Calling the Kettle Crony, Part 1: Mitt Romney

Cross-posted at Alevei.

Caricature of Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan: The friendly face of capitalism? (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr)

As I wrote in my previous post, getting your head around the idea of GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as even remotely credible on the topic of calling out “crony capitalism” requires a superhuman tolerance for cognitive dissonance or an extraordinary sense of humor or both.

Specifically, I suggested that the very idea of Rep. Ryan’s endorsement of A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity, a new book decrying “crony capitalism” by the University of Chicago economist and self-proclaimed drain on the economy Luigi Zingales, is kind of a ridiculous, hypocritical outrage that really ought to be hilarious but isn’t because of what Rep. Ryan’s power and influence could potentially mean for actual people who are not Paul Ryan or Luigi Zingales.

As I hope I made clear in that post, this is by no means to suggest that Rep. Ryan is not an expert in crony capitalism. Of course he is. [1] That’s part of what makes him such a great match for his running mate, Governor Mitt Romney.

The campaign, including a Republican primary season that I hope I never have to try to convince any sane person to believe actually happened, has been a long, brutal slog for the governor, and over the course of it, one thing that has become increasingly obvious to everyone is that the many gifts and blessings bestowed upon the presumptive GOP presidential nominee by his creator do not include a sense of humor. And yet even knowing that, I am still able to find it remarkable that in the course of deploying one of his favorite general-election campaign tactics — righteously accusing President Obama of crony capitalism (claims that have earned him four Pinocchios — reserved for “whoppers” — from the Washington Post‘s Fact Checker column) — Gov. Romney somehow manages to do it every single time with an impressively straight face. My mom sometimes says, “I never get too old not to be disappointed by people,” and I guess I have to say I hear that.

To be fair, though, everyone in the world who is not Kristi Yamaguchi knows perfectly well that Gov. Romney is well acquainted with crony capitalism, so at least theoretically, goes the logic, he should be able to recognize it when he sees it. And, speaking of Kristi Yamaguchi, Wayne Barrett reported in the Daily Beast in May that:

one circle of Romney donors [is] tied to a tainted Olympic contractor who has given more than a million dollars in campaign donations. After being granted immunity by prosecutors, the contractor, Sead Dizdarevic, admitted making $131,000 in cash payments to Romney’s predecessors. The cash was used, at least in part, to subsidize the IOC gifts. Yet it was Romney, not his indicted predecessors, who awarded Dizdarevic the hospitality deal that’s made him the ticket king of the Olympics to this day.

David Simmons also testified in the 2003 federal trial of Romney’s predecessors, in a case that was ultimately dismissed. But unlike Dizdarevic, Simmons pleaded guilty to a federal tax misdemeanor as part of a cooperation agreement that allowed him to avoid a multi-count felony indictment.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the guilty plea was connected to Simmons giving a fake job to John Kim, the son of a critical IOC member, to qualify him for a sham visa, and then submitting fraudulent tax and immigration filings to cover up the alleged conspiracy.

Since that time, Simmons and his family have given more than $317,000 to Romney and affiliated campaigns, and business associates of the family have added nearly $160,000 more. Simmons and his wife, Melinda, donated $32,100 themselves, going back to 2006.

The stories of the many interesting maneuvers that Mitt Romney had no choice but to finesse if he was to succeed in his important mission to make Kristi’s Olympic dreams come true in Salt Lake City are many, various, and complex, so I encourage you to read Barrett’s meticulously researched article in its entirety.

In the meantime, while we are on the topic of astonishing hypocrisy, let’s remember back to Gov. Romney’s February 2012 op-ed in the Detroit News, in which he called the U.S. auto industry bailout “crony capitalism on a grand scale.” As if that bit of evidence of his astounding lack of self-awareness weren’t sufficiently spit-take inducing, Mitt “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” Romney really brought his A game when he announced in May 2012 that he is now prepared to “take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.”

Of course, this probably sounds completely insane to any normal person, so let me explain. What you may not realize is that opposing the bailout in November 2008 and then calling it “crony capitalism” in February 2012 is absolutely what saved the auto industry and with it approximately one million jobs[2]

The liberal media is of course withholding the credit that Gov. Romney “will take a lot of,” thank you very much, for no other reason than to help his political enemies. So don’t believe all that stuff the Washington Post reported in May 2012 in their pitiful lamestream-media attempt to debunk the governor’s not-even-joking claim that he is responsible for saving the auto industry. The Post — if that is its real name — would have us believe its outlandish claim that

Many independent analysts have concluded that taking the approach recommended by Romney would not have worked in late 2008, simply because the credit markets were so frozen that a bankruptcy [which Romney advocated] was not a viable option.

The Post is also guilty of relying on sources who have little experience with or understanding of the industry, such as former GM executive Bob Lutz, who also rejected Gov. Romney’s bid for credit. (“What these people always deliberately forget is there was no money,” Lutz said, because of the meltdown of the global credit market. “Nobody had any money.”)

And don’t believe Reuters, either. They reported in February that Lutz, a Republican, was “infuriated” by Romney’s charge of crony capitalism. “This is the lie that gets told again and again and again — government intervention wasn’t necessary, that this was creeping socialism, that Obama wants to take over or give a sweetheart deal to the unions,” he said. Lutz also dismissed Romney’s claim that “we didn’t need the government and this could have been a privately run bankruptcy with the normal Chapter 11″ as “fiction.” [3]

But can you blame Mitt Romney, a man who wouldn’t have an elevator in his garage or a dancing horse that scores him tax breaks worth $77K a year if he didn’t get pretty much everything he wants in this life, for thinking he can have this auto-bailout thing both ways, too?

So, let me quickly summarize here, because I can see how this might all be a little confusing: For Mitt Romney, the auto bailout is nothing less than a disaster for the industry and an egregious example of the worst kind of crony capitalism that saved a lot of jobs for which we should all thank Mitt Romney. Everybody clear now? Good.

As I was working on this post, I was starting to think that Rep. Ryan and Gov. Romney truly take the absolute effing cake when it comes to astonishingly shameless hypocrisy on the topic of Crony Capitalism and How It Is Destroying America.

But it turns out I was wrong about that. An op-ed that recently came to my attention suggests that the title of Absolute Effing Cake-Taker When It Comes to Astonishingly Shameless Hypocrisy on the Topic of Crony Capitalism and How It Is Destroying America would perhaps be more appropriately awarded to its author.

More on that in Calling the Kettle Crony, part 2. File it under “I never get too old not to be disappointed by people.”

Notes:

1. If you missed it or didn’t have time to follow the links in my previous post, allow me to direct you again to some of the credentials that qualify him. Particularly noteworthy are Joe Romm’s article, “Paul Ryan And His Family To Benefit From The $45 Billion In Subsidies For Big Oil In His Budget,” and Bob King’s “Koch brothers have Paul Ryan’s back,” as well as “Ryan Family Financially Benefits from the Health Insurance Industry,” by Tara Culp-Ressler, and “Ryan’s Shrewd Budget Payday,” by Daniel Stone.

2. Here’s Gov. Romney in February 2008:

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Now here he is in February 2012:

The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.

And finally May 2012:

My own view, by the way, was that the auto companies needed to go through bankruptcy before government help. And frankly, that’s finally what the president did. He finally took them through bankruptcy. That was the right course I argued for from the very beginning. It was the UAW [United Auto Workers] and the president that delayed the idea of bankruptcy. I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. So I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.

3. According to the Post, the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Panel had this to say at the end of 2008:

The circumstances in the global credit markets in November and December 2008 were unlike any the financial markets had seen in decades. U.S. domestic credit markets were frozen in the wake of the Lehman bankruptcy, and international sources of funding were extremely limited. Bankruptcy with reorganization of the two auto companies using private DIP [debtor in possession] financing did not appear to be an option by late fall 2008, leaving liquidation of the firms as the more likely course of action absent a government rescue.

The Post also reported that President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers projected in December 2008 that

the direct costs of American automakers failing and laying off their workers in the near term would result in a more than 1 percent reduction in real GDP [gross domestic product] growth and about 1.1 million workers losing their jobs, including workers for automotive suppliers and dealers.

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