Mitt Romney Endorsement

I proudly endorse Mitt Romney for President of the United States.  Why?

Mitt Romney has a proven record of turning around organizations– and that is what this country needs right now.  He has rescued private companies (Bain & Co.), non-profits (Salt Lake Olympics), and governments (Massachusetts).  There has never been a man run for president with that depth of experience working with troubled organizations and making them functional again.  There has never been a time that those skills are needed more in this country.

Romney understands the private sector.  While there are aspects of the Private Equity industry that bother me (particularly the federal tax rules and bankruptcy laws that encourage owners to use debt over equity for capitalization), the US government has a similar capital structure.  Mitt is a numbers guy who has spent his career encouraging business leaders to quickly turn around flailing operations and position them for aggressive growth.  Someone who encourages that “can do” entrepreneurial spirit is absolutely necessary to improve the business climate and create jobs.

Mitt Romney has experience working with Democrats to find solutions that work for everyone.  While many people in the extreme of the both parties view working across the aisle as a negative, I do not.  Compromise doesn’t have to mean abandoning your principles.  Compromise can mean a different approach is required or accepting a more modest advance than you’d like.  I prefer principled pragmatism to intransigent dogmatism.  Mitt’s history suggests that he understands this.

I think I may be perceived as naive if I didn’t acknowledge and address the common criticisms of Mr. Romney and his policy positions.

Critique of the Criticisms:

Mitt Romney is out-of-touch.  I’m not sure exactly what that means, but the question nobody is asking is, “Do you have to experience everything first-hand to have compassion or understanding?”  Surely we don’t want a drug addicted homeless person as a leader of the free world just because he REALLY “gets it”.  While living in Boston in the early 90’s, Mitt was my ecclesiastical leader.  He was known as a honest, caring, compassionate, and fair man who spent 20-30 uncompensated hours a week counselling people suffering with financial, emotional, and spiritual issues.  I doubt there are many people people worth 9 figures with that experience.  In fact, their are few people of any social class with that kind of intimate knowledge of the problems us “real people” have.  The Obama campaign has very cleverly and effectively channeled the anger and frustration at the moribund job and wage growth, which I believe should be targeted at his failed policies, and re-directed it towards Romney’s success. It is brilliant.

Romney is a war hawk in the mold of Bush Administration Neo-Cons.  I will admit I had concerns with Romney in this area.  While I recognize we live in a world with rogue nations and stateless terrorist organizations, I don’t believe we should “project” our power.  However, I appreciate a strong military as a deterrent against those that would harm us.  On closer examination of Mitt Romney’s statements, and in light of recent events in Egypt, Syria, Iran and Libya, I think that claiming the “peace dividend” is premature.  The “unnecessary $2 trillion” of new defense spending is more political posturing.  Romney’s analysis of our military strength declining over the past 20 years is compelling.  He does not apologize for American strength.

His tax policies favor the rich.  The simple answer has to be “yes, they do”.  Since his policies will only affect federal taxes and they are paid primarily by those with higher incomes, any breaks would accumulate primarily to them.  As someone who believes in fairness, the better question is: “What are the net effect of his plans?”.  First, it is worth noting that Mitt Romney has no desire to tax the middle class or the poor.  I think anyone who follows American politics knows the ONLY rule of the Republican party is “No new taxes”.  So the question remains, do his policies amount to a tax break for the rich?  I suspect eliminating tax loopholes will accomplish more than ratcheting up the top rates. In fact, I believe that raising rates will NOT extract significantly more taxes from the wealthy with out deduction reform.  Mitt is a perfect example.  He is officially at the highest 35% rate, yet he pays less than 15% effective rate.  Why?  Deductions and “loopholes”.  If we want to have anything remotely resembling a progressive tax code, we have to eliminate these tax breaks.  I do hope that he reverses his position on capital gains taxes.  I disagree that they should be taxed any differently than other income.

Mitt is anti-women.  Mitt has always promoted women in his private sector and public sector work.  The women who have worked for him can’t say enough positive about him.  Here is an example:  After turning Bain around, the company made Orit Gadiesh the first female CEO of a major consulting firm.  His chief of staff has long been Beth Meyers.  He mentored Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard, former candidate for Governor of California, and CEO of eBay.  On what grounds is he being accused of being anti-woman?  He thinks it is wrong to mandate that insurance companies to pay for birth control (especially if they have conscientious objections like the Catholic church) and he doesn’t want the federal government to pay for abortions.  Contrary to what the left would have you believe, he has no desire to prevent women from accessing birth control:  He also believes that women should have access to abortions in the cases of rape, incest, and the mother’s health.

Romney was a “Vulture Capitalist” and Shipped Jobs Overseas.  Interestingly, after pushing this accusation, Obama’s campaign has dropped the line after members of his own party acknowledged the story was falling apart.  (Democrat Venture Capitalist Defends Romney) This article sums it up and provides links to the fact checkers:  I just heard today Biden resurrecting this one.  Why?  It’s just not true.

I’ve got to publish this before the election is over.  I could go on about how Mitt has been unfairly characterized by the Obama campaign.  In fairness, Mitt has pointed out Obama’s failings as well.  People can point out that jobs have been created since Obama took office…and I could point out statistics that show real unemployment (if measured by % of population) is currently between 15-25% and real wages are down.  But in the end- it all comes down to philosophy- more government and authoritarianism or less government and more freedom.  I’ll pick Mitt Romney and the latter.

Blog Purpose

This blog is a place for me to therapeutically vent, daringly theorize, and thoughtfully develop some of my political points of view.  If others read it and can relate- great!  If others read it and disagree, challenge me!  I love a thought-provoking, passionate, respectful debate.  I really want to develop my ideas into a set of pragmatic policies which could be articulated and promoted with confidence.

I am biased just like every other person in the universe.  My bias is towards freedom, despite that fact that people abuse that wonderful gift almost constantly.  However, I try to understand and give honest consideration to other viewpoints.  As a result, my viewpoints have changed over time and I expect them to continue to evolve.

In my current state of evolution, I have chosen to call myself an “independent consequential libertarian”.   Why?  Because conservative and liberal monikers don’t accurately capture my political viewpoints.  I should also note that the Libertarian Party doesn’t accurately capture my point of view either because, in some circumstances, the consequences of unregulated freedom results in outcomes that are NOT in society’s best interest (eg externalities) AND there are dangers that require us, as good people, to be our brother’s keeper.   I have never formally belonged to any political party and have voted for Democrat, Republican, and Libertarian candidates in the past.  I must admit “consequential libertarian” was borrowed from Milton Friedman as he articulated my point of view very well and called himself one.  Here is a link to Milton’s description of the moniker:

Thoughts on America’s Energy Future

Rolling blackouts, $5+ a gallon gasoline, and increasing dependence on foreign countries for our energy needs is the inevitable result of current energy policies.

I can’t say it any better than these people:

John Hofmeister

Obama Administration Shutting Down Oil and Gas Exploration in the West

Obama funds offshore drilling…in Brazil

Why I’m Not a Liberal

“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as caring and sensitive because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he is willing to do good with other people’s money. Well, who isn’t? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he will do good with his own money— if a gun is held to his head.”
PJ O’Rourke

On the Brink

I’ve been reading Hank Paulson’s book, On The Brink and I now know why the Wall Street bailout happened.  Hank was a Wall Street guy who thought the world rose and set on spreads and the capitalization of large banks.  If you are a deal maker with a Wall Street-centric view, the world ends when the banks get into a jam.  He called anyone who disagreed with him an idiot.  He brought government power, as many of his Wall Street friends as possible, fear, panic, and passion to the fight to advocate that if his plan wasn’t adopted- that an apocalyptic economic collapse was inevitable.

Now I’m not so naive as to suppose that the collapse of a major bank or an insurance giant wouldn’t have far reaching impacts on the economy as a whole, but I believe those shocks fix systemic imbalances.  Americans and their economy are resilient.  The whole TARP and stimulus has simply kicked the can down the road and delayed the day of reckoning.  I believe despite his tireless work, and belief in what he was doing, history will not judge him well.

In the future, if you don’t want a one-trick (M&A), Wall Street centric government, don’t hire an ex-investment banker to be Secretary of the Treasury.  As an interesting aside, the current administration power players: Obama, Geitner, Bernake, Pelosi, Reid, Frank and the Chinese all seemed to be more prominent players than anyone in the Bush administration, who Paulson supposedly worked for.

Recent Reads

I read Paul Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics.  To summarize my thoughts, in order of recording them:

  • I liked his use of simple models, especially the Washington babysitting cooperative
  • I found he was dishonest in a key point, why the cooperative ran into its recession.  While he talked about money supply, he purposefully neglected the reasons for the loss of liquidity in the market: some innovative babysitters who stockpiled their coupons.  I believe he did this because it would be easily apparent to the reader that the solution would be to encourage the “rich” baby sitters to use their coupons…This is essentially supply side economics which he disagrees with.
  • That said, I still found that I agreed to some degree with his arguments for monetary policy, a strong contrast to the arguments of Ron Paul in End the Fed.
  • I found it interesting that the U.S. / IMF / World Bank policies force debtor nations to undertake austerity measures when highly leveraged speculators force foreign currency devaluations. This is the exact OPPOSITE of what happens in the U.S.  When the U.S. has economic recessions, we loosen credit.  Why is this interesting?  Because it allows U.S. investors to make a killing at the expense of these 3rd world countries in 2 ways:  U.S. lenders are protected and speculators make off with fortunes, both at the expense of the citizens and governments of these debtor countries.  It is morally repugnant.
  • I found the psychology aspect of both Latin American and Asian crisis in the late 90s oddly reminiscent of the 2008-9 American recession.  It is hard to get investment and growth when everyone is predicting doom and gloom.  I believe the Democratic negative campaigning in 2007 and 2008 was a big contributing factor to the severity of the economic downturn.
  • I found it interesting that hedge funds and highly leveraged investments were a culprit in these earlier meltdowns…the same groups that contributed to the latest meltdown.
  • I like how he talked about the moral hazard of loose lending.  (p. 68-69)  This was a big contributor to the market meltdown of 2008.
  • I realized a number of Mr. Krugman’s analogies had a zero-sum analogy that wasn’t applicable in many economic scenarios.  I think abundance mentality vs. zero-sum game is a very common conservative vs. liberal mindset difference.  Unfortunately zero-sum mindsets prevent most win/win scenarios and justifies interventionist policies, more regulation, and wealth redistribution.
  • Finally, I liked how Mr. Krugman admitted at the time of the book’s 1998 printing the superiority of capitalism when he stated, “Who can propose socialism with a straight face?” (p. 5-6).  He also noted how regulation and nationalism failed in Argentina (p. 46).  He concluded that capitalism helps everyone (p.18)

I also read The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman.  Unfortunately, it is already sadly dated.  It talked about things like outsourcing, in sourcing, supply chain efficiencies, the amazing capabilities of Google, iPods, VOIP and other technologies.  As a business and technology consultant, I had been making these things happen in the 2000-2004 period.  While it would have been fun to see my efforts finally getting mainstream attention in 2005, in early 2010, reading about these “new trends” that are now such common occurances seem funny.  In fact, when he talks about the incredible abilities of a new company called Skype that allows you free voice calls over the Internet, I have to laugh since my 6 year old was using the free Skype video conferencing serve to talk to her grandparents on a mission in Spain when she was 2 1/2.  I also thought it was interesting to read that oil at $25 a barrel was “the ideal range for sustainable global growth.” 

I did like the significance of 9/11 versus 11/9 (the day the Berlin Wall fell).  The discussion of the Golden Arches or Dell Theories…that is countries with interwoven supply chains (or economies) are less likely to go to war.  I also agreed with his assumption that we are generally better off with free and open international trade.  I also liked how he emphasized the importance of culture in economic success.  He noted the difference between Dubai and Saudi Arabia…a difference that resulted in palpable security and economic disparities. He also noted the differences between Mexico and China.  These differences are why Mexico is rapidly descending into a drug civil war and China is miraculously growing in a global recession.

Finally, I felt his insight about dreams vs. memories was important.  America needs to get back into the business of knowing what we have done well…preserving freedom and offering dreams.  He mentions “hope” as a defining factor of the middle class. I think Obama read this book before running for office.  Once we’ve forgotten those basics, we are in danger of losing our position as the beacon for the world.

I am now reading Henry Paulson’s book On the Brink…and I’m off to alarming start…reading how he planned to ambush Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae with a takeover in September of 2008 to avoid having the CEOs of these huge companies making calls to their powerful friends in congress and stalling the process.  A scenario that he believed would destroy international confidence in U.S. markets and the dollar.

Random Thoughts

I have had some wonderfully thoughtful debates on Facebook in recent days.  I have had a number of thoughts that I wanted to capture.  I don’t have the time elucidate, but I wanted to capture the thoughts for a future post…

The dichotomy between the tea-party conservatives and socialist leaning liberals.  The extremists emerging from both camps leave little room for compromise or thoughtful discussion.

The world views America as an oddity.  We are highly religious, technological advanced, fiercely independent, and incredibly nationalistic.  They have criticized that culture incessantly for the past 50 years and it seems in recent to the point that some Americans have begun to think these points are valid.

Universal literacy and shared Christain values among the founding fathers.  I believe this was a prerequisite condition for the democratic republic made up of citizen legislators they founded.  The fact that this does not exist in many areas of the world today and we are losing this in today’s America put our system at peril.

Recent Reads

I just completed the book America Alone by Mark Steyn. I have enjoyed Mark’s articles in the OC Register and online for many years. The book’s premise is that the Muslim faith is political in nature and fundamentally incompatible with Western political ideals of freedom. He also notes how demographics are playing in the favor of the religion and against the Western world. He makes a passionate case against those who refuse to stand up for freedom when confronted by terrorists.
I think it is worth a read, but probably just the first 3 chapters and the last 4 chapters- it does drag a little during the middle 100 pages. I am also a little torn on the premise that the Muslim faith lacks moderates and is incompatible with peace. As someone with Muslim friends of various levels of devotion, I would trust my life with them. I have read the Koran in translation and found it violent in places, but then so is the Bible. So I’m not yet ready to pronounce the religion “evil”, however, the religion is certainly being used as a justification for some horrible attrocities and extremist viewpoints seem to be moving mainstream.
It also got me thinking about various social movements that promote zero population growth. Isn’t it interesting that global warming, “pro-choice”, same sex marriage, and Malthusian policies all result in low birthrates, negative economic growth, self-loathing, and eventually extinction?

What really resonnated with me was his comments about the feminization of the West and the intellectual bankruptcy of cultural relativism. He gave multiple examples of why multiculturalism fails and some cultures are superior. As he states, “Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own.”