At the Democratic National Convention, there was no parallel gathering of the super rich with their policy agendas feted on special trains, at invitation-only millionaire dinners, and yachts, which would look odd in the land-locked city.
Probably never before in history has there been an agreement among so many billionaires willing to raise or spend from their own fortunes multi-millions to protect themselves from taxes and their corporations from regulation.
Some of them were in Tampa, including David Koch, who has advocated elimination of public education and most federal agencies except the Pentagon, which would make Washington an abandoned gold-rush town with an Army.
Nothing wrong, per se, in being a billionaire. Democrats have them, who include Norman Lear, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett, but they’re not out to enrich themselves or a corporation.
Buffett put it best when he declined to support super PACs, which allow corporations to spend unlimited millions — mainly on negative TV ads. He said, “I don’t want to see democracy go in that direction.”
A persistent drumbeat of the Obama administration and its convention has been its support for the middle class, growing the economy from the middle out and from the bottom up.
Typical of the down-to-earth tone of the convention were the unknown Army wife who introduced the young keynote speaker, Mayor Julian Castro, and Michelle Obama’s example of her husband’s decision not to cash in his Harvard law degree at a big firm and do community work instead. “Because for Barack,” she said, “success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in peoples’ lives.”
In a sense, the two conventions mirrored the two parties’ philosophies.
Republicans believe in celebrating personal wealth and label government “the enemy,” which raises the question: has any nation aspired to greatness by regarding its own government as an enemy?
Democrats think of government as a potential ally and aid, as well as the only force strong enough to protect citizens from the potential for abuse that is ever present in the concentrated power of great corporations and Wall Street.
But is that broader philosophy and the Obama record enough to earn him a second term or, as the Republicans asked, “Are we better off than we were four years ago?”
Think about that. Remember exactly where we were four years ago, and while you’re recalling the “golden” Bush years, let’s turn the conversation to an example of why some government regulation can be a good thing.
In late October 2007, a Goldman Sachs trader named Jonathan M. Egol got a promotion as a managing director. He had made a name for himself by creating mortgage-related securities named Abacus.
Goldman was not the only firm bundling mortgages into these securities known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, which are not regulated.
Now here’s what mischief can be done behind closed doors and where regulators may not enter. Before Egol got his promotion, Goldman sensed that the mortgage business would go bust but it didn’t tell anybody, even its clients.
Goldman kept on selling its Abacuses but it bet against them on the market. When the housing sector tanked, it made billions betting against the securities it had sold its clients, as did other Wall Street firms.
“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen,” said one expert financial consultant. “You are buying insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”
This cynical malpractice not only deepened the recession but pension funds that support retirement for teachers, firefighters and police lost billions.
That is where we were four years ago, deep in the Bush Recession.
Ahhhh for the good, old days of George W. Aren’t you as nostalgic as they were in Tampa for the misbegotten war in Iraq, then in its seventh year, for the thrilling sight of the banking industry teetering on collapse and the automobile industry speeding toward the precipice?
Evidently, the Romney folks aren’t all giddy for the old days, either. They did not invite the former president to speak and he did not appear.
On the brink of depression, the economy hemorrhaged 820,000 jobs on the day Obama entered the Oval Office. Since the much-maligned stimulus bill was passed, the economy has produced 4.5 million private-sector jobs.
The nation’s financial industry has stabilized and the auto industry — unions and management strongly encouraged to work together — is profitable and the government loans have been repaid, with interest.
If the voters would give the president a Congress that stops obstructing and works with him, the prospects for the future are for accelerated economic growth in a nation at peace, at last.
With that possibility ahead, who would want to go back and recreate the policies and conditions of four years ago?
H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.