Personal Finance

Romney, It’s an Inauguration, not a Coronation

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Can’t you just feel the temperature rising? Feel the rush of adrenalin as the political gladiators enter the arena and begin to slash each other to pieces. Doesn’t it feel a bit like Spartacus, but with suits replacing loincloths? (Think blood-stained Starz Sparacus, not the more refined Kirk Douglas one.)

The GOP presidential primary campaign is becoming more strident and colorful lately—especially as the debates are getting almost more TV airtime then reruns of Law & Order, just not on the same channels…. yet.

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Aside from the theatrical and entertainment value of these political smackdowns (which seem a bit more like Thatcher and the backbenchers in Commons than the Lincoln-Douglas debates), a focused and patient listener might actually get to know something about the candidates by the time a real vote needs to be cast in November.

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Of course, in addition to focus and patience, a debate watcher needs to have at least one other skill: the ability to, as JFK put it, separate the reality from the appearance of reality. All these guys are, to some extent, playing to what they see as the base of the Republican Party, which is the party’s right wing, and which is the extreme right wing of the electorate as a whole. A year or so ago, on his weekly show on HBO, Bill Maher remarked that it is impossible to meet the GOP in the middle these days because they are “so far to the extreme right” the middle is somewhere east of Mongolia. So if you are to make an intelligent judgment about whose lever to pull (or chad to punch) in November, you need to be able to tell the difference between principle and prevarication (that’s so Romney, yes?).

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In the November election you will be able to vote for only one of the people at the podia, and that person for the moment appears to be front runner Mitt Romney. Given the unusual circumstances of the American economy and our position in the world today, the election of 2012 will doubtless be critically important to your financial future, that of your children, and the direction of this nation for quite a long time to come. For our purposes, your political affiliation and/or your ideological orientation doesn’t matter—what is relevant, however, is where Governor Romney actually stands, and what his election may mean to the fortunes and prospects of the American consumer.

As his fellow harpies dial-up the intensity and frequency of their attacks, there is a lot to be disregarded. Frankly, there is also a lot to be disregarded as Romney himself espouses his ever-evolving (wasn’t I nice?) themes and philosophy. But here are some thoughts as to how one might navigate the avalanche of platitudes and brickbats of the current political campaign.

First, forget about the fact that he’s a wealthy guy. None of the candidates is hurting for cash. And don’t hate Mitt for spending a sum on a vacation that exceeds all of your retirement savings, but don’t be impressed by it either. This is America after all.

And, of course, there is no need to take seriously either the flip or the flop on that large number of issues where the Great Equivocator seems to have—er—equivocated. Consistency, foolish or otherwise, is not a characteristic that can be ascribed to any presidential candidate.  And finally, the fact that Bain Capital sometimes looted companies and killed jobs is not remarkable. Nor is the fact that Bain Capital sometimes created jobs. This is capitalism and all of the literally thousands of enterprises that call themselves private equity or hedge funds did exactly the same thing—perhaps on occasion with less voraciousness and enthusiasm—but also, for the most part, less successfully. What is notable about Mr. Romney’s association with Bain is what you can perhaps glean about his worldview.  More on that later.

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Here’s what we do know (cont.) »

Image: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

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