06/25/2012 06:59 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2012

The Dog Food Lesson: Why It May Spell Doom for Romney & the GOP

One day the smart, pragmatic business people supporting Mitt Romney will wake up and ask themselves why it has to cost this much to sell him to the American people.

It should be an obvious question. When you have to spend a fortune on advertising -- especially on misleading advertising -- sooner or later you need to wonder: is there something wrong with the product?

Republicans thought they'd gained a huge advantage when the Supreme Court handed down Citizens United and opened the valve for unlimited cash to flow predominantly to Republican campaigns.

But ironically, the greatest lesson of Citizens United may be just how heinously expensive it is to sell policies that don't work. Citizens United removed the limits on how much it can cost to sell a bad product.

Some of that product's features: An unnecessary war started by Republican foreign policy, a financial crash caused by Republican economic policy, a broken health care system born of Republican health policy, and storms and wildfires that sing of Republican environmental policy. All championed by a man who may or may not believe in any of it.

No wonder it takes a billionaire (or a few) to raise a Romney.

There's an old story from the advertising world. After agency creatives try and fail at every conceivable approach to selling a new dog food, the new kid pipes up with the one thing they hadn't considered: maybe the dogs just don't like it.

If and when the US business community receives an equivalent jolt of insight, more of its members may notice not only that Republicans are selling the wrong dog food now, they have been for a long time. The US economy, by nearly every standard, has done better under Democratic administrations for as far back as we can accurately measure. Despite conventional wisdom (sustained by far too many lazy reporters) the record shows that Republicans are the ones who rack up debt and slow down growth, while Democrats clean up the mess and get things moving again.* The contrast has been especially stark since the dawn of trickle-down economics under Ronald Reagan. The George W. Bush administration, taking those policies to their extreme, nearly brought on a second Depression.

Many of our sharper-eyed business people have long since figured all this out. Among those who haven't, I guess most are letting political bias overwhelm their business sense.

But there are some who are a special case, who may very well get what's going on -- and who don't see it as a problem. These are the few who profit from selling this dog food, not in spite of it's being bad, but because it's bad.

I said a moment ago that the economy does better under Democratic administrations "by nearly every standard." The one exception? Under Republicans, while the rest of the economy does worse, more money flows to those at the very top. In other words, where Republican policies succeed is in transferring wealth from the economy as a whole to a very few, very rich people. (Talk about redistribution.)

And that's why a small minority -- for example, Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers -- don't need to care what the dogs think about the dog food. Whatever it costs them to sell it, they stand to make much more, if Romney wins.

But the rest need to care very much, and sooner or later, they will.


*My short version of why this is: Republicans specialize in deregulation, which causes bubbles and collapses, and corporate welfare, which is both extremely expensive and unproductive. Democrats back (mostly) sensible regulation, which supports more efficient and stable markets, and investments in people and infrastructure, which yield growth. Are Democratic economic policies always right? Of course not -- but overall, they're better.