Ben Franklin and Thos Jefferson v. Grover Norquist and Joe the Plumber July 9, 2012July 10, 2012 If we hire Mitt Romney to run the world, the world will likely have a depression — which will make our deficit worse, by the way. Even if he knows better (and I have to think he does), Mr. Romney is by now so wedded to the Tea Party’s opposition to taxes and to the devastating Paul Ryan “austerity” budget that he will find himself out-Hoovering Hoover. He will be slamming on the brakes exactly when a teetering economy needs him to invest massively in infrastructure: employing millions to make our country more efficient, prosperous, and secure. FDR invested massively, of necessity, to win the War. We need to do it — building solar panels instead of bombs, rebuilding bridges instead of storming beaches — to move people off unemployment back into the middle class. A world depression would likely lead to wars, new brands of fascism (look at Greece), and who knows what else? But we can avoid one if we don’t do crazy self-destructive things like manufacturing a debt ceiling crisis or throwing ourselves into reverse when we should be moving forward. All because we’ve decided that taxes are a horribe, tyrannical, communist thing. And it is in that broad context that I offer today’s two items: WHAT DOES THE TEA PARTY MAKE OF BEN FRANKLIN? It was Ben who wrote: All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it. Benjamin Franklin, letter to Robert Morris, December 25, 1783 And what does the Tea Party make of Thomas Jefferson? He wrote: I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. “Bunch of commies,” concludes David Atkins wryly, after quoting Thomas Paine and James Madison as well. Thursday, I posted Mike Martin’s comment (which I like so much, I’m posting it again): Mike Martin: “You should not have stopped your quote from the Declaration of Independence where you did; the very next clause reads: ‘That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ The Declaration of Independence was not just a fundamental statement of human rights, but a statement that democratic government is fundamental to those rights. The importance of this seems lost on Republicans, who preach that government is the impediment to freedom. One of the major leaders of the Republican party has repeatedly stated his goal is to drown the United States government in a bathtub. The Republicans trumpet their anti-tax message cloaked in ‘Tea Party’ garb as if the Boston Tea Party was a tax protest. Read the history: the British government had just LOWERED the tax on tea when the protest occurred. The issue was not the tax requirement, it was that only licensed tea merchants could sell tea, which undercut both John Hancock’s commercial empire and the widespread smuggling of tea. But perhaps more importantly, after the American Revolution they formed a government without a strong power to tax. After the Shay anti-tax rebellion, George Washington and others held the Constitutional Congress with the Shay’s rebellion as the clarion call for a stronger central government. In other words, the United States of America, the government formed under the U.S. Constitution, was formed precisely to COUNTER an anti-tax rebellion. So the existing Republican Party forms its foundation on opposition to the United States of America and its Constitution: they regularly claim that government is the enemy of the people … ” I then invited others of you to correct Mike’s history if he got it wrong, but so far none of you has. Perhaps thinking some of you might try, Mike followed up over the weekend with this: Mike Martin: “There were calls to create a constitution before Shays’ anti-tax rebellion, but the rebellion played a crucial role in overcoming inertia. In particular, Shays’ rebellion was cited as the reason George Washington came out of retirement and supported the Constitutional Convention, which obviously played a crucial role in legitimizing the convention as well as giving his imprimatur against a tax revolt: (see: here and here). And here: Shays’ Rebellion became a recurring example in the debates among framers of the Constitution, encouraging some to favor the ‘Virginia plan’ (which called for an unprecedented and powerful central government) over the alternative ‘New Jersey plan’ (which seemed too favorable to state sovereignty). ‘The rebellion in Massachusetts is a warning, gentlemen,’ cautioned James Madison, proponent of the Virginia plan. “Thus the creation of the United States as it is today, with a strong central government, was precisely because the Shays’ anti-tax rebellion influenced the Constitutional Convention away from the weak New Jersey plan in favor of the stronger Virginia plan which Madison specifically advocated using the Shays’ rebellion as ‘a warning, gentlemen’ of the need for a strong central government.” HERBERT HOOVER, LIKE MITT, WAS A GREAT BUSINESSMAN Thankfully, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is back from vacation: Off and Out With Mitt Romney By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: July 5, 2012 In a better America, Mitt Romney would be running for president on the strength of his major achievement as governor of Massachusetts: a health reform that was identical in all important respects to the health reform enacted by President Obama. By the way, the Massachusetts reform is working pretty well and has overwhelming popular support. In reality, however, Mr. Romney is doing no such thing, bitterly denouncing the Supreme Court for upholding the constitutionality of his own health care plan. His case for becoming president relies, instead, on his claim that, having been a successful businessman, he knows how to create jobs. This, in turn, means that however much the Romney campaign may wish otherwise, the nature of that business career is fair game. How did Mr. Romney make all that money? Was it in ways suggesting that what was good for Bain Capital, the private equity firm that made him rich, would also be good for America? And the answer is no. The truth is that even if Mr. Romney had been a classic captain of industry, a present-day Andrew Carnegie, his career wouldn’t have prepared him to manage the economy. A country is not a company (despite globalization, America still sells 86 percent of what it makes to itself), and the tools of macroeconomic policy — interest rates, tax rates, spending programs — have no counterparts on a corporate organization chart. Did I mention that Herbert Hoover actually was a great businessman in the classic mold? In any case, however, Mr. Romney wasn’t that kind of businessman. Bain didn’t build businesses; it bought and sold them. Sometimes its takeovers led to new hiring; often they led to layoffs, wage cuts and lost benefits. On some occasions, Bain made a profit even as its takeover target was driven out of business. None of this sounds like the kind of record that should reassure American workers looking for an economic savior. And then there’s the business about outsourcing. Two weeks ago, The Washington Post reported that Bain had invested in companies whose specialty was helping other companies move jobs overseas. The Romney campaign went ballistic, demanding — unsuccessfully — that The Post retract the report on the basis of an unconvincing “fact sheet” consisting largely of executive testimonials. What was more interesting was the campaign’s insistence that The Post had misled readers by failing to distinguish between “offshoring” — moving jobs abroad — and “outsourcing,” which simply means having an external contractor perform services that could have been performed in-house. Now, if the Romney campaign really believed in its own alleged free-market principles, it would have defended the right of corporations to do whatever maximizes their profits, even if that means shipping jobs overseas. Instead, however, the campaign effectively conceded that offshoring is bad but insisted that outsourcing is O.K. as long as the contractor is another American firm. That is, however, a very dubious assertion. Consider one of Mr. Romney’s most famous remarks: “Corporations are people, my friend.” When the audience jeered, he elaborated: “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets.” This is undoubtedly true, once you take into account the pockets of, say, partners at Bain Capital (who, I hasten to add, are, indeed, people). But one of the main points of outsourcing is to ensure that as little as possible of what corporations earn goes into the pockets of the people who actually work for those corporations. Why, for example, do many large companies now outsource cleaning and security to outside contractors? Surely the answer is, in large part, that outside contractors can hire cheap labor that isn’t represented by the union and can’t participate in the company health and retirement plans. And, sure enough, recent academic research finds that outsourced janitors and guards receive substantially lower wages and worse benefits than their in-house counterparts. Just to be clear, outsourcing is only one source of the huge disconnect between a tiny elite and ordinary American workers, a disconnect that has been growing for more than 30 years. And Bain, in turn, was only one player in the growth of outsourcing. So Mitt Romney didn’t personally, single-handedly, destroy the middle-class society we used to have. He was, however, an enthusiastic and very well remunerated participant in the process of destruction; if Bain got involved with your company, one way or another, the odds were pretty good that even if your job survived you ended up with lower pay and diminished benefits. In short, what was good for Bain Capital definitely wasn’t good for America. And, as I said at the beginning, the Obama campaign has every right to point that out.