It was the entrepreneur who is the real capitalist. It is their sweat equity that grew our economy from the malaise of the Carter years, not the equity of Bain. If the nominees in November are Romney and Obama, it does not matter who wins. Romney’s accomplices in the conservative media still do not see anything wrong and remain quiet. They are willing to sacrifice their principles for power. Eventually, they will have neither because in the long run, we are all Bained.

Spartan

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Of Fools and Faith

Of Fools and Faith

Part I

1/18/12

As everyone has realized the political primary season is in full swing. This is the time of year when everyone has an opinion over who not only is the best candidate but who will win the general election. These opinions are held by pundit and voter alike and all of them are most likely to not get one correct lottery number on a Saturday night.

From candidates to pundits to voters, the fools come in various forms and flavors. Candidates like Herman Cain promoted simplistic slogans he could not explain. He got in big trouble when he could not simply explain the Libyan adventure or his exploits with women who were not his wife. Yet, slobbering journalists like Robert Stacy McCain and pundits who have lost their conservative moorings, like Ann Coulter, professed their love and admiration. You see, in their minds, Herman was the one. Cain sold a lot of books to folks who thought he was the one. These books will keep them warm on these cold winter nights.

Michele Bachmann promoted tough rhetoric on defeating Obama. She built her following by playing the victim of Democrat attacks and showing up on any stage promoting herself at TEA Party functions. She was one of us. The problem for Bachmann is the love she felt could not overcome her lying, demagoguery, and an overall lack of legislative accomplishment. She was a show horse, not a work horse. This may explain why she has a problem maintaining a congressional staff. However, before she left the stage, she took down Tim Pawlenty and tried to take down Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich through a series of dishonest lies and demagoguery. The funny thing; she made no such attacks on Mitt Romney. Other than being on her being a prima donna, exactly whose side was/is she on?

John Huntsman ran on his record as a fiscal conservative governor of Utah. He was pro-life and he used to be Obama’s ambassador to China. He also appealed to secularists who mocked evangelicals as Huntsman put science over Faith. Huntsman found financial support from Hilary Clinton supporters. It appears his father has formed an investment partnership with a former CEO of Bain Capital. He basically ran in one state (New Hampshire) and came in third. This was his ceiling and he dropped out a few days later. However, he dropped out just after receiving the endorsement of South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The State. A lot of folks were fooled by the false ascendancy of Huntsman.

The GOP is now down to 5 candidates. I will discuss the five in greater detail later but I want to focus on the Social Conservative leaders who last weekend endorsed Rick Santorum for President. I do not really care who these folks endorse but they are presumably smart people. However, when you take into account Rick Santorum has no money and no organization to run a 50-state race. When you take into account Santorum was trounced by 18 points in his last political race in 2006. When you take into account Santorum has been a big government guy but who is staunchly pro-life and pre-family in an election cycle where big government is the biggest concern of the American voter. When you take into account the rehashed story of Santorum’s wife having a 6-year affair with an abortion doctor before she met and married Santorum. In light of all of these factors, you have to ask; what are you all thinking? Is this wishful thinking based on Faith or some realistic plan to make Santorum viable before Super Tuesday in March? Did you properly vet the candidate or is the idea to have your guy play for the VP slot under Romney?

The funny thing is both Bachmann and Cain (perhaps Huntsman–he wanted to be the anti-Romney but endorsed him upon his exit) seemed to take it easy on Romney during the campaign. There was speculation that both were angling for the VP job. What will Santorum bring to the campaign? PA? The South? The West? Any blue states?

Sometimes, I wonder who is fooling who in this matter; Santorum who is a social conservative but seems to be clueless on economic matters or the Social Conservatives who have put all their credibility on the line on a candidate who is behind in money and organization? When reality strikes both, I wonder what it will do to their reputations?

This is what happens when you abandon Faith in the search for power.

Spartan

The Conservative Crack-Up Part III

The Polls, The Electorate, and My Prediction

In all my years of working in and observing politics, I have never seen such fluctuations in the polls as I have seen in the last few months. First, Bachmann, then Perry, followed by the erstwhile Cain, now Gingrich. I think there are three reasons beyond ‘anyone but Romney’: 1) the people are looking at who is the smartest person at the time (in very much the belief that Obama is a smart man), 2) the polls are a reflection of the positive media coverage for whatever candidate is presumed the leader and the negative coverage of the other candidates (a combination of lazy analysis and a lack of caring), and 3) perhaps, the polls are wrong (not in the data but the methodology).

I believe there is deception in the promotion of Obama as a very smart person. Outside of the flowery words (which never seem memorable-like JFK) and party and ideological hacks telling us how bright he is, there is very little data to prove Obama is smart. No academic records are ever produced and no dissertations are ever released. Yet, the perception that Obama is smart remains. However, instead of demanding evidence of scholastic achievement, opponents of Obama seek to find someone who is as smart as Obama. This leads to a unhealthy vetting; not as to policies and beliefs but as to whether the candidate is smart enough to take on Obama. I think the polls reflect this dynamic.

I believe the media coverage has a lot to do with the up and down nature of the polls. The media has a nasty habit of building people up in order to destroy them later at their convenience. They also focus on minor issues as though they were major catastrophes and treat major catastrophes as mild irritations. They realize that most people are too lazy to go behind the headlines.

There seems to be two competing narratives from two different directions concerning Obama. The narrative from the MSM is that Obama is smart and a tough opponent to debate. The other narrative is Obama is the anti-Christ. Both narratives are patently false, but persistent.

The former is two fallacies; Obama is neither smart nor tough to debate. Let’s face it, when you listen to Obama, you do not get a feeling of brilliance. As for the ‘tough to debate’, that is some of the best sleight of hand the media has ever foisted on the public. Ask yourself a question; how many times have you watched a debate and thought Candidate A won the debate but only have the pundits after the debate say that Candidate B won the debate? I am not sure why the electorate allows itself to be led around by the media.

The latter is just plain ridiculous. There is no such entity as an ’anti-Christ’. It is not possible that there exists an equal and opposite entity of Christ. It is possible for people to be ’against Christ’ but no entity can have the same power and stature of Christ; but for evil.

Nonetheless, the electorate is looking for the candidate who can address these two narratives. When one does not properly vet a candidate; perceptions matter. Positive media coverage increases perceptions, negative media coverage causes a negative perception.

I believe the current polls are a reflection of the emotional angst of the electorate seeking an easy answer to the current political situations. The one thing polls can not accurately define is the real support for the candidate. When one adds the dynamic of a top-down campaign, even the candidate has no idea what is his real strength.

Supposedly, Cain was raising tons of money when the allegations of the mistress came to light. When Cain ’suspended’ his campaign, he did not mention the strength of any donations or his neophyte campaign. The question now becomes; who deluded who?
This is why I believe the polls are wrong.

The perception now has become Newt is up in the polls; followed by Romney and Paul. Yet, there is no data of fundraising or any status of his current campaign and GOTV efforts. It eerily reminds me of Cain.

My Prediction

I strongly believe the adage that successful campaigns have three things in common: money, organization, and luck. It is often said that money is the mother’s milk of politics. As of this 19th day of December, only Romney and Perry have any real money. Santorum, Bachmann, Huntsman, Gingrich have little to no money. Gingrich is the latest beneficiary of the emotional electorate but his support is beginning to crater. The money will soon crater.

As for organization, Santorum has very little, if any, outside of Iowa. He may do well in IA but will not be able to capitalize anywhere else.
Huntsman, is playing for NH. He will get a little traction from IA, but if he does not do well in NH, he is finished. Even if he does well in NH, he has little to no organization in SC and beyond.

Bachmann has a little organization in NH and is starting to put an effort in SC. In SC, she has hired the Wes Donehue as her spokesman. He proclaimed Gingrich was buying Tea Party votes in SC. The problem is, Newt is not. This is an odd way of advancing Bachmann’s political campaign. Either she is not a serious candidate or she is not a serious conservative. At this point, I remain convinced she is in the race to help Romney. I am not sure what she has to gain other than the title of Ambassador to Malta.

Gingrich is finally putting together a campaign staff but it is small and most likely unable to fill the needs of a front-runner. If Gingrich continues to crater, they will be looking for work elsewhere.

Romney has organization in IA, NH, and SC. Perry has an organization in IA and SC. Ron Paul continues to have his merry band of idealists run his organization. I think these three will win, place, and show in IA. A fourth place showing by Newt will end his front-runner status. Romney and Perry will both claim the “Comeback Kid” status. Their battle royalé will begin in SC.

I see Romney and Perry being the only two who can fight a fifty state primary battle. Paul will be able to compete but his ceiling will be very low. Will either candidate avoid a brokered convention? Whether that happens or not, consider Perry lucky to survive.

Spartan

The Conservative Crack-Up Part II

Conservative Thinking in Today’s Politics and Punditry

The modern Conservative Movement has its roots in folks like Russell Kirk and William F Buckley. Their work was heavily influenced by the work of Edmund Burke. Like Burke, they sought to strike a logical balance between liberty and authority.

Kirk and Buckley were not alone. The Conservative Movement 50 years ago was a dazzling panoply of strategic thinkers, moralists, and idealists. It was a melding of a top-down/bottom-up movement. They built the foundation of the present Conservative Movement in an uncompromising fashion. They built the foundation for the rise of Ronald Reagan. While looking over the current political landscape, this foundation is being gutted by compromise and petulance. It is the sign of moral indifference and intellectual laziness.

I posit the Conservative Movement has broken into two significant groups: those who want to build/rebuild a conservative foundation on the local/state level and those who want to gain/maintain power in Washington DC. The former want change from the bottom-up. The latter promise a top-down change to begin from DC. It is the classic battle between the idealists and the status quo. This is inherently a battle of the Tea Party against the Establishment; where neither can co-exist without the other. The Tea Party won an impressive battle in the election of 2010. It not only helped the GOP capture the US House but also various state legislatures, state and local offices. It was a tremendous rebuke for Obama and the Democrats. The political future going forward looks bright. All that could change in 2012.

The presidential race of 2012 is extremely important for a couple of reasons; mainly, the continuation of the Tea Party and the end of the Obama rule by fiat. To that end, it is important that the right candidate win the GOP nomination.

For the most part, this primary race is between the contenders, the pretenders, and the never was. In many ways, it is a dog and pony show. At this moment, the presumed frontrunners are Gingrich and Romney. Both are technocrats; Gingrich being the governmental technocrat and Romney being the economic technocrat. Both are anathema to the interests of the Tea Party. Huntsman is a combination of both government and economic technocrat while the erstwhile Herman Cain was an economic technocrat. All four portray themselves to be ’outsiders’ and friends of the Tea Party but they are not. All four have promised change but their record is dismal to nonexistent. A nomination win by any of the four would be the end of the Tea Party. I will add that Michele Bachmann is nothing more than a Tea Party show horse with just as dismal to nonexistent record.

Yet, what interests me is the defense of Romney, Gingrich, Huntsman, and Cain by the conservative pundits. Romney is defended by the folks at NRO as the best hope for conservatism. We are told that we don’t understand the depth of Romney’s conservatism because he governed in a blue state and conservatives in a blue state govern differently from their beliefs. The problem with this kind of thinking is that nasty issue of RomneyCare; the impetus for ObamaCare. If it is so anathema to conservative ideals, why does Romney continue to defend RomneyCare. A hint: Romney is never, ever wrong.

Ann Coulter supports Romney as the only person who can defeat Obama. That alone is the reason we should coalesce around such a candidate. Let’s not examine whether Romney is truly pro-choice or pro-life; he is a multiple choice chameleon on all issues. Forget the flaws, full speed ahead. With such clairvoyance, it is amazing Ms. Coulter can not pick the winning lottery numbers on Saturday night.

Gingrich is a bit more interesting. He is a well-known commodity among conservative circles. He gets all the credit for the 1994 takeover of the House as well as all the blame from poor negotiating with Clinton over the budget to GOP election losses in 1998. There was an attempted coup to replace Gingrich as Speaker by the Conservative members of the House. Instead of being gracious and accommodating, Gingrich took to a whisper campaign against Bill Paxon, one of the ringleaders of the coup. It was a despicable act by a desperate man. This was the candidate who claimed the Paul Ryan budget was “right-wing social engineering”; only to walk balk on his statements later. The damage to Ryan was incalculable. As Ryan said, “with friends like Newt, who needs the Left,”.

Yet, there are folks rushing to the defense of Gingrich. They are led by folks at the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator (with the exception of Quin Hillyer–who has never relented on the Gingrich mistakes) and anyone willing to give Gingrich a microphone.

Huntsman would be better suited to run as a Democrat, yet, there are some conservatives who believe Huntsman is the type of conservative who would attract the political center. Perhaps, they should trash that argument after McCain’s dismal performance in 2008.

I am saving Cain for last. This is the candidate for whom I have had the least respect. First of all, Cain is a Libertarian and any definition that he is a conservative does injustice to the meaning of conservative. He is also a populist. This makes him a danger because he has no core convictions. He sticks his finger in the air and goes with the wind. His domestic and foreign policies were quite incoherent, yet he plodded along. When he was accused of sexual harassment, we heard defenses ranging from Camp Perry did it to ‘see how the liberal media treats a Black conservative‘. Cain was defended by all kinds of conservatives from Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, to Sean Hannity. The most interesting defenses by far were made by Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain and The American Spectator. There was no pretense of objectivity or curiosity. It went all the way until Cain announced the suspension of his campaign. It was as though whatever Cain said was the Gospel truth. Have no fear, he is making up for his Cain coverage by attacking Perry.

I am not saying that none of these men have the right to run for office but let’s be honest as to who they are. The defense of these four is hypocrisy and show a break between today’s conservative thinkers and the legacy of the Conservative Movement. The Old Guard of the Conservative Movement would have vetted all four before investing their time, money, and energy on their campaigns. We all must do better but we should demand more from the folks who are extending the legacy of William Rusher, Paul Weyrich, William F Buckley, and the many others did the heavy lifting. We do them a great disservice when we compromise our principles.

Spartan