Hoover's business acumen crippled his presidency
Mitt Romney's leading qualification to be president -- okay, his only qualification -- is that as an experienced corporate executive officer he can lead America out of the economic wilderness in which it has wandered since Barack Obama . . . excuse me, George Bush drew on his own entrepreneurial experience to jump start America's ongoing economic malaise by pushing through an enormous tax cut for the wealthiest Americans while simultaneously waging two wars.
Romney's assertion that he can cure what ails us economically by magically creating millions of jobs -- some 12 million jobs by his own over-the-top estimate in a speech earlier this month -- is utter and absolute flapdoodle. After all, those free-market capitalists whom the presumptive Republican nominee worships and Paul Ryan, his vice presidential running mate fetishizes, have shown little interest in creating jobs because they are far more interested in making record profits.
Public opinion polls reveal that while voters in the swing states that Romney must win if he has a chance of ousting Obama are deeply concerned about the economy, they understand three things:
* That the president has been handicapped at every turn by obdurate Republicans like Ryan who would rather see him suffer in the polls than pitch in to turn the economy around.
* That even in this era of truth twisting, Romney and his handlers have lied continuously and shamelessly on an epic scale about virtually everything, including his own private-sector record.
* That Romney's tenure as a venture capitalist who destroyed jobs no more qualifies him as an able steward of the economy than it did Herbert Hoover.
The 31st president made a small fortune in mining while his apparent brilliance as a corporate organization man greased his election in 1928, then doomed an administration that was notably out of touch with Main Street as the Great Depression spread.
As Michael Kazin notes in Dissent magazine, no businessman has ever been a successful president.
Beyond Hoover, the most pungent example of this is Bush himself, who was notably dismal in a series of businesses ventures until Poppy Bush sicced Karl Rove on him and this resume without a man became a governor and then, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, a president. And then thanks to an electorate doped up on post-9/11 Republican fear mongering, re-elected him.
The biggest reason that Romney's claims that he would be an economic savior fall flat is fundamental: A country is not a corporation, something that former pizza mogul Howard Cain conveniently overlooked during his 15 minutes of fame behind the wheel of the GOP presidential clown car.
There are no counterparts to interest rates, tax rates and spending programs in the corporate world, and it is ironic that the biggest reason that Obama is likely to win re-election -- and perhaps win in an Electoral College landslide because so many voters have a visceral dislike of Romney -- is Romney's rapacious tenure atop Bain Capital, an issue that not only won't go away but becomes more pungent because he continues to refuse to release more than one year of his federal tax returns, defying a standard set by his father in 1968.
We do know from that single return that Romney paid a tax rate of 13.9 percent on income of $21.6 million. The richest of the rich, of whom Romney is one, pay income tax at a rate of 35 percent, but he "earned" most of his money from investments and has paid an obscenely low rate for capital gains.
Corporate bigs don't necessarily have to be politically adept, as Hoover was not. He was a wooden and uninspiring speaker who never connected with the downtrodden during those calamitous times. Kind of like Romney come to think of it, who infamously co-mingled Palestinian business and political culture (code for their religion) in asserting that Palestinians, who in fact are quite entrepreneurial minded despite the iron fist of their Israeli occupiers, are a bunch of lazy oafs.
In analyzing Romney's tax plan, the Tax Policy center found that "It is not mathematically possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that preserves current incentives for savings and investment and that does not result in a net tax cut for high-income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers."
Even if tax breaks "are eliminated in a way designed to make the resulting tax system as progressive as possible, there would still be a shift in the tax burden of roughly $86 billion [a year] from those making over $200,000 to those making less” than that. What would that mean for the average tax bill? Millionaires would get an $87,000 tax cut, the study says. But for 95 percent of the population, taxes would go up by about 1.2 percent, an average of $500 a year."
I rest my case.
Kazin writes that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who became the exemplar of a chief executive: "Compassionate, witty, capable of switching from damning his opponents to winning enough of them over whenever necessary. And so, over the next six decades, the idea of a businessman as president largely went out of fashion."
It wasn't until 1992 with the emergence of billionaire Ross Perot that voters seemed again ready for a self-made mogul who would run America like a business. Perot made brash promises to balance the budget and curb free trade, all unsustainable, and eventually faded as a major party candidate because while he thrived in a corporate environment where he was the big cheese he was incapable of adjusting to a political environment and requisite consensus building. The same thing would have happened to Cain had he not had a zipper problem.
Michael Tomasky summed up Romney best in a Daily Beast commentary:
"Releasing your returns is just one of those things you have to do, like eating corn dogs in Iowa. That he is even fighting this point shows us, or at least gives us much reason to suspect, that the kind of capitalism he practiced for 25 years is utterly incompatible with civic responsibility."
Image by Oscar Cesare (1929)