A life-long Republican, I voted for John McCain, and supported Mitt Romney as the most realistic candidate in the primaries. However, as both a Republican and more importantly an American, I did not share Rush Limbaugh’s view expressed in January 2009: “I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, ‘Well, I hope he succeeds’… I hope he fails.” Nor do I agree with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who in October of 2010, was asked what “the job” of Republicans in Congress was. McConnell answered, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” We were in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930′s and my party has as its main goal trying to make sure the president fails — even if the country fails right along with him. What has happened to my Republican party, this is not a sporting event, we all either win or lose together.
In the past, Republicans were pragmatic, not ideological; they would ask “does it work”, not “does it fit into my theory.”
Ronald Reagan is known for his tax cuts, but he also pragmatically raised taxes 11 times to address the growing budget deficit, and had a good relationship with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Since Reagan was pragmatic, not ideological, he compromised and worked with congress and accomplished what needed to be done to help the economy. Pragmatic non-ideological republican presidents never had a problem expanding the national government to solve national problems. Republican President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Republican President Theodore Roosevelt created the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Republican President Ford created the first federal regulatory program in education, with a program for special needs children. Republican President George Bush Sr. signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and raised taxes to fight the deficit.
Republican President Eisenhower warned: “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, by the military–industrial complex” and was responsible for one of the largest Infrastructure projects in American history (Interstate Highway System). President Eisenhower also sent federal troops to Little Rock Arkansas so that discrimination against black school children would be ended. These men were not Left-wing radical hippies, but the “Tea Party movement” and their supporters in Congress would call them SocialistWhile I question many of President Obama’s policies, I can not be sure Mitt’s policies regarding the economy would have been any better. Mitt’s business experience and wealth come from Wall Street, not Main Street, and I doubt he would have broken up the banks “too big to fail.” As he said “The TARP (bank bailout) program was designed to keep the financial system going,” and as a CEO of a private equity firm, he was a part of this financial system. If anything, given his background and avowed dislike of government regulation, I believe Mitt would have been even more hands off overseeing Wall Street and the banks “too big to fail.” I know this non-involvement would NOT help a small business on Main Street. The firms which benefited from TARP, acted completely irresponsibly and contrary to the intent of the program by giving their executives huge bonuses, while restricting credit to small businesses. The problem with TARP, a program devised under President Bush, was too little regulation not too much.
I am very disappointed in the pace of the economic recovery, yet I also know this was not an ordinary business cycle recession. It was initiated by an institutional Bank Panic in 2008, akin to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, in which some of the largest and most prestigious banks and financial corporations were threatened with failure and bankruptcy (ie Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, etc). By the end of 2008 the lost of potential purchasing power (decline in value of homes, stocks, IRA’s etc) in the United States alone, exceeded 14.5 TRILLION DOLLARS. Thanks to an old regulation left over from the 1930′s, the FDIC, the anxiety and fear did not spread to small depositors at local banks, so there was no run on these small local banks. If not for the FDIC the economic crisis we faced would have been much worse, proving not all regulation is bad. However, since these small local banks also had their assets affected by the crisis, and the large banks were not extending credit to them, they could not make loans. The flow of small business credit dried up. The prevailing fear was that this panic would feed on itself, so that the economy would continue to spiral down. Talk of a second Great Depression, with its unemployment rate of more then 25% became widespread.
It was once said, “As GM goes, so goes the nation.” As people lost purchasing power, the demand for new cars dried up as people stopped buying them. This caused the car companies, including GM, to become threatened with bankruptcy. If the car companies went bankrupt, more then 100,000 additional workers would be unemployed. It was feared this would only be the tip of the iceberg as people wondered what would be the ripple effect on car part manufacturers, and what would be the effect on consumer confidence? Obama deviated from TRAP’s stated purpose when he, without congressional authorization, used TARP to bail out GM and Chrysler thereby saving them from bankruptcy. Mitt would have not done this, as he stated: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” However, who would bid for these companies at this time of economic uncertainty, even Mitt’s former company, Bain Capital, had reduced their acquisitions. I fear that China, for symbolic, political, and economic reasons might have bid to take over GM in a bankruptcy proceeding. This may seem farfetched until you realize GM sold more cars in China last year, then it sold in the United States. While I strongly oppose Obama’s actions in theory, in practicality there may have been no other choice. Obama was pragmatic, he made a decision that solved the problem.
The TARP and actions by the Federal Reserve System (FED) provided approximately 3 trillion dollars for the financial system which stabilized it. Thus the financial system’s private debt became public debt, and was added to the federal deficit. As opposed to this as I might be on a theoretical basis, I know as Mitt said “The TARP (bank bailout) program was designed to keep the financial system going.” However, the Obama “Stimulus Program” which also included tax cuts, was completely inadequate. How can you expect to fill a 14.5 TRILLION DOLLAR HOLE caused by lost potential purchasing power with a program of less then one trillion dollars? The Stimulus should have been twice the size that it was. Between the TARP, the stimulus program, and the temporary cuts in the payroll tax, enough money was pumped into the economy to stabilize it and end the downward spiral into a depression. However these programs were not enough to “jump start” the economy, so that it would grow fast enough to reduce unemployment significantly. Yet, before I can condemn Obama I must ask, what role did my party play in preventing the “Stimulus Program” from being adequate enough to solve the economic problem.
We were told the stimulus program could not be larger because of the federal budget deficit, and like any family, when you are too far into debt you must tighten your belt and cut back on expenditures. I believe in fiscal responsibility, but I see one problem with this line of reasoning; when you have an emergency that threatens your life, you spend whatever you have to in order to recover. Once the recovery occurs, you then tighten your belt in order to get out of debt. The economic crisis of 2008 was such an emergency for the American economy. The last time we had a equivalent emergency (Great Depression/World War 2) debt as a share of the economy peaked at 112.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1945. In the present emergency (Great Recession/War on Terror) debt as a share of the economy will reach roughly 77% of gross domestic product this year according to the independent and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
We should not be worrying about the annual deficit. If a tax is money being removed from the economy, then government spending is money being added to the economy, and the deficit is the measure of degree the economy is being stimulated by the government. The problem with deficits, it is said, is that interest rates on government bonds will go up, yet the interest rate paid by government bonds now are the lowest they have ever been. Now it is time to rebuild America’s infrastructure, as we rebuilt Europe after World War 2 with the Marshall Plan; to fix our infrastructure, from dilapidated levees to collapsing bridges and leaking dams, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has estimated that the country needs to spend $1.6 trillion. This construction will help the economy and the cost, based on the interest rate, will never be lower. Neither Mitt Romney nor President Obama have proposed a stimulus program of this size, both are trapped by an ideology that says deficits are bad, no matter what is the underlying circumstances.
While Mitt Romney and Barack Obama did not disagree over the need or size of the stimulus program, they do disagree on what type of stimulus would be most effective. Mitt believed taxes should be lowered for job creators who are people with high incomes, aka “the investor class” or “the rich.” In theory, this money would be invested to build new business enterprises which would create jobs, thereby creating demand for good and services. However, there is no way to guarantee this money would not be sent to “tax haven offshore banks” or be invested in foreign countries for a higher return, or even hidden away with gold. These will not circulate this money into the American economy and help it grow to produce jobs. Obama believed the money should be spent on people who will purchase goods and services with any extra money they have, aka “the American consumer” or “the middle class.” He lowered taxes for low and middle income workers and increased spending directly by the government to create infrastructure like roads and schools, prevent layoffs in local communities, and support unemployed consumers who are able to buy products, thereby creating demand for good and services and creating jobs.
Obama would quote the famous American investor Warren Buffett who said “the only reason why I’m going to hire is if there’s more demand.” Mitt’s approach was “investor” or “supply side” driven; Obama’s approach was “consumer” or “demand side” driven.
I can use myself as an example since I am considered a successful businessman. I have never made a business decision based on taxes. They never deterred me from expanding my business when I saw an opportunity to meet a demand by consumers. Taxes never took 100% of any additional income I made by expanding my business. They were just a cost of doing business like any other necessary cost. They paid for services my business and I, as an individual, needed, such as policemen, firemen, and road maintenance. On the other hand, while I always appreciate lower taxes, they would not effect how I ran my business. If my taxes were lowered, but there was no additional demand by consumers, I would not expand my business. However, I would take a nice European vacation and see Paris or Rome, or buy a Mercedes-Benz rather then a Ford, or perhaps buy a second home on a Caribbean island and open up a bank account there. Like any successful businessman, I am not ideological, I am pragmatic; I just wish government behaved the same way.
Mitt Romney has said “entitlement programs” such as Social Security should be cut back or made voluntary. This is necessary since these programs make up most of the budget of the United States and the deficit cannot be dealt with unless we change these programs. Making Social Security voluntary for young workers raises several questions. Should it be replaced with the equivalent to an “Individual Retirement Account” of some type? This idea would be the death of Social Security as we now know it. Would this IRA be the equal to Social Security, in any case of disability of a young worker? Will there be some type of guarantee against “market risk” for this replacement IRA? How would this change effect low pay workers who might not be able to contribute much money to an IRA type of account? Social Security is a guaranteed life-time benefit, what happens if a person outlives their IRA account? President Obama has said Social Security should be maintained, but reformed. Among the suggestions that have been put forward by study groups are: the retirement age being extended, perhaps to age 72, the cost of living adjustment should be reduced or eliminated, or the benefits paid could be reduced. For many Americans, Social Security is the biggest part of their post-retirement income, it is the safety net we all use, so the effect of any changes to the program could have a huge impact on people’s lives.
The Social Security and Medicare programs are called “entitlement programs” because people pay a special tax in order to be “entitled” to them. In the case of “Social Security” it is the “FICA Payroll Tax.” This tax can be thought of as being the equivalent to an insurance premium. Under the present “FICA Payroll Tax” system, the person who earns $110,000 pays the same exact amount in taxes as the person who earns $1,100,000, or $10,000,000. Mitt Romney had an income of $21.6 million in 2010; instead of a FICA tax of $1,404,000 without the cap, he paid $7,150. President Obama had an income of $1.72 million in 2010; instead of a FICA tax of $112,327 without the cap, he paid $7,150. The actual FICA tax rate for the ditch-digger, garbageman, or teacher is 10 or 100 or 1000 times that for a CEO, corporate financier, or government official. Rather then making it voluntary or reducing benefits or delaying the retirement age, shouldn’t we be talking about ending the $110,000 cap on incomes that are taxed, while capping the present maximum benefit, and maintaining the cost of living adjustment? Adopting this program would mean the system would be fairer since the tax would then become a defined flat tax for all Americans rather then the present regressive tax. The Social Security trust fund should be put in a “locked box” which is not used as part of the General Federal Government Budget. The new taxes collected would help reduce the budget deficit by relieving the problem with the Social Security trust fund in the future. Perhaps if the increase in revenue was great enough, the FICA tax rate could be reduced for everyone. However, neither Mitt nor Obama has suggested this type of solution.
Uninsured medical costs was the biggest reason people filed for bankruptcy. In response to the problem of millions of Americans having no health insurance and being unable to pay for medical care if they got sick; President Obama proposed and passed the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009″ (Obamacare). However, this was not a single payer system, based on Medicare, but rather it was based on a plan supported and signed by Mitt Romney in 2006 when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Both programs had individual mandates to require people without health insurance to purchase it from private companies, in many cases with financial assistance from the government. This makes no sense to me, why not expand Medicare to cover everyone. Why force people to buy insurance from the hodgepodge of insurance companies, each with their own administrative costs and policies, trying to maximize profits? The cost of this bureaucracy means that medical care in the United States costs almost twice that of any other country with a single payer system. Why not have the insurance companies offer a Medic-gap type and gold plated wrap-around policies? The government provides a safety-net floor which people can voluntarily build on.
Expanding Medicare to include all Americans would also be a benefit to Medicare; it will financially stabilize what is now the high-risk pool of the health insurance industry. A substantial majority of Medicare enrollees – roughly 87% have at least one chronic condition, and nearly half have three or more. The people covered by Medicare include 1) people age 65 and older, who are the most likely to have Heart Attacks, Strokes, Cancer, and other diseases related to age; 2) people who have permanent disabilities and receive Social Security Disability Insurance; 3) people with end-stage kidney disease which requires maintenance dialysis or a kidney transplant; 4) people with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) which is a slow wasting away of the body. The common thread between both disease specific groups is, they are expensive to treat and there is no cure. By expanding Medicare to include everyone, you would be adding 10′s of millions of people under 65, the vast majority of whom are healthy and seldom require medical care. These people would have the security of knowing if they did get seriously ill, they would be treated without the rigmarole of complex rules and regulations regarding pre-existing conditions, pre-authorization, and Coordination of benefits. Medicare would benefit from the inflow of low-risk money which otherwise would go to pay premiums to private for-profit insurance companies. Medicare spreads the financial risk associated with illness across society to protect everyone, and thus has a somewhat different social role from private insurers, which must manage their risk portfolio to guarantee their own solvency. Medicare is a pragmatic program that works and is supported by a vast majority of Americans; however ideologues would call it socialism.
To those who question whether I am a Republican, let me remind them, there was once a time when we were a “big tent” party. I believe in “State Rights” in regards to the “social issues.” These “social issues” – abortion, same-sex marriage, medical use of marijuana – are issues of differing cultures and should be addressed on the local state level. No one likes a foreign culture jammed down their throat, that is why these issues are so divisive. Socially I am conservative, economically I am pragmatic. However, since I am not a woman, homosexual, sick, or very religious; the social issues are not nearly as important as the economic issues. I believe in smaller government only to the extent we had smaller corporations, since in many ways corporations have more control over our lives then the government does. Government power is the only counterbalance to corporate power, and at least we have some input into what the government does by our vote. We no longer live in a capitalist society, we live in a corporatist society. Therefore, I was spooked when Mitt Romney said “Corporations are people” and implied they should be given the same constitutional rights as citizens.
Those who advocate a new age of austerity, like the Romney/Ryan budget, will cite Greece with an unemployment rate of 22.6% and say Greece is a nation we are sure to follow if we do not tighten our belt and reduce government services. They also cite Spain’s 24.3%, Portugal’s 15.2% and Italy’s 10.2% unemployment rate. However, what they do not say is that in each of these countries tax avoidance seems to be a national sport. As a Republican I can not support Mitt Romney because everything, from his refusal to reveal his taxes to offshore bank accounts in tax havens with strong bank secrecy laws, seem to indicate he is a tax avoider. I do not agree when Mitt Romney says that if he paid more taxes than were required, he wouldn’t be qualified to be president. I think that if he paid a few more dollars in taxes then he had to, as I have done, it would be admirable. Mitt is a part of the problem, not the solution.
These countries have also had austerity budgets for a number of years, even as their economic problems have only gotten worse. Many economists now feel that, in fact, the austerity programs are the main cause of the economic problems.
On the other hand, economies in many countries are doing quite well, such as: Germany which has un-employment rate of 5.4%, Austria 4.3%, Norway 3.0%, Netherlands 4.2%, Switzerland 2.9%, Japan 4.1%, Australia 4.9% and so on. So what do they have in common, and what are they doing differently when compared to the United States?
1- They have Universal socialized health care, and while all their people have health care they spend a small fraction of what United States businesses and Government spend on health care.
2- They have Universal Education, which means you can get an education up to your PhD pretty much for free. This means their people are trained for the jobs of the future.
3- They have much higher taxes than in United States on someone making more than 250 thousand dollars, for example in Germany 45%.
4- They have more generous unemployment benefits than in the United States. This stabilizes demand when people are laid-off from their jobs.
5- They have a more unionized workforce than in the United States. The unions provide hands-on apprentice programs for training new workers in manufacturing industries.
6- They do not spend Trillions of dollars on a gargantuan military, and unnecessary wars, which drains their budgets and keeps needed infrastructure from being repaired and built.
Mitt’s father established the precedent of presidential candidates releasing their Tax returns in 1968. He released 12 years of them, saying “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show, and what mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul.” When Mitt’s campaign was asked to release more then two years of returns, it responded “We’ve given all you people need to know” and has refused to give out additional information, even as many Republicans requested. People, including myself, are starting to ask “What is Mitt trying to hide?”
As Newt Gingrich put it, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.” But Mitt Romney also has accounts in the tax havens of Luxembourg, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands have a bank secrecy law so strong that a person can be jailed for up to four years, just for asking about account information. Mitt’s desire for secrecy is so great that one time he neglected to include a Swiss bank account on required financial disclosure forms. Perhaps, it was because the Swiss account constituted a bet against the U.S. dollar, something no presidential candidate would want to reveal. When asked about it, Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said that the candidate’s failure to include his Swiss account in the financial disclosures were merely a “trivial inadvertent issue.” From 1984 to 1999, taxpayers were allowed to put just $2,000 per year into a tax-free I.R.A., and $30,000 annually into a different kind of plan he may have used. Given these annual contribution ceilings, how can his I.R.A. possibly contain up to $102 million, as his financial disclosures now suggest? I am not claiming Mitt engaged in money-laundering or any other illegal activity, I agree with Mitt that he may have never broken the law. If there is a problem, it may very well be in the laws, not in his behavior. As Mitt said “I pay all the taxes that are legally required, not a dollar more.” However as Lee Sheppard, a contributing editor at the trade publication “Tax Notes” said, “When you are running for president, you might want to err on the side of overpaying your taxes, and not chase every tax gimmick that comes down the pike.” Has Mitt Romney acted as a model for all of us, the way a president should?
Why is Bain important? We must not forget a major contributing cause of the Financial Crisis of 2008 was the filing of false or misleading documents with the SEC. This is no small matter; since 2009 the SEC has collected fines of over 3 Billion dollars for this violation from financial institutions such as, among others: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan, and UBS. Even if Mitt Romney actually left all operational control of Bain Capital in 1999, he sanctioned and acquiesced to the filing of false and misleading documents with the SEC until 2002. While this violation may not rise to the level of these other institutions, it does indicate a certain attitude towards these filings: The complete and truthful disclosure of all facts is not important. This was an attitude all too prevalent in the financial community prior to 2009, and all of us paid the price.
Is full disclosure to the SEC one of the regulations Mitt would do away with? What about other regulations overseeing the financial community; Wall Street and the banks too big to fail? If you put a fox in charge of the chicken coop, you have a problem for the chickens. Will Mitt’s election be the equivalent of that for the small investor? As a small investor, and businessman, I can not take that chance; I have been burnt once by a government that did not believe in regulation, and was asleep at the wheel. The sad thing is that Bain was first brought up by a candidate who wanted to colonize the moon, and the false filing was never mentioned. If this was discovered earlier, I would not have supported Mitt in the primaries and Republicans may have had a different candidate. Perjury is perjury. It was ethically and morally equal to saying “I never had sex with that woman” only worse since it was related to a public institution, not sex; and there could be no equivocation since the two official documents Mitt signed exactly contradict each other 100%. He can not flip-flop between these two documents.
Mitt has said “I would like to have campaign spending limits”, however his most recent position is “the American people (and corporations) should be free to advocate for their candidates and their positions without burdensome limitations.” The necessity of spending limits became apparent during the Republican primaries. The ability of one candidate to outspend his rivals by 5, 6, 7, 10 times distorts the electoral system. Good men could be destroyed by a barrage of false negative ads, and lack the ability to fight back. It is no longer a level playing field where the best man emerges victorious. Do we want a system where it is possible to indirectly buy elective office?
These are the reasons that for the first time in my life, I will be voting against a Republican candidate for president. Note from the Author
I was an office holder for three years in my college republicans. At the same time I was a member of “Young Americans for Freedom” (YAF) which was a Conservative political group. I was twice a delegate to the state college republican convention in Ohio, and once a delegate to the national yaf convention. I supported the viet nam war and volunteered for the draft before I graduated. However, instead of being sent to viet nam, I was sent to us army HQ in Europe, where I was document control. While the documents were eyes only, there was no way I was not going to take a peek at classified documents. This was what first started to open my eyes. I took a European out and backpacked around Europe for a year. By this time my political beliefs had moderated a great deal. I finished my education at a well known liberal east coast university. To make a long story short, I got involved with the micro-computer revolution early on, became a partner in a small software firm, which was bought out by a giant company. I saw close up how stupid large companies can be with their internal politics. I said good-bye to the corporate world and retired before age 50 to my tropical island paradise. I maintain my legal residence with my apartment in the states, but I spend a great deal of time here. I never changed my party registration because I am a social conservative, but an economic pragmatist. By the way, when I was young, I was a very good politician, I ran 18 campaigns on the local level and never lost