Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

At long last, have you left no sense of decency? (The most important fact that Obama can point to tomorrow night)

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Joseph N. Welch, head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy‘s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities, an investigation known as the Army-McCarthy hearings.  Spring 1954.

Shortly after the Denver debate two weeks ago, I wrote here that I thought it was critically important for Obama to not only illustrate, using Romney’s own words and his campaign’s own acknowledgment right after the debate, that Romney’s plan regarding healthcare insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions was the status quo, but also to tie that in directly with Romney’s “47 percent” speech at fundraisers. (And, yes, that probably was his standard speech at fundraisers, not something he said just at that one.)

I said in that post that Romney’s misrepresentation on such an important issue—literally, one of life and death in some instances—demonstrates his utter disregard for anyone who’s not wealthy. 

I mean, really; what, in heaven’s name, kind of person has such little regard for others that he’s willing to play a semantics game—y’know, it depends on what the meaning of “plan” is—in order to mislead people about something of that sort?

As I said in my earlier post, many of Romney’s misrepresentations at that debate succeeded either because he was using common words in a misleading way or because he was making representations of fact that the public lacks the expertise to recognize as false.

And two things the public does know is that you can’t get medical treatment for most illnesses, nor can you get standard diagnostic tests for most illnesses, at a hospital emergency room.  And that you do receive medical bills—sometimes ones that, for people who have no multimillion-dollar annual income from Bain Capital ties, may be prohibitive—from treatment in an emergency room or in, say, an operating room after arriving at an emergency room.

And a third thing the public knows is that some people who have no healthcare insurance do die prematurely because they failed to get a timely medical examination and resulting treatments because they had no access to them at all, or because they feared, say, the loss of their home because of the resulting bills.

So it’s terrific that since the Denver debate, Romney, as Paul Krugman details today, has said otherwise. 

It’s one thing to try to fool people about what you mean when you say, for example, that as president you won’t decrease the “share” of taxes paid by the wealthy.  As the last two weeks has shown, you can get away with that as long as you don’t explain that, by “share,” you mean the percentage of income of the taxpayer relative to the percentage of income of other taxpayers, not the amount or the proportion of tax revenues that one income bracket’s taxes will comprise.  Twenty percent of $40,000 is $8,000.  Twenty percent of $1 million is $200,000.  As in, a 20% across-the-board reduction in tax rates.

But it’s quite another thing to try to fool people about something that doesn’t depend upon what the meaning of “is” is, or on what the meaning of “plan” is, or on what the meaning of “share” is—and that they themselves actually know is false.  Just plain, flat-out false. 

But here’s betting that most of the public doesn’t know that Romney actually made the statements he’s made about the uninsureds’ access to healthcare.  They need to be informed of this.  They need to be informed of this.

And although most people will get it without an illustration, Obama should offer this illustration, nonetheless: Could Ann Romney really have learned of her breast cancer by showing up at an emergency room and requesting a mammogram?  Could she then have had the surgery and other, ongoing treatments?  And if so, would she not then have received a bill that, for her family, would amount to pocket change but to most families would amount to financial catastrophe?

And then he should offer this illustration: When Ann Romney began having the symptoms that lead to her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, could she have just shown up at the emergency room for a diagnosis?  And for the intensive, ongoing treatments for it that have put her illness into sufficient remission to enable her to speak day after day about her husband’s kindness and caring nature, and about his ability to “fix” things?

The importance of Romney’s recent healthcare-access claims goes well beyond the obvious.  Pointing just to those instances, Obama can illustrate this fundamental truth: Not only does Romney have a deep-seated disdain for ordinary people, but he views them as simply tools to be manipulated.  At an absolute minimum, this guy is the quintessential coward.

Yes, a coward.  His modusoperandi is that of a con artist.  And he’s doing this even about the most fundamental matters, such as preexisting medical-condition coverage. 

And, as Steven Rattner details in a New York Times op-ed piece today, about a veritable slewof other critical matters.

So I end with the quote with which I began, and with the reference to the person quoted: Joseph N. Welch:

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Obama could do worse tomorrow night than to use that quote.

Tags: , , , , , Comments (15) | |

Steven Rattner Misses the Point (Romney’s and Obama’s) – POSTSCRIPT ADDED 5/16*

Last February, in the lead-up to the all-important Michigan primary, Romney wrote an op-ed piece in the Detroit News titled “U.S. autos bailout ‘was crony capitalism on a grand scale’.”  The dual purpose of the piece was to defend the recommendation he made in a November 18, 2008 op-ed article in the New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” by saying falsely that GM and Chrysler did not need federal funds to proceed successfully through bankruptcy reorganization rather than having to liquidate, and to complain that the terms of the federally-financed bankruptcy outcome included an agreement by which the UAW received shares of stock in GM in exchange for the union’s assuming the company’s healthcare liability. 
In a rebuttal op-ed in the New York Times, Steven Rattner, the Obama administration’s auto taskforce chief advisor and himself a venture capitalist, deconstructed Romney’s claims, especially the statement that private capital was available to fund the reorganization process.  Rattner wrote:

In late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines.

I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms. If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.

So even though Rattner is a venture capitalist, I was a little surprised to read that he characterized a new Obama ad as unfair for targeting Romney’s work as a venture capitalist for Bain Capital by illustrating what that work actually entailed.  The ad, which responds to Romney’s claim to have created 100,000 jobs while at Bain, shows what happened at a Kansas City steel mill that Bain bought not for the purpose of creating jobs but for the purpose of shuttering it after Bain had made some money from it. 

Rattner said that the two candidates should not pretend that the purpose of venture capitalism is to create jobs.  Romney, he said, should not have claimed that he created 100,000 jobs while at Bain.  And Obama should not complain that Bain’s brand of venture capitalism often was to buy ongoing businesses, milk them quickly, and disassemble them in liquidation or for the value of their parts.

“Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for its investors,” Rattner is quoted as saying. “This is part of capitalism, this is part of life.  I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.”

Well, okay.  And the more common types of venture capitalism—of the funding-of-Silicon-Valley-or-biotech-start-up variety, for example—will, if all goes well, create profits for the investors and create jobs.  But that’s not the type of venture capitalist Romney was. 

Yet the entire premise of Romney’s campaign is that he’ll use his business acumen, demonstrated during his Bain years, to create jobs, not that he’ll use it to create profits for investors.  He’s running for president, not for chairman of the board of Goldman Sachs.  Which is why he says he created 100,000 jobs as head of Bain Capital.  And which is why Obama wants to show that, well, Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number; it was instead to create profits for its investors.  And that it created profits for its investors.  And exactly how it did that, and what the consequence was for the employees who were the collateral damage.  (“Like watching an old friend bleed to death,” one of the former steel mill employees says in the ad.)

Rattner’s right that it is indeed part of capitalism, part of life.  And Bain Capital may not have done anything it needs to be embarrassed about.  But Bain Capital is not running for president claiming that its purpose is to create jobs and that it knows how to have the economy create hundreds of thousands of jobs each month, when in fact its sole purpose is to make a profit for its investors and all it has demonstrated is that it can do that well and that job creation and job loss are irrelevant to its purpose and to the outcomes.  Romney, by contrast, is running for president claiming exactly that.  An ad by his opponent pointing out that, contrary to his incessant assertions, Romney’s work at Bain was disconnected from job creation in both purpose and result is not only fair but directly on point.  


*POSTSCRIPT: In the comments to this post, reader SW wrote:

Isn’t this completely obvious to everyone except those who are paid to confuse the issue?  Or who are incredibly stupid?

I responded:

I would think so, and for that reason I debated whether to write the post.  I decided to write it because I’ve been surprised that there has been almost no public discussion, best as I can tell, about the difference between the type of venture capitalism that helps startups or helps companies expand, and the type of venture capitalism—appropriately nicknamed vulture capitalism—that Romney practiced at Bain Capital.  For example, the prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists do not (to my knowledge) buy companies in order to strip them down or outright liquidate them. The key paragraph in my post is:

Well, okay.  And the more common types of venture capitalism—of the funding-of-Silicon-Valley-or-biotech-start-up variety, for example—will, if all goes well, create profits for the investors and create jobs.  But that’s not the type of venture capitalist Romney was. 

I’d love to see mainstream news outlets and the Obama campaign discuss this.  

Tags: , , , , , , , Comments (9) | |