When was it that the primary goal of our economy became making people who were already wealthy even wealthier?
We live in a time when taxes of the very wealthiest among us are at an historic low, and budget deficits are at all-time highs, yet conservatives battle like demons to keep even the tiniest tax increases from being passed by Congress. Indeed, Republicans running for president refused to agree to even one dollar in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts.
For more than thirty years, Republicans from Reagan to the Bushes to the current crop of candidates have been attacking the role of government in our society. They have turned dozens of government functions into ways for rich campaign contributors to get even richer.
Maybe the worst part of all the changes we have been put through is that we have gotten rid of most of our manufacturing jobs — the folks who actually made things — and have replaced them with an entirely new category of jobs where people make massive amountsd of money simply by moving money around.
In his brilliant “Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe’s main character, banker Sherman McCoy, describes his job as not the person who bakes the cake, not the person who buys the cake, but instead a person who puts together the deal by getting the baker and the buyer together. His compensation is nothing more than a few crumbs that fall off the cake.
Of course, those crumbs add up.
Of all the “moving money around” jobs, there is one particular type of job that I’ve always thought was the most evil. Call them “corporate raiders” or whatever you want; they’re the ones who come in and buy up companies, sell off their best assets, lay off workers and then sell the shells and walk away with big profits. Lots of working class and middle class people lose their jobs. A few rich people make massive profits.
This year, one of the men who wants to be president is one of those corporate raiders. Mitt Romney, whose government experience is limited to four years as governor of Massachusetts, has worked for much of his career as one of the biggest corporate raiders of all. He has amassed a personal fortune estimated at $264 million, without ever working for a company that actually made anything.
There has been a lot of talk in the last year or so about the 1 percent and the 99 percent. And while government has been slanted toward favoring the wealthy ever since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, it has been getting sillier and sillier since George W. Bush took office in 2001 and slashed taxes on the richest Americans.
I don’t think Mitt Romney is ever going to be president. He’s got that same politically geeky quality that hurt Al Gore and John Kerry so much in their races for president. I’ve always hated the idea of people voting for the candidate they would most like to have a beer with, but that’s one thing that won’t be working in Romney’s favor this time.
He might just have to settle for the money.