By Thom Ammirato
The expected war on capitalism in the presidential election has begun, but the first shots fired were on an unexpected battlefield: The Republican Primary landscape.
The Super Pac that created the film King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town – a propaganda movie meant to tear down Mitt Romney and bolster Newt Gingrich — is ugly in its accusations but serves the GOP as an early warning device for the expected nuclear attacks on capitalism from Populist Obama.
The claim in the Bain film where Romney is tagged as “vulture capitalist” has been grasped by the left to support their mantra of more regulation, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more “income fairness.”
It is ironic that the first fruit born by the super PACs created after the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United — that alarmed the left by giving corporations a voice in politics — should be thrown against capitalism itself by the party that supports capitalism.
To his credit Gingrich asked that the error-filled film be corrected or pulled; but the damage has been done – and perhaps that is a blessing for the eventual Republican nominee.
The central point of the film is that Wall Street venture capitalist helped de-industrialize America, killing good paying jobs by dismantling companies and making unseemly profits for investors such as Romney. While there a lot of anger to be mined by blasting Wall Street investment firms — a lot of it is based on perception, not truth. When The New York Times went to investigate one of the Bain movie allegations in a South Carolina town that was allegedly ravaged by the company’s greed, no one in town could recall the photo scrapbook company that Bain allegedly destroyed. No one cared.
The reality that the Wall Street haters do want to embrace is that that America’s de-industrialization began decades ago – and that is a point that Republicans need to remember and to teach.
Ross Douthat a New York Times columnist and former editor at The Atlantic magazine, wrote recently that Americans enjoyed and unprecedented industrial growth following World War II because Europe and Japan were in shambles after the war. China was cramped by its communist tunic. In the post war decades there was nothing but an open field for American industry, which proved its seemingly unstoppable power during the war. After making tanks, guns and combat fatigues, American industry was liberated to churn out washing machines, cars and refrigerators — an endless array of consumer goods — that were affordable to the burgeoning middle class. That middle class was growing on good-paying manufacturing jobs. As corporations grew so did salaries and benefits wrestled for at the collective bargaining table.
With a lack of international competition, a succession of American administrations saw no problem with levying hefty taxes on American corporations. Taxes were followed by regulation, then more regulation in the form of environmental edicts — created after scandals of corporate pollution.
Soon there was more paperwork and personnel energy required to discard a can of paint than in making one. Burdensome regulation coupled with high labor costs made American companies less competitive in a growing global market place. Union obstacles made innovation harder to implement and American product quality started to decline. No industry better exemplifies that than the U.S. auto industry, which turned out junk that few people wanted to buy.
If this year’s presidential election is going put capitalism on trial, then the Republicans must present the full record of America’s industrial decline. The GOP must make the American left take responsibility for its role in the nation’s regressing middle class. Good paying manufacturing jobs started to leave the U.S. long before venture capitalists came on the scene.
The left’s pie-in-the sky dreams that every American would put down a wrench or a shovel and pick up computer has dogged the middle class for decades. The starry-eyed environmental radicals long ago targeted industries that provided good paying blue collar jobs. Manufacturing was dubbed “dirty” and passé. State and federal work rules and cleanup standards became impossible hurdles to overcome. The left – -the so called champions of the “working man” — refused to recognize they were killing industries that provided non-college educated men and women with a sustainable wage. The good living for a family of four that was earned by a skilled truck mechanic or auto body shop technician or a manufacturing press operator – making $40, $50 of $60 an hour with benefits– started to disappear under a blizzard of regulation and industrial policies.
Eminent domain abuse throughout the nation became a weapon by the new urban planners to wipe out old industrial areas and replace them with copy cat mixed used developments that included space for low paying service jobs. Try raising a family on a barista’s salary of $7.39 to $10.49 an hour.
To be sure, Wall Streeters were greedy and corporate CEO’s were short sighted. But it was a lethal dose of leftist naiveté and environmental utopianism – along with Asian economic growth — that made doing business in American unprofitable.
Obama’s show trial against capitalism will undoubtedly produce more sappy and misleading television commercials and testimonials to the “greed” of the free market economy. Obviously, Obama has learned nothing from the economic lessons of Europe which is crumbling under the weight of its socialist economies.
In his nauseating rhetorical book Change we Can Believe In, Obama pontificates on the state of the economy in 2008, noting that : The sad truth is that we did not arrive at the current economic emergency by some accident of history. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle. It was the unavoidable conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that dominated Washington for far too long.
Mr. Obama is right. But his perspective is skewed and his backward vision is obscured by the government regulation he so admires and wants to extend. The Republicans must challenge Obama’s rhetoric with a history of facts and solutions to the president’s unreachable social economy that taxes success and breed mediocrity.