Mitt Romney’s life traces the economic path of America, from global colossus to deadbeat in hock $15 trillion. His father, George, built things, running American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962. Although AMC was a weak sister to the Big Three auto companies, under George it was a profitable firm, especially with the popular Rambler family car.
Young Mitt grew up the son of privilege in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In that city he attended the exclusive Cranbrook Academy, the Michigan equivalent of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, attended by both presidents Bush.
In the days of Mitt’s youth, the counties north of Detroit were the richest in the country, indeed the world, thanks to the high incomes of the auto executives and engineers. These men built the “arsenal of democracy” that crushed the Axis powers and provided the world’s highest standard of living. Now the wealthiest counties in the land surround Washington, D.C., home to the politicians, lobbyists, and bureaucrats who are the American economy’s new overlords.
In the Detroit area of the 1950’s and 60’s, any young man willing to take a highly masculine factory job could make a wage that would support a large family with the missus at home, two cars in the garage, and a cottage on a lake up north. Hundreds of thousands of men and their families emigrated from Europe, as well as both blacks and whites from the South, to make a generous family wage. The public schools were mediocre but tolerable. For Catholics, the parochial schools were excellent.
Leaving the honest life of stamping Ramblers, George Romney ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 and was elected on a reform platform. A Rockefeller Republican, as liberal Republicans were called in those days, he also embraced the do-good strain many Mormons inherit from their religion’s origin in the Burned-Over District of New York in the early 19th century.
George’s attempt to impose a state income tax was rejected by the state legislature, then passed after he won reelection in 1964. He used the new revenue to splurge on liberal social programs. During George’s six years in office, the Michigan state budget more than doubled, from $550 million in 1963 to $1.3 billion in 1969. At the time, inflation was low, and the state’s population increased only seven percent.
George’s social spending didn’t prevent the Detroit riots of 1967. Indeed, his “urban renewal” destroyed the low-income housing—the “slums”—of thousands of blacks, herding them into the infamous “projects” and increasing resentments.
He flinched at ending the riots the only way that works: by shooting looters on sight. If he had done so, he would have killed two or three looters but saved the lives of the 43 citizens who died in the rioting, as well as most of the 2,000 buildings that burned, and the city itself. The rioting ended only when President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in 4,700 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
George lost the 1968 GOP presidential nomination to Richard Nixon. The new President appointed George the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he earned the title the Dud from HUD. The post let him destroy housing not just in Michigan, but in all 50 states. After politics, he took up high positions in the Mormon church.
Mitt looks and talks as much like his father as is possible without cloning. Mitt inherited a condescending gaze, evident during all the debates, that says, “I’m better than you and am just tolerating you until I’m in charge.”
As with many executives of his era, George never graduated from college. He briefly attended public colleges in Utah, and George Washington University in the District of Columbia. Mitt, although he graduated from Brigham Young University, first attended Stanford University. He later received a joint MBA-Law Degree from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, both establishment finishing schools.
Instead of making things, Mitt became a management consultant. In 1984, he cofounded Bain Capital, where he worked until 1999. Today, he’s reportedly worth $250 million—almost half his father’s first Michigan state budget. He’s rich beyond the dreams of avarice, but not politics.
Even in prosperous times, in the free-enterprise system, companies fail and need to be broken up and sold. It’s the hard part of the profit-loss system. But Bain and other “corporate raider” firms of recent years take advantage of complex government regulations, tax subsidies, and political manipulations to poach on even healthy companies.
According to a December 3, 2011, analysis by the Los Angeles Times of a 2000 prospectus on Bain, the firm “maximized returns by firing workers, seeking government subsidies, and flipping companies quickly for large profits. Sometimes Bain investors gained even when companies slid into bankruptcy.”
Typical was “GS Industries, the 10th-biggest Bain investment in the Romney years. Bain formed GSI in the early 1990s by spending $24 million to acquire and merge steel companies with plants in Missouri, South Carolina and other states.” By the time GSI went bankrupt in 2001, Bain had mulcted it for a $65 million dividend and a $50 million profit. But 700 workers lost their jobs, health insurance, severance pay, and some of their pensions. The only good news was that GSI went bankrupt just before it was to get a federal loan guarantee paid by taxpayers.
Like his father, Mitt was a liberal governor, in his case imposing on Bay Staters his RomneyCare socialized-medicine scheme. It has cast a shadow over the conservative persona he’s adopted in his two presidential campaigns. President Obama’s defenders point out that RomneyCare was used as a blueprint for ObamaCare. Mitt maintains that his reform was for liberal Massachusetts only, and that he’s a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment reservation of powers for the states. But who can believe him?
Mitt, like his father, is strong in his Mormon faith. This produced a strange commercial in Mitt’s campaign. Sniping at the thrice-married Newt Gingrich, Mitt intoned, “I’ve been married to the same woman for 25—excuse me, I’ll get in trouble—for 42 years. I’ve been in the same church my entire life.” The faux uxoriousness hid an attempt to use his faithfulness to Mormonism, a negative in evangelical Protestant areas, to his advantage.
Taken seriously, his statement would imply that the apostles never should have followed Jesus, Saint Augustine should have remained a Manichee, and all the Christians Mitt converted to Mormonism, including his wife, Ann, should have remained trinitarians. The question in fact is one of truth. Was the religion chosen the true one, or at least closer to the truth than the previous religion? Typically, Mitt cares about style, not truth.
Although Mormons generally are against abortion, in their 1994 U.S. Senate race, Teddy Kennedy accused Mitt of being “multiple choice,” an amusing phrase. Mitt replied by citing his pro-abortion mother, Lenore:
Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that, or being multiple-choice, thank you very much.
Mitt campaigned, and won, as a pro-choice candidate for governor in 2002.
He flip-flopped before beginning his presidential run in 2007. Supporters say we should trust him, that he’s sincere in now professing to be pro-life. But anyone stung by politicians knows that you never trust what politicians say, only what they do.
Mitt today is a warmonger, yet he used deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam, instead going to France as a missionary to convert the First Daughter of the Church into followers of Joseph Smith.
On foreign policy, Mitt is running as a cookie-cutter neocon to cadge the votes of the non-Ron Paul GOP faithful. But in office, he would be an extension of the Eastern Establishment, much like George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton.
On economics, although he has advanced a complicated recovery program including tax cuts, he’s at heart a Keynesian like the Bushes and Obama, a defender of the Federal Reserve Board’s policies of inflation that have gutted the middle class while engorging the rich.
Mitt Romney would be the perfect president for our time. After Greece is forced to sell the Parthenon and it is shanghaied to Shanghai, Mitt could sell the Statue of Liberty to Japan and set it up in Tokyo Bay, the transaction greased by Bain Capital.