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Mitt's Not About Earning, Mitt's About Taking

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Mitt Romney gets a consistent tip of the hat from the media and even his presidential rival for having earned a lot of money. Earning a lot of money is mostly and should be indicative of some personal virtue of hard work, courage or vision. Probably all three. So you can't knock it unless the audience understands how money like Mitt's is made.

The type of business in which Mitt Romney got rich does not require much work, takes little more than the nerve of a burglar and creates nothing at all. The corporate takeover, as an art, requires nothing of the sturdy workmanship and sacrifice that typified the creation of Americas iconic corporations. Mitt did not create Ford Motor Company at a time when few people even had personal knowledge of an automobile. Mitt did not create General Electric at a time when candles outnumbered light bulbs in lighting America's nights. Mitt did not create IBM when computing was an idea the only application of which was calculating artillery shell trajectory. Mitt did not create Apple at a time when the most ubiquitous personal computing device was a slide rule (I was there).

Mitt Romney's business was taking over companies and doing to them what Harvard Business School taught him to do. What he was taught to do is to cut costs in order to show profit growth in the short term. If you come to that party with enough personal wealth, then you go to the head of the class and you can acquire companies, cut costs to boost share prices and then dump your equity acquired in the takeover and walk away with a profit. It's quite simple and requires little work, no courage and zero vision.

Cutting costs might seem to be a daunting task in itself. It is, if you are trying to maintain market share and quality and the survival of the company over the long run. But it's easy in the short run and Mitt and a whole generation of business school grads have been doing it for 20 years now.

In the short run, the easiest and dumbest thing you can do to cut costs is cut wages. You cut wages by firing the higher paid personnel and replacing them with more junior people. You cut wages by outsourcing to suppliers that may not pay the same benefits as you are contracted to pay. You cut back on benefits and pensions and, in a pinch, take "overpayments" to pensions and health care funds and call them profit and put them in your pocket as a bonus for growing profit.

In short, what Mitt Romney did to make his millions was not earning, it was taking. It was taking and there's no law against it. If it were illegal, Mitt would not be as rich. Mitt and all his cohorts benefited from economic policy that enabled them to take by forcing increasing numbers of businesses to be in competition with offshore and outsourced labor. For every company that caved into outsourcing, pressure was put on the next to do the same. So hostile takeover or bankruptcy rescue at this time in American economic history is the same thing leading to the same result of lost jobs and lower pay for Americans.

It's not just about Mitt Romney though. He just happens to be the most visible of the class of robber barons that this country has produced in the last three decades. And now, with the complicity of the GOP, the terrors they have been visiting on business and the economy are on their way to being government's future. They are coming to dismantle government for profit just as they have businesses, large and small.

If the GOP wins the White House and the Senate, and retains control of the House, in 2012, everything in government that can be privatized will be privatized. Privatization has been trumpeted by the right as a way to save money for nearly a generation. It sounds good. If private business is more efficient than some lumbering bureaucracy, then it makes sense to privatize and save money. That, unfortunately, is not the truth but only the propaganda of privatization. Private companies are just as able to create big lumbering bureaucracies as is government. Look at the list of most hated companies in America.

First off, privatization is motivated by the recognition that government has access to lots of money. The military, school systems, police and fire, public works and on and on, have highly paid employees who can be replaced, for the most menial part, with low wage workers. If replaced, the wage differential between highly paid direct government workers and lower paid workers in a private company can be taken as profit. It is exactly the same motive that has driven the loss of American jobs to China, India, Mexico and elsewhere.

Second, the whole notion that private business is more efficient than a government bureaucracy is a myth, or at least comparing apples to oranges. Both of government and private business are staffed by people, people drawn from the same pool of relative competence. Generally, higher pay retains the better of the best, or so Wall Street executives would argue in justifying their own compensation. So it's simply unsound to assume that the motivation of money for job candidates does not allow government to pick and choose over a broader selection of the competent than does the crappy pay of a private company maximizing its profits.

Third, the profit motive does not equate to savings for the public. Health care is the prime example of how the treadmill of profit growth has done material and even fatal harm to the public. A for profit charter school is as likely to follow the price escalation path that health insurance has followed as not, and is certainly more likely to than are public schools who do not need to show profit growth, corruption by private service provider businesses aside.

Private army provisions and security companies have been an unmitigated budget disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. See KBR and Blackwater. They, and their political proponents saw the opportunity to siphon off some of the cash flows of the government and, like all those motivated by profit, found ways to mine for more profit. You kind of have to ask yourself whether it benefits the country more to have your taxes go up to pay for a government worker's cost of living raise or go for profit growth of a corporation so that the CEO can get his multimillion-dollar bonus. But you also have to ask yourself which person is more likely to be corrupt and incompetent to a degree that it will cause a global recession, the GS-8 in Washington or the CEO of AIG?

The culture of taking is not new to the world. There was nothing but that until the basis for protections of the rights of individuals were codified in the Magna Charta. The Mitt Romney class of businessman, like the warlords of old, have enriched themselves by taking from the livelihoods of Americans who were holding down jobs and playing by the rules in which they were led to believe. The only two things the Mitt Romneys of the world have created are more wealth for themselves and misery for those whose lives were touched by them. The only jobs, on balance, they ever created were for half the pay of ones they destroyed. There's no other way to put it, except maybe a less hyperbolic one.

Romney as president, with a GOP Senate and House, will oversee the next great fall in American prosperity and global economic stature. Maybe this next tax cut deregulation fostered economic crash will be severe enough to convince the world that thievery is not a form of government. Government is the sharing of burdens and rewards as a community with no accommodation for thieves outside of ignominy.

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