Monday, May 14, 2012

Easy Pickings

Barack Obama taking on Mitt Romney's abysmal job creation record is a little like critiquing Stalin's abysmal human rights record:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is casting Mitt Romney as a greedy, job-killing corporate titan with little concern for the working class in a new, multi-pronged effort that seeks to undermine the central rationale for his Republican rival's candidacy: his business credentials.

At the center of the push — the president's most forceful attempt yet to sully Romney before the November election — is a biting new TV ad airing Monday that recounts through interviews with former workers the restructuring, and ultimate demise, of a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill under the Republican's private equity firm.

"They made as much money off of it as they could. And they closed it down," says Joe Soptic, a steelworker for 30 years. Jack Cobb, who also worked in the industry for three decades, adds: "It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us."

The ad, at the unusual length of 2 minutes, will run in five battleground states: Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado. The campaign declined to describe the size of the ad buy though it's in the middle of running a $25 million, month-long ad campaign in nine states. A longer version of the ad was being posted online Monday.

What President Obama can do that numbers don't is put a human face on the suffering that Romney and Bain Capital created. Following a decade of weak job growth since the dotcom bubble burst, Obama can neatly tie vulture capitalists to the job insecurity that plagues the United States working classes.

It's this simple: there once was a mutual loyalty betwixt an employer and an employee: it was for life, or at least as much of life as could possibly exist. Spending 25, 30, 40 or even 50 years working for the same company was not unusual, and neither were retirement parties where the worker's longevity was celebrated with a gold watch and a nice pension.

Factories didn't shut down and jobs didn't move to China. People belonged to unions which protected them from this kind of economic servitude, a job that was constantly under threat. People were fired only for cause and not because they were caught up in a market contraction.

In return, people put in a 40 hour week and if there was more work than could be done in that time, another hand was hired, because it was cheaper than paying double overtime.

Quality products were manufactured. We made things that were inexpensive but not cheap.

You could point to any number of things that contributed to the loss of these opportunities: automation, the expansion of the workforce over the decades, the exploitation of economic inefficiencies, or most likely, the combination of all three.

Worse, if Bain and Romney didn't do it, someone else would have, and in a heartbeat. Thing is, none of them is running for President, and if we want to send a message, if the electorate really wants to show its frustration at people who skim the cream of profits off a company before making it deal with less than 80% of its income in order to manage its future, this is that chance.

No one in America...well, very few of us...want to deny anyone the opportunity to make money, even to make as much money as they can. There are limits, however, something a radical capitalist would turn blue in the face trying to deny.

Taking capitalism to its extremes, we would find the most efficient organizations would make nothing and earn as pure a profit as they can.

We call those "investment banks." And in truth, this is where capitalism and democracy have their toughest battles, for democracy is about equal opportunity and the corporatocracy is about protecting opportunity for those who already have it.

And ain't that the story of America in a nutshell? From the Revolutionary War, where only wealthy land-owners had a say in governance, through the civil rights movement, which finally broke two hundred year old ceilings on opportunities, and to today, where the corporatocracy is reforming in bribery and graft-like political activism, America has paid lip service to equality in favor of restoring an aristocratic rule.

That has to change for this nation to have any chance to survive. If President Obama can make this case, that change is inevitable and that we must be that change we seek (and not just sloganeer it, as seemed to be the case in 2008) then we can start down the road of altering our futures for the better.

I do not envy those who are just leaving the cocoon of family and school and staking their claims to the world. You have a lifetime of hard work ahead of you, and if you've been smart, you've paid attention to the news and to events around you.

The one gift that President Obama may have given this nation that may be beyond measure was the activation of the political instincts of an entire generation of kids who might merely have grown into unintentionally ironic hipsters, poised merely to comment and not commence.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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