By Leon Weinstein
Most Republicans think that the upcoming elections will be about Obama’s record and his ability to lead the nation to economic prosperity. Democrats on the other hand are sure that the elections will be about the choice between the two candidates, i.e. Romney vs. Obama. Each side planned its strategy according to their beliefs. I personally think that both sides are right, but there is an angle to that and whoever misses it will lose.
Republican voters will go en masse to the voting booths because they do not want Obama and his policies. An ABO (Anyone But Obama) sentiment will bring out a lot of people who are opposing Obama to cast their votes. Thus, the enthusiasm of the conservative side looks almost like the enthusiasm the Democrats had in 2008. If the Republicans will all go to the voting booths in numbers like the Democrats did in 2008, then Obama is expected to face a defeat of Carter‘an proportions. Many observers however say that this election will be decided by a handful of independent voters in several swing states. Those guys do not oppose Obama to the extent the conservatives do. They are not enthusiastic about the current president, but they will vote for the candidate that they believe will do less harm and will help them to solve their problems. In short they will vote for the one that gives them hope.
Independents are largely confused about Romney. They want a savior, but they are not sure he will fit the bill. So, they are asking themselves: “Will Romney be able to play the role and lead us, or is he a miss?”
Let’s start from scratch. What do we all want? My take is – prosperity, good health, security, opportunity and freedom. I listed freedom last because I am not entirely sure that everyone wants it. For example, in the Soviet Union where I am originally from, most people didn’t want freedom. In Russia, for thousands of years people prayed for a “good Tsar” that will be like a father to the nation. They didn’t want to be free. They just wanted to be less oppressed and given a bit more in material goods. The dream of a just Tsar, however, never came true.
History teaches us that most of the human population on Earth does not need or really want freedom. People mostly want security and prosperity. However, there are few of us that do want it and those few want it badly.
Freedom, or its almost identical twin “liberty” (people should, must and ought to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions), are not easy ways of life. We just assume that given a choice most of us will opt for liberty vs. oppression or tyranny. I hope that people do prefer it, but I am not entirely sure of that and wouldn’t bet my life on it. Americans of all people do appreciate individual responsibility and unlike most of the rest of the world, we want liberty. This is what made America unique and great.
For about 6500 years of recorded history, humans created a variety of societies ranging from tribal and pastoral to agricultural societies with nobility providing protection in exchange for food and goods, to monarchies, theological tyrannies and even democratic societies such as the ancient Greek democracies. During all that time, we the humans succeeded in creating a good life for a very small minority of the citizens. The rest lived in poverty, bad health and total dependency on the whims of the rulers.
Then comes capitalism and changes everything. Free markets paired with liberty produced unheard of results. The majority of the people in the very first country that fully embraced the principles described above (the U.S.) gave a surge of prosperity that was impossible even to dream about during the earlier history of humankind. Technological developments contributed to that as well. However, other countries who had the same opportunity as the United States to reap technological benefits, decided to go the way of “social justice,” re-distribution of wealth and the nanny state and couldn’t produce a bearable life for their citizens who often died from terrible living conditions, absence of medical care and even starvation.
This was the most remarkable lesson of the 20th century. The countries that went rogue, individualistic, that allowed citizens to become rich by trading goods and services and keep most of the fruits of their labor to themselves, created a great life for almost everyone. I doubt it is humanly possible to create a good life for everyone without exception.
The list of such countries includes Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and some others. Those that went any other way still experience poverty, short life expectancy, hunger, oppression, discrimination and many other problems the so-called developed nations had earlier in the pre-capitalist past, but mostly resolved them when they embraced capitalism.
This second list consists of North Korea (where life is very different from capitalist South Korea), Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Albania and in the not-so-distant past the USSR, Poland, East Germany (as I personally witnessed how different it was from the capitalist West Germany), Bulgaria, Cuba, Estonia, Latvia and many others. The only semi-successful countries in this category are those that have enough natural resources to sell in order to sustain a high quality of life for those that support the ruling regimes.
In short, history proves that capitalism (a combination of liberty and free markets) is good for people and the lack of capitalism, including socialism, communism, fascism, real monarchies (not ceremonial like in Great Britain) and theocracies – are not. Furthermore, the more capitalism that is mixed into a country’s social structure, the better and freer the population in this country lives. Argentina can attest to what happens to an economy powerhouse when socialists (led by Juan Perón) took over. In Argentina during a mere four years, socialists and progressives totally devastated the country, both economically and socially. Then in order to provide the benefits Perón promised to the population, the capitalism bashing leftists had to nationalize industries, impose censorship and start repressions against the very same people they promised to feed, cure and save from the terrible injustices of the free markets.
An old soviet joke that Milton Friedman made famous is a great illustration of the Argentinian case: If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.
Both of the U.S. 2012 presidential candidates are telling us that they are fighting for the good of the middle class. And very possibly they are. They, however, understand differently what is good and what is bad. Obama for example thinks that inequality is terrible. Romney thinks that this is a non-issue. The important issue is how a person lives, not how his life is compared to the life of their neighbor.
Obama thinks that society must provide health care, housing and food to all those that can’t or won’t earn themselves. Romney thinks we shall teach those that can work to earn money by themselves and make them responsible for their own decisions… and have those Democrats who demand higher taxes to put their money where their mouth is and pay as much in taxes as they propose others to pay. If they want to give more of their income to both local and federal government, let them do it. Let’s not stand in their way.
Obama is for unfair payment of all taxes by the so-called rich. He calls it “fair share,” but what he means by that is a part of the population should pay for everyone. Romney stands for fair distribution of taxes and other burdens. It is your country and you shall contribute to its defense, to protection from hoodlums and help those that can’t take care of themselves.
Both Obama and Romney are very well to do. Obama’s wife wears a blouse worth seven thousand dollars and he himself gets millions from the sales of his books. Romney is much richer, but since he made his money the old fashioned way, good for him. I personally applaud him and would love to be in his shoes.
Romney wants to continue on the path that made America strong and prosperous. Obama wants fundamental change and steers us toward the European/Argentinian model of a welfare state, the same model that is falling apart in front of our eyes in Europe.
Recently, I received a reply to one of my articles where the author of the note wrote that in his opinion you can judge a manager (he was talking about a president) by his ability to appoint qualified people to key positions. And he stated that in his opinion, Obama did a very good job of appointing the right people.
First of all, this statement shows a certain lack of business experience on the part of my correspondent. It is however a common mistake of people who have never been responsible for a payroll to judge managerial success by different qualities the manager displays. There is however only one measure by which we can effectively judge managers. And this measure is success.
If you achieved your stated goals within your stated time frame and the allocated budget, you are a good manager. You can do it alone or employ thousands of bad or good people; you can dance on a roof every night and do nothing or work like a horse. It is all irrelevant. Did you succeed in doing what you were doing? This is the only question we shall ask to see if a person who managed our assets did it successfully.
Do we care how our president manages his people or how he communicates to them? Do we care if he meets with them every morning or once a month, yells at them or whispers, plays tennis ten hours a day, has a Ping-Pong table in the Oval Office, makes grammatical mistakes in his notes or has calligraphic handwriting? No, we do not and we shouldn’t. We all are shareholders of the great United States of America and we want one thing from our Chief Executive Officer – success.
So the question that I have as a person who all his life managed something (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) is simple: “How did Obama and Romney achieve their own goals?”
In 2008, we gave Obama his job because he promised us something. We are about to decide to continue his employment or fire him and hire another guy.
Let’s start with Romney. When he was at Bain Capital, his goal was to make money for the shareholders. The main reason people organize businesses is to make a profit. There are different types of organizations that take care of the needy, bring people together to worship, help to save nature and so on. The type Romney was managing was supposed to make money. Did he do his job?
We all know that he fulfilled his goal brilliantly and didn’t do anything illegal in the process. Looks like his shareholders, his colleagues and his clients were quite happy with him. Did he have difficulties or occasional failures? Of course he did and we know that from time to time he lost his own money, but overall it was a success.
As a governor, Romney promised to work with the opposite party, keep unemployment low and create a good climate for business in his state. During his tenure, he created a health care program that was a bi-partisan project, kept unemployment at about four per cent and succeeded in implementing some Republican ideas in this mostly Democratic state. He did fulfill his promises.
When Romney was invited to save the Olympics, the project was running huge negatives and was investigated for corruption. Many venues were not ready for the games. Romney’s goal was to do everything in time and have a surplus instead of a deficit. He succeeded brilliantly.
In all those cases, Romney proved that he knows how to achieve stated goals. Now let’s go to Obama.
Obama promised us that if his administration got a trillion dollar stimulus he would keep unemployment under 6%. This goal was not achieved. The unemployment rate has been above 8% for two years and counting. Now Obama says that he didn’t suspect that the recession was that deep. But he didn’t tell us that. He said if the recession is what it seems now, we will be able to reduce unemployment. He said – give me the money and I will reduce unemployment.
Obama promised that at the end of his first term he would cut the deficit in half. This goal was not achieved. Obama’s administration has created the largest deficit in the history of the United States.
Obama created a bi-partisan commission known as Simpson-Bowles to make recommendations on how to reduce the deficit. The commission made its recommendations. The administration failed to implement them. This goal was not achieved.
Obama created the Presidential Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The council was made up of Democrat-leaning executives who while being members of the council, constantly shifted jobs of their respective companies abroad. In 2012, Obama met with the council once in January and per his spokesperson, was too busy with other important tasks and didn’t have time to discuss their ideas of how to create jobs in America. During the Obama administration, the country lost between one and three million jobs. This goal was not achieved.
Obama proposed an annual budget that was killed in the Senate unanimously by Republicans and Democrats alike. Obama failed to negotiate the budget. This goal was not achieved.
Obama promised to deal with the illegal immigration issue. During the first two years of his presidency, he had both the House and the Senate on his side. Nothing was done with the borders, with illegal immigrants and with the violence on the Mexican border. This goal was not achieved.
Obama promised that health care reform would be deficit neutral. The latest figures show that it will be a huge burden on the U.S. taxpayers. This goal was not achieved.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo. This goal was not achieved.
Obama promised to work with “both sides of the aisle” and be “not the blue states, not the red states,” but all of the American states’ president. His stated goal was to unite Americans. He is however one or the most divisive presidents in American history. He attempted to start class warfare and his people play the race card whenever they can. Obama failed in the goal of uniting America miserably.
Obama stated that his goal is to make government transparent and open. The latest examples of “business as usual” are his administration’s attempts to stonewall investigations of “Fast and Furious” and the infamous national security leaks. He failed in achieving this goal as well.
Obama promised not to use lobbyists in his administration and not to allow them to influence his decisions. Obama promised… and we can go on and on. The results of the Obama presidency will be reduction of American economic power, increase of our dependency on foreign energy, turmoil in the Middle East and deep problems with entitlements that might bring this country to the brink of nationwide riots and chaos.
There are positive results of Obama’s presidency as well. Some Europeans like us better. Another good result is that millions of American voters woke up and began to pay attention to where we are going and what we are doing to our children and grandchildren. They are not yet fully awake. They just opened one eye and are suspiciously examining why they can’t buy a large soda in New York… can the Mayor of a city withdraw business licenses of companies that do not share his political views and values? I am talking about Chick-fil-A and the Mayors of Chicago and Boston… or why their president is telling them that they are not responsible for their own success.
The answer is simple. If a person is not responsible for his or her own success, he is also not responsible for his failures. Per Obama, he is not to blame for the economy or other problems because of the Tsunami, European markets, Bush, another Bush, cost of gas and a bit of an annoying Bill Clinton. Obama is not (never) responsible. Or is he?
Personally I am voting Romney into the White House and Republicans into the Congress. Enough is enough!
Coming back to Romney vs. ABO – Romney is ABO. There is no other choice or chance to kick Obama out of the White House. And now Romney has proven that he is serious about cutting expenses, making government smaller and the business climate friendlier – his VP pick shows that he has guts and that he reads America right. So stop talking nonsense about a generic Republican candidate and Romney’s weaknesses. He is the guy whom history entrusted with this task and he is a great guy to manage this country. He is totally qualified and he will win. By a landslide.