Romney is not a winning dynasty

The New York Times decided to write about Mitt Romney’s other parent’s ill-fated political campaign, and how that defeat also influenced him. It also mentioned another relative who was unsuccessful in a campaign. Which brought to my mind the following revelation: Come to think of it, who thought Mitt was going to be a good candidate anyway? Considering how many Romneys there are across North America, how many have had successful political careers in the United States?

Turns out they’re quite good at business and they’re even pretty good at getting elected to state legislatures (perhaps by buying them easily), but they’re not so good at politics above that level. Here’s what I found, with some digging through Wikipedia, for statewide offices…

Miles Romney Sr.: MT Governor — Defeated 3x in primaries
L.C. Romney: 1956, UT Governor — Defeated
*George W. Romney: 1962, MI Governor — Successfully elected
George W. Romney: 1964, Presidential — Favorite son convention candidate, defeated
*George W. Romney: 1964, MI Governor — Successfully re-elected
George W. Romney: 1968, Presidential — Dropped out
Lenore Romney: 1970, MI US Senate — Defeated
Mitt Romney: 1994, MA US Senate — Defeated
Ronna Romney: 1994, MI US Senate — Defeated in primary
Ronna Romney: 1996, MI US Senate — Defeated
Scott Romney: 1998, MI Atty. Gen. — Defeated at convention
*Mitt Romney: 2002, MA Governor — Successfully elected
Mitt Romney: 2006, MA Governor — Declined to seek re-election
Mitt Romney: 2008, Presidential — Dropped out
Mitt Romney: 2012, Presidential — Struggling to win nomination against weak field (Editor’s note: Mitt Romney subsequently won the nomination but lost the general election.)

Despite their amassed wealth and sheer number of family members they keep spamming at the ballot boxes of the American people, Mitt’s just the latest of a family of chronic political losers, isn’t he?

We can do better

A nation’s economic engine runs fastest and takes a country the farthest when the creativity and work ethic of a population are harnessed at full capacity. Full employment and basic economic security are the keys to unlocking that potential. An unhealthy, unemployed, under-educated population can never take a nation as far as it could go with a healthy, fully employed, well-educated workforce.

When we invest in our middle and working classes, when we lift people out of poverty, when we ensure everyone gets a slice of the pie…we make the pie bigger for everyone and we grow our economy faster and bigger than ever. When we ensure basic equalities to our entire population, we provide equal opportunities for all our people to succeed and join our united endeavors as a nation.

In a representative democracy, government is the means by which we as a large society carry out these noble goals. That’s not class warfare or statism, that’s just economics and common sense.

“AFD Ep 9 – Twenty Years of Europe”

December 2011 is the 20th anniversary of both the end of the Soviet Union and the start of the European Union. In this extended episode, Dr. David Shearer joins Bill and Sasha to talk about those events and how Europe changed because of them, and then Bill and Kerry break down the current Eurozone crisis from its origins to its possible outcomes in just 25 minutes.

“AFD Ep 7 – Occupy Bain Capital”

Blogger David Waldman joins the team to discuss a NY Times article on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Bill, Sasha, and Kerry talk about the eviction of Occupy Wall Street, the Syrian crisis, the Perry & Cain meltdowns, and the state of the GOP race, and then they take listener calls.

Manifest Destiny: American Socialism

In honor of Columbus/Manifest Destiny Day, let’s celebrate some of the reasons why American Capitalism triumphed over Soviet Communism!

  1. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never used state and military power to expropriate land and claim it for the state (except from all the American Indians.)
  2. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never gave away free land to poor people (except to all the homesteaders).
  3. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never centrally planned the development of industry and infrastructure (except for financing and planning the transcontinental railroad route and later building the Interstate Highway System).
  4. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never forced rapid industrialization amidst economic disruption (except for the anti-British embargoes and tariffs of the early 19th century).
  5. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never permitted or encouraged the establishment of large farms with free labor on the view that it would promote economies of scale in agricultural output and was necessary for economic growth (except for slave plantations).
  6. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never made laws regulating people’s movements within and into/out of the country for the purposes of controlling and directing the labor supply (except, again, for slavery and immigration laws).
  7. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never invaded its neighbors to acquire and annex territory for economic purposes (except Mexico a couple times, etc.)
  8. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never let people starve during economic downturns (except when it did). 
  9. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government was never captured by a corrupt elite subverting its purported values … oh never mind.
  10. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States government never waged a civil war against the Old Guard, landed-elite faction for ideological and economic control of the country’s future (except, ya know, that one time).

America As Number Two — We’d Try Harder

In 1962, Avis Rent a Car adopted the slogan “We’re number two. We try harder.” The message of the ad campaign was clear: Avis was not the number one company in the rental car industry, but its underdog status made it better than the top dog, Hertz.

While Hertz was complacent at the top, Avis was trying to climb toward first place by outperforming its chief competitor with superior service. The corporate culture at Avis quickly evolved to match these heightened expectations, as employees did begin to “try harder.”

Fast forward nearly half a century. It is still a core part of the political lexicon of either party in the United States to praise America as “the greatest nation on earth.” President Obama did so in his 2011 State of the Union address, and senators and congressmen certainly are never bested in their reflexive laudatory stance. Amid all this over-the-top self-praise, it’s hard to step back and look critically at things we could do to make the country better.

In 2009 and early 2010, during the U.S. debate on healthcare reform, many reform opponents repeatedly said that America “has the best healthcare system in the world.” There are two problems with this statement.

First, it is not true by any objective standard, except perhaps with regard to specialty care. America spends a larger share of its GDP on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet on broad measures of health, such as life expectancies and mortality rates, the United States falls behind other large rich countries.

Second, even if it were true that the United States has the best healthcare system in the world, there would still be room for improvement. Declaring our healthcare system the world’s best does not tell us anything about whether it is the best it could be.

More broadly, the United States faces serious problems — including poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, an increasing wealth gap, long-term underemployment and unemployment, an obesity epidemic and slipping literacy and numeracy proficiency.

Some of these problems are inter-related and show no signs of improving. Indeed, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects unemployment will remain high until at least 2016 if no further government action is taken (which is expected to be the case under the country’s divided Congress).

There is little motivation to solve these chronic societal problems, some of which have been on the back burner for decades now, if the country pats itself on the back in the face of all objective statistics showing an America that is drifting further and further away from first place.

Any constructive answer to this problem requires citizens and political leaders alike to accept that the United States is no longer the leader in many areas. Once the country has accepted this reality, it can take the “Avis approach” and try harder to solve its problems and regain first place on as many fronts as possible.

Most of these problems are not insurmountable or unaffordable, but political will is absent without the push to compete against other nations. Since so many U.S. political leaders in both parties are determined to insist that America is the greatest, most innovative, most productive country on earth right now, the country is not actively trying to compete to make these statements true again.

Democrats and Republicans have cited the economic and military rise of China to rally their bases to support various policies, but in other areas where China is actually ahead of the United States, like the manufacture of clean energy technology, there is generally silence.

It should be troubling to the “America is number one” crowd that China is a leader in solar panel construction and is financing, manufacturing and building wind farms in places like Texas — but the reaction has primarily been indifference.

When China finally surpassed the United States in greenhouse gas emissions, the Chinese government responded last year by announcing plans for a cap-and-trade system, even as plans for an American one stalled in a U.S. Senate committee.

Many political advisers would tell candidates, especially in the race for president, that campaigning on a “we’re number two” message spells automatic political disaster. However, a truly savvy candidate could acknowledge America’s slide from first as fact and propose an ambitious program to regain first place as a matter of restoring national prestige and regaining a competitive edge.

Consider John F. Kennedy’s successful 1960 presidential campaign, in which he claimed that the Soviet Union had surpassed American nuclear missile capacity, and that it was crucial to close “the missile gap” immediately. Not only was Kennedy stating that America had fallen behind, but his claim was, in fact, incorrect. At the time, American voters accepted the claim and elected the candidate who had pledged to put America back on top.

More broadly, during the early stages of the Cold War, fierce competition with the Soviet Union extended far beyond military capabilities and encouraged government investments into diverse civilian areas such as general education, math and science, NASA and even to physical fitness.

These investments paid off immensely over the long term, resulting in an even more economically powerful nation. Although the United States led the Soviet Union in most areas for many years, the fear of sliding backward into second place kept the nation’s leaders focused on national improvement.

Today, the United States lacks a struggle with an equal superpower to promote economic and social development that could alleviate many of America’s chronic problems. The solution in the post-Cold War era is to acknowledge that the country’s problems are real — and that it is not actually leading the world by many indicators.

Only then can the United States build political will to fix the problems. If being in first place is indeed a worthy goal, as the rhetoric would suggest, then Americans must accept that America is not number one — and start trying harder.

This piece first appeared at It was moved here in November 2013.

Croatia and the drawbacks of the EU

There have definitely been some benefits to Croatia through the process leading to E.U. membership (some of which I’ve seen firsthand), especially in terms of anti-corruption efforts and resolution to some lingering war crimes/human rights problems from the Balkan wars.

But there have also been some serious drawbacks, and the E.U. regulations and anti-tariff/subsidy rules are going to cripple a lot of smaller, locally-owned businesses and put a lot of workers in subsidized industries out of work. The latter has already begun due to forced-privatization as part of membership planning.

Generally, I’m supportive of increased international trade and decreased restrictions, but European Union governments over the past two decades have proved extremely bad at managing the resulting social/economic problems and helping the people hurt. This is only going to get worse with tightening budgetary restrictions from the eurozone crisis, as national governments are forced to cut deficits by cutting unemployment benefits, jobs programs, and social programs.

What’s more, the E.U. has — I now believe — been a fundamentally undemocratic, elite-level project from the start that has not brought the popular support I might once have expected because it has not helped average people.

Croatia, rather unusually, has taken the step of opening the membership decision to a popular referendum. However, this referendum is being held just 20 days after it was announced/scheduled, and the government is putting $800,00 USD in public money behind the pro-E.U. campaign, while the opposition coalition has just $5,000 in private funds to campaign against membership.

Even if one supports membership and the continued growth of “the European project” (despite the current crisis), this seems massively unfair and undemocratic and will continue the trend of the Union being a very undemocratic project executed in a deeply problematic manner.

A New York Times article yesterday provides a lot more specific examples of how the path to membership has both helped and hurt Croatia, and perhaps more importantly who’s going to benefit from membership and who’s not. Hint: A lot of big corporations from other E.U. countries are going to benefit from reduced trade restrictions and industry standardization. Local companies, not so much.