Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Hollow Man Without a Plan

Mitt Romney is not a very charismatic leader. He is not an exciting, dynamic speaker. He doesn’t have a strong connection with the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Americans. He isn’t a terribly experienced politician. His career, working as a leveraged-buyout king, has not equipped him with stories or policies attuned to the plight of working Americans. Mitt Romney is not a man of firm principles or of great integrity.

Romney does have several advantages as a presidential candidate. He looks the part. He’s smooth and adaptable. He has an uncanny capacity to simultaneously adopt any and all positions that he finds advantageous and can do so with such calm confidence that the contradictions are all but obscured.

Romney is the ultimate business consultant - pliable and prepared. He has a unshakable smile on his face and a blizzard of numbers at his disposal. Mitt’s mr-fix-it appeal comes, in no small part, from the promise that he is prepared to deal with the twin demons of our age:

  • Unemployment is high and has been for the last four years.
  • Our budget deficits are vast and unsustainable.

On the unemployment question Romney is quite specific. His 5 point plan will create 12 million jobs in 4 years. On deficit reduction, he is less specific, but promises to “put an end to deficit spending”. Accomplishing these two tasks would be a great and worthy accomplishment. Unfortunately, the plans to do so do not exist, and these claims are largely fraudulent.

When asked for the reasoning behind their 12 million jobs number, the Romney campaign cited one study that said his tax policies would generate 7 million jobs, another that claimed his energy policies would create 3 million jobs, and a third that supported the idea that Romney’s China policy would save 2 million jobs.  

7 + 3 + 2 = 12 million jobs.

The problem with claiming that Romney’s tax plan will create 7 million jobs is that Romney doesn’t really have a tax plan. He has some vague principles that call for lowering rates and eliminating deductions. The study necessarily ignore the effect of eliminating the unspecified deductions. And it has a timeline of 10 years. Not 4.

The energy policy claims are even more slippery. The cited study looked at current energy policy over the next 8 years. Current energy policy is the Obama administration’s policies, not Romney’s. It’s good to hear that it’ll create millions of jobs. But claims that those jobs will be the result of Romney policies are groundless.

And the China policy numbers are pure fiction. The cited study there claims that Chinese copyright and piracy policies have cost American’s 2 million jobs. There is no chance that a Romney administration will cause a an immediate change in Chinese law or that it will have an immediate effect on US employment.

Romney’s job numbers are highly dubious. His deficit reduction plan is worse. Romney calls for full extension of the Bush tax cuts, then another 20% reduction in tax rates, two trillion dollars in additional military spending, and extra $716 billion in Medicare spending.

They promise to cut spending and reduce tax deductions to pay for it all. But Republicans will need to come up with 7 trillion dollars in tax increases and spending cuts to pay for their promises. Of course, they have specified almost nothing about where this $7 trillion is supposed to come from. And even if they find the money, that would just get us back to the astronomical deficits we have now. Any real deficit reduction would have to be on top of that. Somehow.

Romney doesn’t feel your pain. But he wants you to think he has a plan to ease it. He doesn’t.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binder? I Hardly Know Her

Mitt Romney, as he never tires of telling us, is a business man. He spent his career buying and selling businesses, running them, squeezing them for cash, and getting to understand them from the inside and out. So, when he received a debate question about women in the workforce, that should have been an easy question.

Surely, Mitt Romney has worked with women. Someone who "knows business" like Mitt Romney must know something about the role of women in the workforce. Right?

Apparently not.

When asked about equality for women in the workforce, Romney replied with his born-famous "binders full of women" reply:

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?
ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.
Romney didn't know any women he wanted to invite into his cabinet. He wasn't aware of any women who might be suitable to work in his administration. Fortunately, these women's groups were there with their "binders full of women".

Ok. How did you like working with women, Mitt?
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was ... because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

Even when he gets to work with these exotic women, in his own cabinet(!), he still views them primarily as special cases who, unlike men apparently, require flexibility so they can spend time with their kids.

We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women. 
But don't worry! If we elect Mitt Romney things will be going so great that employers will even be willing to hire these troublesome women!

Except, employers are already perfectly willing to hire women. Currently, women comprise 47%* of the workforce. And rising. The fact that, with all his great business experience, Mitt Romney has nothing to say about the reality of working women is surprising. And not encouraging.

What about his policies? Did Romney promote any of these great workplace flexibility rules at all the businesses he owned? How about equal pay? When Romney is the boss is that something he offers? Or not? Is the binder story really all he's got on women in the workforce?

Romney keeps telling us he knows business. But on topics from role of women, to job creation, to the macro-economics of the 21st century Romney always tells and never shows. We're supposed to trust him. But he never tells us why. We have scant evidence that he empathized, understood, learned from or even attempted to improve the lives of all the men and women that worked for him. We have plenty of evidence that he knows how sweep money into his own pocket and that those of his plutocrat partners. Where is the evidence, or even the anecdotes, that show he learned anything about improving the lives of actual working Americans?

If you've been running companies for 25 years you shouldn't need a bunch of Massachusetts women's groups to tell you where to find working women.

* Ol' Mitt sure does have his blind spots when it comes to 47% of Americans.