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Friday, June 1, 2012

Capitalist Businessman vs. Community Organizer


By saying that the President is attacking free enterprise because he points out the difference between Romney working to create profits for Bain Capital and certain stockholders, as opposed to being the President of the United States (who must work on behalf of all the people; who must provide equal justice, fairness, and rules that apply to all citizens), Romney sets up an obvious question.  Do you mean, Mr. Romney, because of your tenure at Bain Capital, that as President you would work on behalf of a few citizens to increase their profits? work to make the economy more profitable for certain groups?  work to destroy any rules and regulations that level the playing field, so that certain of your constituency will profit from government policy and procedures?  Is that what we can expect from you based on your “business experience”?

It is difficult to know how Romney’s experience at Bain Capital has any valid relationship to operating a government since capitalism and free enterprise require quite different principles and skills, that often stand in opposition to each other.  For instance, in capitalism, advantage is prized above fairness; connections and favors above relationships; competition is far more invasive and prized than is cooperation or compromise; profit-making is the ultimate goal, prized far above a sharing of revenue, equitable distribution of wealth, or a philanthropy born out of gratefulness, such as a safety net for the poor;  producing stock dividends for a privileged few able to hold a substantial portion of the company’s stock is the mission, not an equitable pay-out for the broad spectrum of non-owners like workers and consumers. 

Overall, Capitalism is not democracy; in fact, it is more dictatorial and oligarchic than democratic, operating on a top-down model, not on an electoral, people’s will, model.  Free enterprise is not based on broad legislative guidance as representative democracy is -- it is based on the guidance of a relatively few “officers’ and board members, and shareholders, most of whom share a certain ethos and ideology.

It seems fair to say, then, that Mr. Romney’s skill set is lacking fundamental components that are necessary for governing; for executing the laws on a broad basis to the advantage of the many, not the few.  So, let us count what he is missing:

-- an ability to guide the ship-of-state through good times and bad by persuasion and vision, rather than “command & control” (over-hauling and firing and reducing the work force);

-- an ability to lead others to a position or a point of acceptance rather than monetarily rewarding those who agree, and firing those who do not;

-- an ability to take a long-term view and to propose solutions to problems that may take several years to complete as opposed to short-term directives and actions, such as moving a company overseas instead of finding ways to keep that company on our own soil;

-- an ability to seek consensus, as opposed to bringing solutions to the table that exclude many while benefiting a few and that are not put forth for consensus but for compliance;

-- an ability to settle for a piece of the pie, rather than imposing a solution that seeks to steal the whole pie;

-- an ability to work with a Congress that is an independent body with its own rules and ideas and which can override a President’s cherished ideas.  A Board of Directors, chosen for their similar beliefs and approaches, and not elected by a broad constituency, are not anywhere near the same as an independent Congress (although a bought Congress is something else to consider);

-- an ability to lead a group of agencies and departments to carry out one’s cherished ideas and policies rather than telling underlings what to do and what to carry out;  if Romney is ever elected, I can’t wait to see the results of his top-down Executive Orders, such as repealing Obamacare.

-- an ability to work closely with unions and the Civil Service in order to ensure positive results that must be accomplished by the federal workforce, not by a bunch of people hired to obey the CEO’s every order.

--  an ability not to deceive, mislead, convince by half-truths, deceptions and outright lies; perhaps this is part of a skill set that enables capitalists to hide their motives, keep secrets, or denigrate their rivals.  It certainly seems to pervade the capitalists at equity firms and banks, and big oil.  In government, one’s constituency expects transparency, honesty, integrity, stability, pragmatism, and common sense.  A President, unlike a CEO, must answer to the people for violations of their trust.

Mr. Romney‘s business experience has not prepared him for the presidency; it has, instead, simply prepared him for another capitalistic CEO position.  The two are not the same; nor are they truly compatible.  I would much rather have a “community organizer” in the White House with his skill set, than have an equity capitalist there vainly trying to make government work like a Bain Capital business.

In his book, Community Organizing by Training, Phil Bartle, PhD, asks us to remember the principles that are the parameters of organizing: “they include democracy, participation, empowerment, gender balance, involvement of the marginalized, transparency, honesty, preventing disease, sustainability, self reliance, partnerships, fairness, poverty elimination, the greater good for all, development.”

These are not necessarily the principles adhered to by a company such as Bain Capital, and certainly not by its CEO.   Take “involvement of the “marginalized”, for instance.  Is Romney prepared to involve persons on the margins of our society, instead of cutting off their Medicaid, food stamps and housing programs?  Is he even prepared to seek their input and opinions, or to give them a ’say’ in the policies and programs developed by our “representative” government?   How about gender balance?  Is support for the Lily Ledbetter Act and an ERA in Romney’s repertoire?  How about the Violence Against Women Act -- does Romney agree with his Republican colleagues that this should be watered-down instead of strengthened?  Of course he does.  How about preventive measures like contraception services, or mammograms and all other women’s issues in health care?  Is he planning to fight for women’s rights in that area, or is the elimination of the Affordable Care Act his primary goal?

In stark contrast to Mr. Romney’s skill set, a community organizer has had occasion to learn a plethora of skills that fit well with the presidency, some of which include:

-- the understanding that broad input must be gathered from those involved and affected in order to reach equitable decisions that will affect many lives;

-- the understanding that one cannot always obtain the broadest goal, but must take concrete steps to achieve that goal or policy or program over time;

-- the understanding that opposing entities cannot always be looked upon as the enemy, but must be treated with respect, must be won over if possible, must be seen as a possible ally, must be coaxed, stroked and stoked; strong opposition must only occur where it serves as a catalyst or an awakener, especially of the general public.

-- the understanding that people want two things, basically: to be seen as a unique individual and as part of something greater than themselves

--the understanding that what works for organizations is person-to-person, one-on-one, contact

--the understanding that listening to others is a large part of the job

--the understanding that people like to be appreciated, not just rewarded monetarily; people want to know that their presence matters

--leaders think about the whole group (America) and what it needs

--the understanding that all individuals share common values, a shared responsibility for one another, and a mutual interdependence (there is no “us and them” or “our side and their side”)

--the understanding that problems get solved when people are given power to solve them; not when they are disenfranchised or ignored or told what to do by a few experts.
So, if you want a President with the understandings and principles of a community organizer, President Obama is your man!  He has already demonstrated many of these qualities, and will continue to do so, in contrast to the principles and ideology of a capitalist like Romney, who doesn’t have a clue about most of the principles just mentioned.

Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, posted some words on 05/22/2012  that can serve as our conclusion for today:

“Obama supporters are seething and the RNC is dancing with delight in the aftermath of Newark Mayor Cory Booker's nonsensical comparison of ads exposing Mitt Romney's real record on job creation with racially tinged attacks on Barack Obama's former pastor.

The RNC thinks that it caught the Dems with their pants down, inadvertently admitting that Romney's work at Bain Capital should be off limits. But the indisputable fact is that Romney's experience at Bain is completely fair game -- Romney himself made that choice when he decided to present it as his chief qualification for the presidency. In fact, it's beyond fair game: if this election is truly about jobs and the economy, then Bain is one of the only games in town.

Romney, attempting to shed his record as Massachusetts governor as fast as he can, has chosen to run almost exclusively on his record as a "job creator" at Bain. Pay no attention to the governor behind the curtain, whose state ranked 47th of 50 states in job creation during his term! In the process, he's mixed up some of his "job creation" numbers and cherry-picked the facts he's chosen to tell the American people. Romney keeps telling us his side of the Bain story. But are we to completely ignore the very real stories of factories shut down and American jobs lost? Let's hear all sides of the story. Isn't that what elections are all about?

And let's also have an honest conversation about whether or not Romney's success in making money for investors through his position at Bain qualifies him to be president. Venture capital and private equity have a role to play in our economy. But making money for investors doesn't mean that you know how to make the economy work for all Americans. As President Obama pointed out yesterday, the goal of a private equity firm is to create wealth, not jobs -- most often, to make as much money as possible for a few investors. The goal of a president needs to be an economy that works for everybody. That's a critical difference.

Both candidates agree that this election is about the fundamental direction that our country will take for the next four years. We should embrace this. How about this simple concept: Let's have that full debate about all aspects of the relevant experience of both candidates and let the voters decide.”