FOR THE 1ST TIME IN MY
LIFE, I WILL NOT VOTE FOR
By Tony Skaggs
I'm a life-long Republican, voted for John McCain, and supported Mitt Romney as the most
realistic candidate in the primaries. However, as both a Republican and more importantly an American, I did not share Rush Limbaugh's view expressed in January 2009: “I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, ‘Well, I hope he succeeds'... I hope he fails.” Nor do I agree with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who in October of 2010, was asked what "the job" of Republicans in Congress was. McConnell answered, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." We were in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930's and my party has as its main goal trying to make sure the president fails — even if the country fails right along with him. What has happened to my Republican party, this is not a sporting event, we all either win or lose together.
In the past, Republicans were pragmatic, not ideological; they would ask "does it work", not "does it fit into my theory." Ronald Reagan is known for his tax cuts, but he also pragmatically raised taxes 11 times to address the growing budget deficit, and had a good relationship with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. Since Reagan was pragmatic, not ideological, he compromised and worked with congress and accomplished what needed to be done to help the economy. Pragmatic non-ideological republican presidents never had a problem expanding the national government to solve national problems. Republican President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Republican President Theodore Roosevelt created the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Republican President Ford created the first federal regulatory program in education, with a program for special needs children. Republican President George Bush Sr. signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and raised taxes to fight the deficit. Republican President Eisenhower warned: "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, by the military–industrial complex" and was responsible for one of the largest Infrastructure projects in American history (Interstate Highway System). President Eisenhower also sent federal troops to Little Rock Arkansas so that discrimination against black school children would be ended. These men were not Left-wing radical hippies, but the "Tea Party movement" and their supporters in Congress would call them Socialist.
When I voted for Mitt Romney in the primaries, I believed Mitt was a moderate pragmatic Republican as was his father, George, when governor of Michigan, and as was Mitt himself when he was governor of Massachusetts. I thought Mitt had to move to the right to secure the nomination, but once he had it, he would move back to the moderate pragmatic center. Unfortunately, that has not happened; so taking this into consideration, and including the recent revelations about the secrecy with which Mitt Romney handles his financial affairs, I have had to re-evaluate my support for a Republican presidential candidate..
While I question some of President Obama's policies, I don't believe Mitt's policies regarding the economy will work. Mitt's business experience and wealth come from Wall Street, not Main Street, and I doubt he would have broken up the banks "too big to fail." As he said "The TARP (bank bailout) program was designed to keep the financial system going," and as a CEO of a private equity firm, he was a part of this financial system. If anything, given his background and avowed dislike of government regulation, I believe Mitt would have been even more hands off overseeing Wall Street and the banks "too big to fail." I know this non-involvement would NOT help a small business on Main Street. The firms which benefited from TARP, acted completely irresponsibly and contrary to the intent of the program by giving their executives huge bonuses, while restricting credit to small businesses. The problem with TARP, a program devised under President Bush, was too little regulation not too much.
I am disappointed in the pace of the economic recovery, yet I also know this was not an ordinary business cycle recession. It was initiated by an institutional Bank Panic in 2008, akin to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, in which some of the largest and most prestigious banks and financial corporations were threatened with failure and bankruptcy (ie Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, etc). By the end of 2008 the lost of potential purchasing power (decline in value of homes, stocks, IRA's etc) in the United States alone, exceeded 14.5 TRILLION DOLLARS. Thanks to an old regulation left over from the 1930's, the FDIC, the anxiety and fear did not spread to small depositors at local banks, so there was no run on these small local banks. If not for the FDIC the economic crisis we faced would have been much worse, proving not all regulation is bad. However, since these small local banks also had their assets affected by the crisis, and the large banks were not extending credit to them, they could not make loans. The flow of small business credit dried up. The prevailing fear was that this panic would feed on itself, so that the economy would continue to spiral down.
It was once said, "As GM goes, so goes the nation." As people lost purchasing power, the demand for new cars dried up as people stopped buying them. This caused the car companies, including GM, to become threatened with bankruptcy. If the car companies went bankrupt, more then 100,000 additional workers would be unemployed. It was feared this would only be the tip of the iceberg as people wondered what would be the ripple effect on car part manufacturers, and what would be the effect on consumer confidence? Obama deviated from TRAP's stated purpose when he, without congressional authorization, used TARP to bail out GM and Chrysler thereby saving them from bankruptcy. Mitt would have not done this, as he stated: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." However, who would bid for these companies at this time of economic uncertainty, even Mitt's former company, Bain Capital, had reduced their acquisitions. I fear that China, for symbolic, political, and economic reasons might have bid to take over GM in a bankruptcy proceeding. This may seem farfetched until you realize GM sold more cars in China last year, then it sold in the United States. While I may oppose Obama's actions in theory, in practicality there was no other choice. Obama was pragmatic, he made a decision that solved the problem.
The TARP and actions by the Federal Reserve System (FED) provided approximately 3 trillion dollars for the financial system which stabilized it. Thus the financial system's private debt became public debt, and was added to the federal deficit. As opposed to this as I might be on a theoretical basis, I know as Mitt said "The TARP (bank bailout) program was designed to keep the financial system going." However, the Obama "Stimulus Program" which also included tax cuts, was inadequate. How can you expect to fill a 14.5 TRILLION DOLLAR HOLE caused by lost potential purchasing power with a program of less then one trillion dollars? The Stimulus should have been twice the size that it was. Between the TARP, the stimulus program, and the temporary cuts in the payroll tax, enough money was pumped into the economy to stabilize it and end the downward spiral into a depression. However these programs were not enough to "jump start" the economy, so that it would grow fast enough to reduce unemployment significantly. Yet, I can not condemn Obama because of the role the Republicans played in preventing the "Stimulus Program" from being adequate enough to solve the economic problem.
While Mitt Romney and Barack Obama did not disagree over the need or size of the stimulus program, they do disagree on what type of stimulus would be most effective. Mitt believed taxes should be lowered for job creators who are people with high incomes, aka "the investor class" or "the rich." In theory, this money would be invested to build new business enterprises which would create jobs, thereby creating demand for good and services. However, there is no way to guarantee this money would not be sent to "tax haven offshore banks" or be invested in foreign countries for a higher return, or even hidden away with gold. These will not circulate this money into the American economy and help it grow to produce jobs. Obama believed the money should be spent on people who will purchase goods and services with any extra money they have, aka "the American consumer" or "the middle class." He lowered taxes for low and middle income workers and increased spending directly by the government to create infrastructure like roads and schools, prevent layoffs in local communities, and support unemployed consumers who are able to buy products, thereby creating demand for good and services and creating jobs. Obama would quote the famous American investor Warren Buffett who said "the only reason why I'm going to hire is if there's more demand." Mitt's approach was "investor" or "supply side" driven; Obama's approach was "consumer" or "demand side" driven.
I can use myself as an example since I am considered a successful businessman. I have never made a business decision based on taxes. They never deterred me from expanding my business when I saw an opportunity to meet a demand by consumers. Taxes never took 100% of any additional income I made by expanding my business. They were just a cost of doing business like any other necessary cost. They paid for services my business and I, as an individual, needed, such as policemen, firemen, and road maintenance. On the other hand, while I always appreciate lower taxes, they would not effect how I ran my business. If my taxes were lowered, but there was no additional demand by consumers, I would not expand my business. However, I would take a nice European vacation and see Paris or Rome, or buy a Mercedes-Benz rather then a Ford, or perhaps buy a second home on a Caribbean island and open up a bank account there. Like any successful businessman, I am not ideological, I am pragmatic.
To those who question whether I am a Republican, let me remind them, there was once a time when we were a "big tent" party. I believe in smaller government only to the extent we had smaller corporations, since in many ways corporations have more control over our lives then the government does. Government power is the only counterbalance to corporate power, and at least we have some input into what the government does by our vote. We no longer live in a capitalist society, we live in a corporatist society. Therefore, I was spooked when Mitt Romney said "Corporations are people" and implied they should be given the same constitutional rights as citizens.
Those who advocate a new age of austerity, like the Romney/Ryan budget, will cite Greece with an unemployment rate of 22.6% and say Greece is a nation we are sure to follow if we do not tighten our belt and reduce government services. They also cite Spain's 24.3%, Portugal's 15.2% and Italy's 10.2% unemployment rate. However, what they do not say is that in each of these countries tax avoidance seems to be a national sport. As a Republican I can not support Mitt Romney because everything, from his refusal to reveal his taxes to offshore bank accounts in tax havens with strong bank secrecy laws, seem to indicate he is a tax avoider. I do not agree when Mitt Romney says that if he paid more taxes than were required, he wouldn't be qualified to be president. I think that if he paid a few more dollars in taxes then he had to, as I have done, it would be admirable. Mitt is a part of the problem, not the solution.
Mitt's father established the precedent of presidential candidates releasing their Tax returns in 1968. He released 12 years of them, saying "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show, and what mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul." When Mitt's campaign was asked to release more then two years of returns, it responded “We’ve given all you people need to know" and has refused to give out additional information, even as many Republicans requested. People, including myself, are starting to ask "What is Mitt trying to hide?"
As Newt Gingrich put it, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.” But Mitt Romney also has accounts in the tax havens of Luxembourg, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands have a bank secrecy law so strong that a person can be jailed for up to four years, just for asking about account information. Mitt's desire for secrecy is so great that one time he neglected to include a Swiss bank account on required financial disclosure forms. Perhaps, it was because the Swiss account constituted a bet against the U.S. dollar, something no presidential candidate would want to reveal. When asked about it, Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said that the candidate’s failure to include his Swiss account in the financial disclosures were merely a “trivial inadvertent issue.” From 1984 to 1999, taxpayers were allowed to put just $2,000 per year into a tax-free I.R.A., and $30,000 annually into a different kind of plan he may have used. Given these annual contribution ceilings, how can his I.R.A. possibly contain up to $102 million, as his financial disclosures now suggest? As Mitt said “I pay all the taxes that are legally required, not a dollar more.” However as Lee Sheppard, a contributing editor at the trade publication "Tax Notes" said, “When you are running for president, you might want to err on the side of overpaying your taxes, and not chase every tax gimmick that comes down the pike.” Has Mitt Romney acted as a model for all of us, the way a president should?
Why is Bain important? We must not forget a major contributing cause of the Financial Crisis of 2008 was the filing of false or misleading documents with the SEC. This is no small matter; since 2009 the SEC has collected fines of over 3 Billion dollars for this violation from financial institutions such as, among others: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan, and UBS. Even if Mitt Romney actually left all operational control of Bain Capital in 1999, he sanctioned and acquiesced to the filing of false and misleading documents with the SEC until 2002. While this violation may not rise to the level of these other institutions, it does indicate a certain attitude towards these filings: The complete and truthful disclosure of all facts is not important. This was an attitude all too prevalent in the financial community prior to 2009, and all of us paid the price.
Is full disclosure to the SEC one of the regulations Mitt would do away with? What about other regulations overseeing the financial community; Wall Street and the banks too big to fail? If you put a fox in charge of the chicken coop, you have a problem for the chickens. Will Mitt's election be the equivalent of that for the small investor? As a small investor, and businessman, I can not take that chance. The sad thing is that Bain was first brought up by a candidate who wanted to colonize the moon, and the false filing was never mentioned. If this was discovered earlier, I would not have supported Mitt in the primaries and Republicans may have had a different candidate. Perjury is perjury. It was ethically and morally wrong as it was related to a public institution and there could be no equivocation since the two official documents Mitt signed exactly contradict each other 100%. He can not flip-flop between these two documents.
Mitt has said “I would like to have campaign spending limits”, however his most recent position is “the American people (and corporations) should be free to advocate for their candidates and their positions without burdensome limitations.” The necessity of spending limits became apparent during the Republican primaries. The ability of one candidate to outspend his rivals by 5, 6, 7, 10 times distorts the electoral system. Good men could be destroyed by a barrage of false negative ads, and lack the ability to fight back. It is no longer a level playing field where the best man emerges victorious. Do we want a system where it is possible to indirectly buy elective office?
These are the reasons that for the first time in my life, I will not vote for a Republican candidate for president. I will vote to re-elect Barack Obama.