Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

The Bully-In-Chief and the Naked Empress

You would think that a society that has spent the past ten years wringing its communal hands over how to deal with school yard bullies and their consequences would recognize one in the man-child Donald Trump, and have a clue of how to deal with him.  Obviously not.

Most interesting is the self-inflicted dilemma of the Repugnantlan Party; those stalwart wearers of flag lapel pins,  supporters of our troops and police, champions of right to life until born, true believers that they have a monopoly on patriotism, self-appointed protectors of the constitution that they are systematically raping in the name of God, country and free enterprise….They stand trembling in the shadow of Trump.  Ironically, the shadow is less than the man, but the Repugnantlans are less still in their collective incapacity to confront this breathing amalgam of narcissism, arrogance, deceit and rank ignorance, and say to themselves and the society that they presume to lead “This man does not represent our values, and we will not lend our Party’s label to his twisted and destructive enterprise.”   Or something to that effect.  But that apparently demands more courage than they can collectively muster.

Nor were the alternatives all that attractive.  A party that has embraced a thinly disguised agenda of bigotry, religious zealotry, misogyny and elitism under the brand Conservatism, and thus done severe damage to the meaning of that term; that same party has looked desperately in its wings among the kooks and Hucksters, and mini-narcissists in waiting, for an alternative to the Enfant Terrible, to no apparent avail.  Short Form: they’re screwed.

The question before the Repugnantlans is: Do we face a firestorm at the convention in the effort to save the party?  Or do we face a firestorm at the voting booths and watch the party be bludgeoned into dust, at the possible tangible loss of Congressional majority.

Given the level of courage and integrity currently in evidence in the party leadership, it is conceivable that they would rather suffer the risk of defeat in the less frightening confrontation and anonymity of the voting booth, than to risk the physical, in-your-face, mano-a-mano confrontation that is promised by Thugs for Trump at the convention.

And as disturbing as all this is in what it says about the state of Party leadership, what is even more disturbing is that there is a constituency that is big enough to give Trump this power.  The question is: is this a constituency of mini-bullies supporting a master bully in their greatest fantasy of power, or as some observers suggest, are Trump’s followers mostly very angry people who see Trump not so much as their leader, but their hammer to render a failing system to the dustbin of history. A similar speculation has been rendered of Bernie Sanders, who is beginning to sound more like Trump in his prognostications for the coming Democratic Convention.

Then there’s the Demo-crass.  They have a different kind of fear, or should.  They face the risk that fewer people will turn out for Ms Inevitability, a.k.a ‘Hillary Don’t-Cry-For-Me-Argentina Rodham-Clinton’, than the die-hard crazies who will turn out for Trump.  On paper, she should have this thing licked.  She’s got ‘credential’s.  She’s engineered the back room of the Convention.  She’s got an enviable Rolodex ( because, as she acknowledged in the prvate computer server grillings, she’s not particularly tech savvy) and the financial backing.  What she lacks is credibility.  Not necessarily an insurmountable problem for a politician.  But she has such an incredible knack for shooting herself in the foot, that it’s totally reasonable for the average person to wonder if she can be trusted with nukes.

In one of her rare moments of candor, she acknowledged after the Florida primary that she is ‘not a natural politician’,  like her husband or Obama.  So why is she running for the position of Politician in Chief?  Is it because she’s a superb, wonky tactician like her husband?  Uh-huh!  When the press were battering her phalanx of flacks, she carefully sequestered behind her security wall.  When an attack was needed, she sent out Bill.  When credibility was needed, she grasped for Barack’s coat-tails, and when that was inconvenient as in the case of the Pacific Trade agreement, she let go.  She claims to fight for the underdog, but what has she ever won for the underdog of substance? Health care, voting rights, better treatment of women anywhere in the world?  She claims experience, but where is the wisdom?  Health care? Libya? the Russian Reset? Syria?  Is her wisdom and pragmatism possibly hidden in that gold-plated speech she gave to Goldman Sachs which remains more closely guarded than her official emails as Secretary of State.  Could it be that if that text ever saw the light of day, it would reveal her to be as shallow and vacuous as the Mitt-ster?

Hillary is nothing but an avatar of women’s and minorities aspirations, but without the substance and quite possibly the will to deliver more than pious platitudes. A candidate whose image quite likely has to be re-invented every two weeks by her army of ‘advisor’s who are still groping for a credible product, isn’t much of a vehicle for progress.  An individual who has struggled against as improbable opponent as Bernie Sanders, in spite of all the advantages she amassed for her presumed coronation, must be profoundly lacking in substance.  A person, whose chief praise in recent weeks is that she has broken many barriers, but always seems to do it the hard way, is not a strong credential for endorsement.  I can’t really picture myself pitching my wares to a prospective employer with the line:’I git it done, but always the hard way’.   Endurance is fine, but competence would be better. She is the Demo-crass equivalent of Jeb Bush.  They  could make an awesome fusion ticket of irrelevance and incompetence.

On any rigorous assessment of substance, Hillary is an empty suit.  Indeed, the Empress has no clothes.

Hillary’s only claim to viability as a candidate is that, next to Trump, she looks at least sufferable, and may almost pass for presidential.  But even that may not be enough to save her if the terminal boredom or revulsion of so many independents and many in her own party is enough to deny her the critical margin for victory.

And then there’s the wild card:  The Republican Convention is July 18 to 21.  The Democratic Convention is July 25 to 28.  What if the Repugnantlan Party finally found the testicular fortitude to deny Trump the nomination on merits (or lack thereof), and installed Romney as the plug-and-play answer?    A contest between two equally brittle avatars.  But on surface, it is conceivable that Romney, an executive in private and public enterprise, could appear to have more chops than Ms Inevitability.

The Demo-crass High Command would have to assess  very quickly which old horse has the better chance.  The Demo-crass will be in the same convention dilemma as the Repugnantlans of reconsidering the ‘presumptive’ nominee, but the Repugs will have gained first mover advantage, which Mitt, the consummate capitalist, knows is critical.  Could the Hillary Horde pivot quickly to a new opponent and a new strategy?  Not likely, if two presidential campaigns are compelling evidence. Could the Democratic Party?  Probably not a prayer.

Can Elizabeth Warren save the ticket?  She would likely carry the ticket.  But if I were her, I’d be extremely wary of signing on to the HIll ‘n Bill show.

Onward.

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Capitalism’s Contorted Calculus

Is Capitalism’s time passing?  Is it at the doorstep of history’s vault of failed paradigms, following Communism for similar reasons of brittleness and irrelevance? Those who have read my prior blogs in the Capitalist Papers series may already guess my inclination.

I am a firm supporter of free enterprise as one of our other essential freedoms. But Capitalism in its current incarnation has evolved to cause me great concern because its current trajectory is undoing the very essence of the democracy and land of opportunity we sought to create two hundred and thirty-six years ago, and appears to be on a collision with reality. Least aware of this trajectory appear to be the capitalists at the top of the food chain.

I submit for your consideration the case of the Protean Organization, as expounded recently by Paul Christiansen in the Wall Street Journal.  The title is: “To Outsmart Obamacare, Go Protean”. The subtitle is: “Don’t fire staff to avoid the 50 employee trigger. Make them corporations”.

How utterly clever!  Mitt would endorse this. After all, they’ll still be people.

The concept, as elaborated upon by Mr. Christiansen in the article, is fundamentally a tax dodge thinly masked as a management strategy. But it plays nicely into the meme I have been weaving in three prior blogs on human resources and employee benefits to suggest that in the blind pursuit of maximum profits, business is systematically destroying a productive relationship with its most important resource: its human resource, and by extension the consumer market for its goods and services.

Mr. Christiansen opines that every possible functional relationship of the organization should be translated into modular, plug-and-play, Lego-like relationships, defined as corporate entities, and regulated by contract.  A small elite will be retained at the mother-ship; the functional drones will be redeployed in a flexible galaxy of entities connected by contractual umbilical cords.

i infer, perhaps incorrectly, that Mr. Christiansen has never managed an organization, or never managed it for long enough to see how it (d)evolves over time. This might be tolerable for the kind of businesses he has been involved with, or the kind of business that has an intended half-life of eighteen months before being flipped to sucker investors, but I can’t really picture an enterprise of this concept growing to any considerable scale and doing anything of significant magnitude.  But this speculation gives more dignity to the premise than it earns in its own expression.

Let’s go back to the original premise. Mr. Christiansen proposes this as a way to dodge Obamacare.  He is not the first to vigorously pursue strategies of labor cost avoidance, and it would be wrong of me to burden him with the full blame.  That path has already been well-worn by many others.  But is Mr. Christiansen trying to avoid Obamacare per se, or benefits more generically?  If the latter, is he negotiating fairly with his ‘corporate’ associates to provide compensation that enables them to pack their own benefits parachute, or is he, like so many others, using a tight  labor market to extract a price of indentured servitude that will be unilaterally beneficial to we-know-who?  How long will that relationship endure when things get a little bit better?  Will the drone corporations see their staff evaporate as the economy and competing opportunities heat up?  And what will that ‘contractual umbilical cord’ be worth then?

Further, in Mr. Christiansen’s  corporate cosmos, how does one build a culture of cohesion and alignment of values and priorities?  What clause of the contract covers that? Do you insert a Facebook app into the mobile devices of your extended ‘organization’ to create a ‘virtual’ organizational culture to substitute for a real one?

And let’s not forget the mother-ship corporation’s bottom line.  What does it really net from this fantasy?  The Protean organization is a simplistic mirage, as well as an economic dodge. But beyond Mr. Christiansen’s conjuring is the troubling truth that the underlying motivation for it is all too familiar in many corporate management strategies to control labor costs.

By dodging fair compensation, wage and/or benefits, to employees, corporations individually create a false economy, in both dimensions of that word.  As noted in prior blogs, each company’s employee is some other company’s customer.  When the preponderance of companies seek to squeeze their respective employees to the point that they can barely meet necessities, and must forego discretionary items, the economy contracts, as it has, as it is, and as it is likely to continue.  The irony is that as corporations have played the China card to control labor costs, they are transforming more American consumers into Chinese consumers, and not the Chinese 1%.  What goes around, comes around.

*  *  *

Nor is labor the only wild card in the Capitalist equation.  Let’s talk energy.  As Joe Petrowski, Chairman of Cumberland-Gulf Group, noted in 2010, higher oil prices hurt business and hurt the economy. His position was that oil prices, which were beginning to recover from their 2009 death-bed after their 2008 fever, should be kept low in order to sustain business and the economy as we know and love it.

But at what cost in military and environmental terms must we maintain low prices to sustain Capitalism’s mandate?  What if we can’t? What if the costs of production in more hostile environments, added pollution of all kinds from all collateral causes, and security costs all force costs above Capitalism’s cherished sweet spot? What is the fate of a Capitalism based on a consumer economy, based on distributed retail and labor resources connected by costly transportation which relies on ever escalating fuel prices?  Market theory, if one still believes in the markets, suggests that a re-prioritization from the bottom up is inevitable as consumers and corporate people re-assess and adjust their priorities consistent with their finite resources. There will be a lot of broken china along the way.

*  *  *

This gets us to the umbrella subject that encompasses the Capitalist myth: the markets.  The foundation for the myth is the existence of functioning and fair markets in which that magical invisible hand of free enterprise arbitrates fair value through the unfettered interplay of competing interests. Which of our markets truly operate on this premise today?  Labor, credit, investments, real estate, energy?

The corpocracy  will contend that it’s all Government’s fault for ineffective regulation that strangles  the markets. But regulation is too much in the influence of lobbyists who are too much in the pay of corporations who are too narrow in their world-view to grasp that regulation which is contorted to satisfy a myriad of special interests ultimately devolves to a sclerosis that benefits no one. And Government is not the cause of the aggressive consolidation in so many industries that has induced rigidity and brittleness in many vertical markets.

That, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, is where we have arrived.  A paradigm detached from its critical foundation of true free enterprise, oblivious to any sense of greater social responsibility in its enlightened self-interest, and insulated from the environmental, social, political and economic realities that are about to engulf it.

Capitalism, as we know it, is toastadas.  What follows it as the next hottest hope of humanity requires more imagination than i can conjure.

But what precedes that is amply recorded in history.

Onward.

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Free the Fed

This may be the only time in my natural life that I will ever agree with Mitt Romney.  It proves that he's human; even he can't be wrong all the time.  I just hope that he doesn't reverse himself in the name of consistency. 

So what am I talking about?  Yesterday Mitt urged the Fed NOT to apply more stimulus to the supine economy.  And why is he right? Because the responsibility to resurrect the economy at this point is not with Ben Bernanke and the Fed, or with President Obama and the Executive Branch, but with a Congress that as been too timid on one side of the aisle and too ignorant on the other side…in both houses.

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