Category: Media

Mitt Romney’s Trash Man

From Mitt Romney’s book “No Appoligies” page 251.

During my campaign for governor, I decided to spend a day every few weeks doing the jobs of other people in Massachusetts. Among other jobs, I cooked sausages at Fenway Park, worked on asphalt paving crew, stacked bales of hay on a farm, volunteered in an emergency room, served food at a nursing home, and worked as a child-care assistant. I’m often asked which was the hardest job – it’s child care, by a mile.

One day I gathered trash as a garbage collector. I stood on that little platform at the back of the truck, holding on as the driver navigated his way through the narrow streets of Boston. As we pulled up to traffic lights, I noticed that the shoppers and businesspeople who were standing only a few feet from me didn’t even see me. It was as if I was invisible. Perhaps it was because a lot of us don’t think garbage men are worthy of notice; I disagree – anyone who works that hard deserves our respect. – I wasn’t a particularly good garbage collector: at one point, after filling the trough at the back of the truck, I pulled the wrong hydraulic lever. Instead of pushing the load into the truck, I dumped it onto the street. Maybe the suits didn’t notice me, but the guys at the construction site sure did: “Nice job, Mitt,” they called. “Why don’t you find an easier job?” And then they good-naturedly came down and helped me pick up my mess.

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The Giving Pledge

The giving pledge was started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

From Wikipedia:

Description of pledge

The official website states that it “is an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in the United States to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.” As of April 28, 69 billionaires in the US have joined this campaign and pledged to give 50% or more of their wealth to charity.[1] A minimum total of at least $125 billion has been promised from the first 40 donors based on their aggregate wealth as of August 2010.[2]

This is great, I truly believe the Gates foundation and other charities will do great things with this money. It brings up an interesting point though. With all this wealth being given to charity, where does the government fit in? Many on the list are big democrats such as Buffet and Ted Turner. Buffet has called for higher taxes on the rich including the “Buffet” rule which would force the wealthy to pay at least 30% as a minimum. I must point out to Mr. Buffet that the tax rate is only a suggested minimum- he is free to write a check to the treasury for any amount he wishes. He has yet to do so and he and his businesses maximize the tax code to pay less. Why? Clearly Buffet thinks private charities like the Gates Foundation will do a much better job with his money. While he is living he thinks his money is better spent investing in companies to grow even larger. I agree with Buffet, his money is much better in the free market now and in smart well managed charities like the Gates Foundation later. Billionaires and millionaires have been very generous with their endowments, just walk around New York City and you will see Carnegie and Rockfellers’ name everywhere. Here in Los Angeles we have institutions set up by Getty and Annenberg. These captains of industry valued their money too much to turn most of it over to the government via estate taxation or voluntarily. Government is a poor stewart of money and the men & women who understand money and business the best know it; despite what they might say politically.

Signatories

The following are signatories to the Giving Pledge as of April 2011:[9]

Spinning the Tax Rate Debate

The media has been reporting that Mitt Romney paid a lower effective tax rate than the “middle class”. No he did not, the middle class as defined by up to $75,000 in taxable income paid less than 9% effective tax rate in 2011. In order to get to this assertion the media calls Social Security and Medicare a tax.

I find it incredibly ironic that the left suddenly considers Social Security and Medicare a “tax”. Aren’t these government entitlements or benefits? Current beneficiaries are also getting dramatically more money out of the system than they put in- it is one hell of an investment for them. I call it a Ponzi scheme and I stopped counting on ever getting my money out a very long time ago.

Now onto tax rates; cutting tax rates has happened 4 times in American history once even under JFK. All 4 times revenue went up not down and the rich paid a greater percentage of the revenue than before. The president who last cut capital gains Georg— oh wait; Bill Clinton- also generated greater revenues after the cut. How can this be? It is actually quite simple, people changed their behavior and the economy grew enough to cause revenues to rise. We need a broader tax base and lower overall rates to get our economy moving. We need to encourage investment and stop taxing income multiple times. I would prefer a consumption tax or flat tax but the bigger problem is endless government spending not tax revenues. The fair tax as embraced by many Republicans would be a great start.

Bias

I watched Rock Center the other night and Ted Koppel presented a story on the media. Koppel presented Fox News as hard right and MSNBC as hard left. This left the impression that he and network news anchors like Brian Williams were centrist pure journalist. I am fond of Ted Koppel, when I briefly worked at ABC News in DC Koppel was gracious and even sat down for an interview with me. Koppel’s argument however is specious and colored by his own bias as a elite network journalist.

The kind of bias that is perhaps most dangerous is the biases that are hidden. Journalism used to be the domain of a small number of elites. Three network news anchors from NYC would present the news each night. This news was the filtered news from mostly liberal elites in New York and Washington DC. This small group socialized together, read the New York times as gospel, and generally thought alike. When I worked at ABC as an intern and editorial producer in the late 1990’s I knew of only one Republican and he was generally derided and had no power or influence. John Stossel, a converted libertarian, also at ABC News said that Peter Jennings used to avoid him in the halls and openly shunned him. One of the editors openly cursed Republican lawmakers with impunity for all to hear at the television assignment desk. There was and is a group think among the network news media elite. This bias and group think produces an arrogance of certainty. Ronald Reagan once said: “Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”  

Roughly half of Americans identify as conservative in political thinking, so the stage was set for a rise of conservative press. With the rise of technology the dissemination of news and thought has been democratized. Bloggers like Matt Drudge began to emerge and through the power of the internet gained influence. Entrepreneurs Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes saw an opportunity to capitalize on demand for more conservative oriented programming and launched Fox News. Fox News has been incredibly successful and crushes the competition in almost every time slot. Fox News is not all conservative opinion shows either. Shawn Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and John Stossel give commentary but Shepard Smith, Chris Wallace and Meghan Kelly present the news in an unbiased fashion. I don’t know the politics of Chris Wallace or Shepard Smith and overall I think they are very fair in presenting the news and moderating commentary. Even on the opinion side Fox makes an effort to bring in multiple views with many liberals given time. Clearly conservatives have more prominence on Fox News but even among them I would only call Shawn Hannity a mainstream Republican conservative. Stossel is libertarian and liberal on many issues and O’Reilly is more of a populist independent that can go either way on issues. Conservative media personalities such and Sean Hannity and Stossel aren’t pretending to be unbiased journalists, they present themselves as commentators with a clear philosophy about the world. The viewer or listener can decide if they accept that philosophy and that decision will influence how they perceive the content being presented. I won’t comment much on MSNBC because I don’t watch it very much but they generally have liberal commentators. Again I have no problem with commentators as long as they present themselves that way. Viewers must decide what they accept and don’t accept.

Ted Koppel lamented the turn in media and presented opinion news as shrill and preaching to the choir. This is paternalistic thinking and assumes that the rest of us are incapable of filtering the news ourselves and listening to arguments objectively. We all have biases- let’s celebrate that we have more access to information and thought than ever before.

Our Mixed Economy

In the United States we have a mixed economy. Contrary to what some may think we do not have pure capitalism. Our government intrudes on the economy in a number of ways including regulation and social policy laws such as minimum wage. Democrats made the case for government last night, and traditionally Republicans haven’t done much to stop the march towards a more socialistic country. If you do believe that government can and should manage the economy the debate really becomes how much. The benefits of capitalism vs. socialism or mixed economics can be debated theoretically but lets look at history and results.

The largest and best example of a socialistic managed economy was the USSR. This society utterly and completely failed and dissolved within 100 years. China is an example of a socialistic country embracing capitalism. The more free China’s economy becomes the better it does. China still manages its’ economy today in many ways however as it has allowed for more free market reform and private business its economy and the lives of its’ citizens have dramatically improved. Hong Kong is widely considered the freest economy in the world. It takes less than a day to start a simple business. Hong Kong has very little natural resources but has been an economic superpower for many decades. Singapore like Hong Kong is also a former British colony and has had similar success. Countries on the opposite end of the spectrum in economic freedom also tend to be among the poorest such as Cuba and North Korea. People vote with their feet and freedom wins hands down. South Koreans aren’t trying to get into North Korea and East Germans used to try anything to get over the Berlin Wall into free West Germany.

Other mixed economies have tipped the balance to government faster and sooner than the US. Japan poured almost a trillion dollars into its’ own economy after growth stalled in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Despite all the spending GDP grew only .2% from ’96 to ’02. In Europe countries like France, Italy, Greece and Portugal have been the most socialistic and have had the worst results while countries like Germany with more freedom have faired much better.

Very few Democrats and progressive will say they support socialism; but they favor socialist policies arguing that we need some government intervention and they can decide how much. The problem is that markets are infinitely complex and no one person or committee no matter how experienced or educated can manage them. Mixed economy proponents believe that without government intervention free markets will become destructive and hurt people. Governments cannot alter human behavior or reality and frequently miss crucial unintended consequences as their policies are adjusted to by markets. For example: the federal government wanted more Americans to own their homes so they created Frannie and Freddie with a mandate to buy mortgages and strongly encourage banks to loan to people with lower standards. The banks, heavily regulated complied and became more and more creative and risky both to stay in line with regulators and because they knew they could sell their mortgages anyway. This altered the healthy supply and demand curve and lead to an unsustainable bubble in prices. It hurt the very people it was intended to help as people bought way more home than they could afford and paid far too much because of the easy government money flooding the market. The result was disastrous and the single biggest factor in the recession.

I am not suggesting zero federal government or anarchy. Government has a vital role to play. The US federal government as the constitution brilliantly laid out exists to enforce laws against force and fraud, maintain a national defense and specifically regulate dealings between states in the union. In the example of Hong Kong the British brought strong and simple rule of law and then left the native Chinese to mostly do as they pleased, the same is true for Singapore and Taiwan. With basic safety and a society that protected against force and fraud these colonies thrived. We need to stop expecting our federal government to fix the economy. The best thing government can do is to get out of the way.

RNC Day 4: A Businessman

Thursday was of course all about Mitt. We heard from speakers from Romney’s church and community about the man he was to them. How he gave selflessly to them in their time of need. The dying child he helped, the lost girl he helped find, and the family with a sick daughter.

We also heard a strong defense of Bain Capital from the CEO of Staples and other companies Bain helped fund. We heard about the 2002 Olympic games and Mitt’s time as governor. I have study Mitt’s record and it is clear this is a successful, accomplished man who is loved and praised by many. If elected I believe Mitt will be the most accomplished man in the private sector of any president. Clint Eastwood praised Romney’s success in business and said it is time we had a businessman as president. Eastwood added some levity in an off the cuff speech that I enjoyed but will be strongly criticized for its’ lack of polish.

It is time for a businessman- for far too long businessmen have been unfairly maligned and misunderstood. The media and politicians are quick to blame business for the failings in society.

It is the businessman who elevates society by bringing ideas, capital and hard work together to create wealth. Wealth that enriches all around him. I am glad to see Romney standing up for his business success; he is right to be proud. While at Bain he put capital to work for many businesses and in the process helped create real jobs and real wealth for hundreds of thousands of people. A record of success will always bring with it room to criticize. One of Obama’s strengths in 2008 was that he really didn’t have a record and therefore little to criticize. Romney is not my perfect candidate but I believe he is an honorable man and he understands success and the capitalist system. He has a strong record of leadership with honor and integrity.

We need a businessman in the White House.

Citizen Journalist

(A solo blogger setting up her own stand-up on the RNC floor.)

I will admit to feeling a bit inferior this week at the RNC. I am an independent documentarian with no real budget doing my best to find my unique story at the RNC. 15,000 media from all over the world are at the convention. The big networks will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and have large teams of people working together to produce the news.

Today as I prepared to interview a quite serious delegate with a large plastic cheese head; he said: “wow, you guys are prepared.” I was shocked, I had stripped down my gear to the bare minimum, a camera, mic, and mono pod. I had a tiny light since my bigger light disappeared in one of the endless security screenings. I did not in my opinion look very professional. I realized though that I was actually technologically ahead of the others around me who had just finished with the delegate. This week I have seen citizen journalist with small consumer video cameras- even iPhones capturing their stories. These journalist don’t need big corporate budgets and sponsors, they only needed a few hundred dollars and some guts to come and cover one of the biggest stories of the year. No longer do we need to rely on a big corporate networks for our news. Bloggers with nothing more than a laptop, telephone and an inquisitive mind have broken some of the biggest stories of the past decade. Journalism has become democratized like never before. We help keep the media honest and tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told. The range and diversity of perspective have never been bigger.

Kudos to the RNC for allowing the independent press and documentarians tremendous access. One request: next time try to give us some closer seats!