With polls opening in just a few hours, I want to say this to people who are undecided or lean Republican: Mitt Romney is not like Ronald Reagan or the Bushes or John McCain, all of whom were driven by values, whether you shared them or not. The charge that Romney is not a conservative or a moderate, but rather someone who will say almost anything and change his position to compete for votes is not just a stump speech line, it is borne out by the facts. But worse than that, the record shows that what Mitt Romney actually stands for, what he has built his career on, are the most destructive forms of economic activity: making a quick buck for consultants and money managers and using lobbying and campaign money to buy special breaks in Washington, while ignoring the harms done to U.S. jobs, economic growth, the budget deficit and honest dealing.
Mitt Romney did build Bain Capital which did, especially early on, help expand some businesses. But in many cases, Bain Capital didn't build anything. Instead, Bain was focused on making big profits for itself any way it could, and often that meant borrowing huge sums to buy a company, laying off the workers, selling off the assets, dividing up the cash with the company management and leaving creditors, sometimes including taxpayers, with big losses. Remember in Wall Street when Gordon Gekko buys and loots Bluestar Airlines? That's about it.
But less well-known than the Bain saga is the fact that Mitt Romney is actively invested right now in a private equity firm, Solamere Capital, run by his son Tagg and his campaign finance director Spencer Zwick. Solamere, which has an investment relationship with Bain, invests in controversial industries like for-profit colleges and underground gas fracking. Some of these businesses, far from being about free market capitalism, depend on taxpayer money and, worse, on Washington lobbying to keep this money flowing. And a surprisingly large number of Romney's policy proposals would blatantly benefit Solamere and big Romney donors, including proposals that undermine fiscal responsibility, government accountability and common sense. The shameless nature of the relationship between the Romney presidential campaign and the Romney family business was underscored in June when Solamere held an investment conference on the same day, in the same place, as a retreat for big Romney donors. The presidency is a public trust, not a business opportunity.
Romney's behind-closed-doors contempt for the 47 percent of people who receive federal benefits -- veterans, seniors and others -- mirrors his winner-take-all, consequences-be-damned approach.
All the while, Romney has used special tax breaks to avoid the kind of tax rates that ordinary Americans face.
In the second debate last month, President Obama made clear why Romney's business approach is relevant to his fitness for the White House:
Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That's been his philosophy in the private sector, that's been his philosophy as governor, that's been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money. That's exactly the philosophy that we've seen in place for the last decade. That's what's been squeezing middle class families. And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess.
If you think Romney is ready to transcend his questionable business practices, roll up his sleeves and work across the aisle, consider that in his only political job, in one term as Massachusetts governor, Romney stood aloof from legislators, not deigning to learn their names and roping off a private elevator to keep them away. Clearly he just suffered through the degrading experience of running a state to build his resume for a White House run. His elitist disdain for those outside his circle would surely follow him to Washington.
Whatever your political philosophy, you should consider whether a candidate with that kind of experience and orientation should lead our nation. We have big problems to face -- in strengthening our economy and creating jobs, in dealing with the crises caused by crumbling infrastructure and devastating weather events, in addressing threats and opportunities overseas, and much more. I personally believe President Obama has risen to the challenges and deserves reelection. But even if Obama is not your man, even if you think the Republican Party deserves another shot at fixing our problems, wait until 2016. Because in 2012, the GOP has nominated a shallow opportunist who stands for nothing but his own advancement.