The Culture of Extraction; or, What Scares Me Most About Mitt Romney

I’ve made no secret that I believe Mitt Romney would be a disastrous President for a number of reasons: He would be completely regressive on the major social issues of our time, he thinks foreign policy largely consists of being belligerent and insulting other countries, he seems to completely lack empathy for other humans, I wouldn’t trust him in a crisis, and his inability or unwillingness to release any specifics of his tax plans or his own tax returns suggests a mendacious prevaricator who will say anything to get elected and then enact an agenda that could easily have little to nothing to do with anything he’s campaigned on.

The one thing that seems to be rarely discussed these days is just what that agenda might be, economically.

Based on Mitt Romney’s track record, I am of the belief that there’s a strong chance he uses America as a big cash windfall for himself via large tax cuts for the rich, and will leave behind a country with a hopelessly out of balance ledger and no chance of recovery. And we as a country, we the people, simply can’t afford that.

* * *

There are two things I’ve heard recently that I think aptly summarize one of the biggest problems in America. I can’t find citations for them, so I’m paraphrasing:

“A country is in its last days when its economy develops a culture of extraction.”
“Great capitalist nations encourage all of their citizens to amass wealth. America encourages its citizens to amass debt.”

America, in a process that gained steam during the Baby Bush administration but really has been in planning for over thirty years, has been increasingly falling prey to the extraction culture. From bankers who make extremely risky investments to run up their balances based on imaginary holdings, knowing that in the worst case scenario, they’ll get a bailout or pay a pittance of a fine; to the lenders who offer mortgages to people who shouldn’t have them, just to chain them down with debt while they lie about the value of those credit holdings and sell them for much more than they’re worth; to fly-by-night for-profit online universities and other dubious “institutions of higher education” that exist mostly to get their suckers students to take out massive student loan debt and dump that money to them, America is plagued by entire industries that exist solely to extract money from the system without providing any meaningful good or service.

Bain Capital was part of that industry. Mitt Romney made much of his fortune through Bain, buying up companies, borrowing tons of money against their equity and loading those companies with debt, using that money to pay out Bain executives, and then leaving the companies with no choice but to lay off workers, shutter doors, or go into bankruptcy to get out from under that mountain of debt. He bought companies not to help them become functioning businesses, but to use as assets to drain of their equity, human cost be damned.

If Mitt Romney is elected President, that’s what he’ll do to America. Hell, the few things he’s already admitted he will do if elected are enough to see to that: A tax cut for the rich combined with an unrequested increase in military spending is basically a means of dumping America’s cash to the already-rich-and-powerful. America’s infrastructure is already lagging, and the country needs to invest in sustainable-energy technology and similar things with an eye on the long term future, and Mitt Romney has already made it clear that his biggest priority is making sure America doesn’t have the resources to do so by giving trillions back to himself and other people like him– and yet, according to him, you, the 47 percent, are the drain on them.

I think it’s safe to say that most ordinary Americans want a functioning economy and society. At the end of the day, they don’t mind not being rich, as long as they are fairly compensated for their work and have enough to provide for their families without worry, they’ll be happy.  And they’re happy to participate in that society that provides the infrastructure for them do so and they’re happy to give back to it.

But Romney and his ilk are not like that: They don’t really belong to society; they’re a new breed of rich, who use their wealth to insulate them from real consequences and avoid contributing to anyone else:

If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?

That’s what’s so truly disturbing about the new culture of the mega-rich like Romney: They don’t care if society functions as it should. They don’t care about the wreckage they leave behind. Their money is enough to insulate them from the consequences of their actions, and, of course, their actions are in pursuit of more money, which further insulates them from the consequences and allows them to continue to disconnect from society and go around finding new ways to raid companies and governments for money.

Truthfully, it may be too late for America already– we may be at the point where no one is willing to take the drastic action required to restore balance to America’s finances and make the game fair for the working man again. Barack Obama’s decision to surround himself with Goldman Sachs types as financial advisers is a big indication he’s not going to get it done. But even if President Obama has been disappointing on this front, the difference is still between a guy who’s trying to keep the boat steady (even if it can’t be done) versus a guy who’s going to actively ram it into the iceberg.

Beyond all the social issues (on which Obama is a slam-dunk better choice than Romney, who is for the continued oppression of women, homosexuals, and minorities), beyond foreign policy (on which Romney is a belligerent, bellicose saber-rattler, as though he believes going abroad and behaving with an eight-year-old’s understanding of American superiority constitutes foreign policy), the economic issues loom large, and the truth is, even if President Obama’s stimulus hasn’t created recover as fast as he’d hoped, as fast as we’d hoped, at least he’s honestly trying to repair the economy. Mitt Romney sees an opportunity for a bunch of suckers to hand him the keys to a trillion-dollar business and a license to drain it of money before he’s out of office. Don’t give it to him.

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2 responses to “The Culture of Extraction; or, What Scares Me Most About Mitt Romney

  1. I read posts such as yours and always wonder if we even live on the same planet. I’m a conservative who often attempts to enlist liberals and such as discussion partners in a common pursuit of the truth and yet, to date, with very little success.

    I’m wondering why it is that liberals seem unable to consider any alternative points of view and thus I thought I’d see what you had to offer.

    We have a Commander in Chief who ignored pleas for help and left his subordinates to die with still no sign of remorse, This hardly suggests any real empathy for the so-called masses of the society.

    You suggest Mr. Romney would be “completely regressive on social issues” while providing little evidence in support of your position, not to mention, once again, one can’t get much more regressive than leaving your people to die.

    You point to his lack of specifics on tax policy, as well as his returns, and yet you ignore the fact that Obama and his cohorts in Congress have been unable to even pass a budget. Obama’s proposals have been so ridiculous that even the Democrats can’t bring themselves to support them.

    And that’s just from your first paragraph or two…………

    • “I read posts such as yours and always wonder if we even live on the same planet.”

      I often wonder the same thing when I talk to Republicans.

      “I’m a conservative who often attempts to enlist liberals and such as discussion partners in a common pursuit of the truth and yet, to date, with very little success.

      I’m wondering why it is that liberals seem unable to consider any alternative points of view and thus I thought I’d see what you had to offer.”

      If you’re serious about engaging people in “a common pursuit of the truth”, you would do well to not start by labeling them and insulting their intelligence and ability to perceive reality.

      “We have a Commander in Chief who ignored pleas for help and left his subordinates to die with still no sign of remorse, This hardly suggests any real empathy for the so-called masses of the society. ”

      This is an interesting spin. You guys are still trying to hang everything on Benghazi, huh? He “ignored pleas for help and left subordinates to die”? Speaking of providing evidence, where’s yours that this is how it happened?

      For that matter, where is your evidence that the Republicans would actually be better at keeping our embassies safe? George W. Bush sure as hell wasn’t: http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/09/14/krauthammer-whitewashes-bushs-history-to-bash-o/189890

      “You suggest Mr. Romney would be “completely regressive on social issues” while providing little evidence in support of your position”

      I don’t need to provide evidence. The evidence is widely available just based on Mitt’s public statements. Unless he very recently reversed his public stances on abortion rights, gay marriage, health reform, medical marijuana, the War on Drugs, the social safety net for “the 47%”, equal pay for women, climate change, and the importance of the national infrastructure, and didn’t tell anyone but you, then I don’t need to provide evidence.

      “You point to his lack of specifics on tax policy, as well as his returns, and yet you ignore the fact that Obama and his cohorts in Congress have been unable to even pass a budget.”

      This post isn’t called “My opinion on the President’s dealings with Congress.” I “completely ignored it” because it’s non-topical. I assume by your diversion here that you can’t actually defend Mitt’s not releasing his tax returns, or the fact that his tax-plan math totally doesn’t add up, or you would have. By the way, the reason President Obama has been unable to pass a budget is because Congressional Republicans are constantly obstructing him, because– and they have said this publicly– their top priority, even over fixing the economy or any of our other problems, is defeating the President. That fact alone should be enough to convince everyone to never vote Republican again.

      I notice that, despite your condescending tone, you have provided zero evidence to suggest Mitt Romney is not what I say he is. Your strategy, as is popular with conservatives who want to deflect from the awful shit they’re doing, is to trump up something the other guy did and try to create a moral equivalency. Instead of Obama-bashing, why don’t you try convincing me that Mitt will be good for the economy, that he’ll be good for social policy, for foreign policy, for environmental policy? If you want to seek the truth, why don’t you seek it about HIM and tell me what you find?

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