The Second Coming of Ralph Reed
Ralph Reed is back. If you thought he had been effectively disgraced by his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal, Jo Becker of the New York Times says think again. She reports that Reed is now playing a prominent role in the Romney campaign, identifying evangelical voters and arranging for them to get to the polls. “At the Republican convention in Tampa,” Becker writes, “he was sought after by party luminaries and accorded the ultimate status accommodation, a room in the same hotel as Mitt Romney.” In case you have forgotten, Reed, painting himself as a pious evangelical and acting as head of the Christian Coalition, sold his services to the infamous Jack Abramoff, agreeing to con his followers into helping Abramoff ‘s Indian gambling clients thwart the efforts of other tribes to build rival casinos. If you want to see Reed’s smarmy persona effectively captured, be sure to see the movie, Casino Jack, in which Kevin Spacey plays Abramoff.
Why the first debate didn’t go so well
Here’s another explanation for Obama ‘s passivity in the first debate. During the day of the debate, cable networks were running a video supplied by the Daily Caller of a 2007 speech at which Obama had come across as close to the angry black man as he ever did. It really wasn’t all that close, but several commentators on Fox News tried to make it appear so. One of Obama’s principle fears has been appearing to be that angry black man—anyone who understands white America knows there’s good reason for that fear. So my guess is that he went into the debate resolved above all not to appear aggressive.
Mischief on Wall Street
The election will be in our rearview mirror two weeks or so after this new issue reaches you. Whichever candidate wins, and of course I pray it’s Barack Obama, we need to renew our vigilance on Wall Street. While the rest of us have been focused on the presidential race, the financial industry and its lobbyists have been busy trying to sabotage effective regulation. They have already succeeded in blocking an effort by SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro to regulate money-market funds. And if you even glance at the business section of the newspapers you will see warnings of more mischief, such as these two from the New York Times: “As U.S. Discusses Limits on High-Speed Trading, Other Nations Act” and “Behind Scenes, Some Lawmakers Push to Change the Volcker Rule.”
The Bain of my existence
The single tax return available to the public shows that Mitt Romney and his partners at Bain Capital claimed their management fees as capital gains, rather than earned income. This saved the partners more than $200 million in income tax and $20 million in Medicare tax. Victor Fleisher, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, is quoted in a story you may have missed because it was buried on page 14 of the New York Times: “If challenged in court, Bain would lose,” he said. “The Bain partners, in my opinion, misreported their income.”
What the 1 percent think they deserve
The self-pitying and irresponsible entitled come not from Romney’s 47 percent, but from the 1 percent at the top, contends the Washington Post ‘s Steven Pearlstein. He captures their mind-set in a recent column entitled “I Am a Job Creator: A Manifesto for the Entitled”:
I am a corporate chief executive I am the misunderstood superhero of American capitalism, single-handedly creating wealth and prosperity despite all of the obstacles put in my way by employees, government and the media I am entitled to a healthy and well-educated workforce, a modern and efficient transportation system and protection for my person and property, just as I am entitled to demonize government workers who provide them. I am entitled to complain bitterly about taxes that are always too high, even when they are at record lows. I am entitled to a judicial system that enforces contracts and legal obligations on customers, suppliers and employees but does not afford them the same right in return.
There’s a lot more to the column, all in a similar vein and all equally pointed. Read it.
The persecuted elite
The perfect companion to Pearlstein ‘s manifesto comes from Chrystia Freeland in the October 8 issue of the New Yorker. In her article, “Super-Rich Irony,” she explains why billionaires feel victimized by Obama. One, Anthony Scaramucci, told her, “The president has a philosophy of distain toward wealth creation.” It reminds me of how Franklin Roosevelt was treated by the very capitalists he was rescuing from the catastrophe of the Great Depression. In fact, Obama has expressed the deepest respect for entrepreneurs who create wealth by starting businesses that create useful products and other jobs that pay decent wages. Does Scaramucci expect Obama to express equal regard for those who make money merely for the sake of making money?
Leon Cooperman, who has come to be known as the pope of Wall Street’s anti-Obama crusade, says that what outraged him was a speech by Obama in which he said the wealthy are paying low taxes now and they’re going to have to pay a little bit more, only about as much as they paid under Bill Clinton, when they all did very well indeed. What’s outrageous about that?
The nightmare of every politician
If you have ever been a politician, as I was once, you will be haunted by Freeland’s description of another reason for Cooperman’s disenchantment with Obama. At a White House reception, Cooperman handed Obama a book of poetry written by his fourteen-year-old granddaughter, saying it was for Sasha and Malia. He was, of course, hoping that this gift would prompt a thank-you letter from the first daughters or the president himself. But no letter came. Finally, he complained to a mutual friend and the desired letter arrived from Michelle Obama, but it was too late. The nightmare of every politician is that the one door he didn’t knock on, the one phone call he didn’t make, or the one letter he didn’t write, will cost him the one vote that would have elected him.
One of the reasons behind the greed that has become such a depressing feature of American culture since the 1980s is that people have come to want so many different things that cost a lot of money. Students now need a truck or at least a large SUV to take what they think they need to college. The New York Times recently recommended some Bordeaux wines on the basis that they were a bargain at less than $50 a bottle. And the number of electronic devices that practically everyone seems to require these days appears almost limitless, not to mention the number of rooms people insist upon having in their houses.
Feed the Political AnimalDonate
Washington Monthly depends on donations from readers like you.