The city councilman who wrote a bill and pocketed $80 million

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

— Federalist No. 10

So the city councilman introduces a bill to rezone the waterfront for development. This development project was the centerpiece of his campaign for office and, after winning his seat on the council, he has tirelessly pushed for its passage.

But now a zealous reporter has uncovered that the councilman is not a disinterested party when it comes to this plan. He and his family have invested heavily in the very same waterfront property he is now urging the city to purchase and to redevelop. If the councilman’s plan passes in the form he drafted it, he and his family stand to gain $80 million.

That’s a huge sum of money.

What would you do for $80 million? It is, for 99.9 percent of us, a life-changing sum. It would be more than enough to pay off every debt and to fulfill every aspiration of saving for the future while living a life of ease. With $80 million you could easily retire. You could retire and create a foundation, dispensing substantial grants to your favorite causes and charities in life-changing, world-changing sums without ever worrying that you would exhaust the balance of capital in your lifetime or in the lifetime of your children.

It is simply impossible for most of us to imagine, then, that $80 million is not more than enough money to raise the suspicion of corruption with our hypothetical city councilman.

But while that city councilman is only hypothetical, that figure of $80 million is all too real.

If Mitt Romney’s proposed tax plan is implemented, he and his family stand to gain $80 million.

In the hypothetical case of our hypothetical city councilman, everyone would agree that his advocacy of a policy that would enrich his family to the tune of $80 million reeks of corruption. He would face an enormous burden of proof to demonstrate that his $80 million windfall was somehow, in some almost unimaginable way, incidental to his plan and not the driving force behind it. Until such proof was supplied, both the councilman and his self-enriching scheme would be under a cloud of well-deserved suspicion.

And yet Mitt Romney’s tax plan is not hypothetical. The personal interest he and his family have — the mind-boggling personal enrichment it promises for him — is all too real.

How is that any different from the hypothetical city councilman? How does this personal enrichment to the tune of $80 million not set off alarm bells? Why are Mitt Romney and his tax scheme not under a similar cloud of well-deserved suspicion?

$80 million. $80-freaking-million.

Seriously, if $80 million is not a sufficient sum to trigger your personal corruption-detector, then you don’t have one.

I wrote about this back in 2005, when Vice President Dick Cheney was pushing a tax plan that would enrich himself personally to the tune of $12.6 million. Here’s the links for that series of posts:

Here was my summary from that final post:

1. Any given proposal — tax-cut, tax-hike, public works, whatever — must justly serve the public interest and promote the common good. Any politician advocating any kind of policy must demonstrate that the policy meets this test.

2. When politicians support proposals that result in immense financial benefit for themselves personally they have an even greater obligation to demonstrate that the proposal in question is truly in the interest of the entire public and not merely in their own interest. When you cash the check, you invite suspicion.

3. To consider off-limits any discussion of the personal financial benefits that politicians may have at stake in a particular policy debate paves the way for massive corruption.

4. Some policies that justly serve the public interest may also result in financial benefit for some politicians who support them. This is bound to occur. A lot. I have no problem with that, but in such cases the burden of proof lies with those politicians to demonstrate which way cause and effect is working.

5. If a politician advocates a policy that benefits him or her financially but on balance does not serve the public interest, then we can conclude that he or she is corrupt.

Seriously, though — $80 million.

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  • Matt Platte

    You’re describing George Washington Plunkett. In an age of no transparency laws, pretty much everyone knew how Plunkett’s cohort operated, who was getting what, and most important, everyone could tell when those vague boundaries were crossed.

    Today we’re much more professional.

    Given a choice between his “honest graft” and the bullshit being shoveled today, I’d choose Mr. Plunkett’s style in a heartbeat.  

  • Ross Thompson

    The difference is that Romney won’t notice an extra $80 million. That’s like a week’s wages.

  • GDwarf

     

    The difference is that Romney won’t notice an extra $80 million. That’s like a week’s wages.

    That’s what’s really confusing/infuriating: So much of this involves taking money away from people who can’t afford to lose it and giving it to people who make so much that they don’t notice the difference. It’s…getting money for the sake of money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

     There is no point to having more money than you can spend unless you know that there are people suffering in miserable poverty. You can’t imagine yourself as a winner unless you know that someone else is a loser.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There is no point to having more money than you can spend unless you know that there are people suffering in miserable poverty. You can’t imagine yourself as a winner unless you know that someone else is a loser.
     
    There’s nothing in that that forbids alleviating or eliminating suffering for nearly everybody else. Find one person, ideally a volunteer, to be the Designated Loser. Heap all the misery on that person’s head. Find a new person when that person dies. Everyone who feels the need to Feel Superior can Feel Superior to the Designated Loser. Omelas is far from ideal but, in terms of number of people suffering, it’s a great deal better than what we’ve got.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Well, it’s probably not going to be one person. I always thought that the idea was that you could feel superior to everyone of a certain class. Oppressed Gentiles in the Dark Ages could look down on Jews, poor whites in the pre-Civil War South  could look down on blacks, their descendants in the modern era who are still struggling can look down on “welfare queens”, that sort of thing.  I don’t think anyone like this would really be content with just being better than literally one other person.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I was gonna say something quite similar, and I fully expect the RoboRomney to unironically do the same if ever called out on this.

    Being the word nerd I am, I must quibble is with your use of “wages,” which implies that Romney works for his money, i.e., sells his labor to an employer. Not so. Being a rentier, Romney’s income is what classical economists called “unearned.”

  • Grey Seer

    You know, earlier while I was in the queue at the shop, I idly started thinking what I’s spend my money on if I were, by some chance, to win the current lottery rollover (I think it was somewhere in the area of sixteen million or so).

    I actually ran out of ideas by about the four million mark. By that point, I’d not only set myself up comfortably for life, I’d done the same for all of my current family members, my close friends, any hypothetical future children of said family and friends, and then donated no less than a hundred grand to every charity I could think of off the top of my head.

    I mean, what do you even do with that sort of money? I personally have no particular preference for expensive items purely because of their cost (which is likely why I still have money at all…), and I realized that after a point everything I could think of to do with that money involved, essentially, giving it away to others in some form or other.

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    I mean, what do you even do with that sort of money?

    Make more money.  Because, after the first dozen million or so, the only thing left to do with wealth is to concentrate as much of it as possible.

    Of course, big piles of money looking for ways to multiply itself are what caused the economic morass in which we’re currently mired.  So, look forward to more of the same (and much worse) from Romney and his ilk, should they rise to power.

  • Sqrat

     

    I mean, what do you even do with that sort of money?

    You could always run for president.

  • Michael Pullmann

     Traitor. The American way is to turn it into even more money, running roughshod over anyone and everyone in your path as you do, so you can die at the top of the Forbes list. Anything less is an insult to the founding fathers.

  • AnonymousSam

    I always have the same problem, even with my desired lavish lifestyle of hedonistic comforts and easy access to PS3 games. I just don’t see myself as ever wanting any of the money sinks the ridiculously rich seem to prefer. I need no mansions, no staff of dozens of live-in butlers and maids, no expensive Italian leather furniture, no masterpiece of German engineering vehicles…
     
    Really, I”m happy with a small house, a bus (maybe a bike?) and the same food I’ve eaten throughout the last two years. Forget sixteen million, I think I’d be pretty well set with one million.
     
    Makes the unwillingness of the wealthy to share and their demand to have more seem that much more terrible, doesn’t it?

  • PJ Evans

     I figured that for a million after taxes, I could donate money to my nieces and nephews to pay at least part of their student loans, and still have enough left over to fatten my retirement savings. Don’t even really want a house.

  • AnonymousSam

    I could probably be content with a decent mobile home if I could get reliable Internet from it. It wouldn’t be awful to be able to move wherever we wanted without leaving home. :p

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     I admit, I could probably spend any sum I got, simply because I’m a very silly person who has very silly wants.

    For instance, I wouldn’t mind owning or building a WWII-era escort carrier.  Imagine renovating it with modern automation technology so it requires significantly less staff, converting the interior to be much more spacious and comfortable, and having your own fleet of private aircraft.

    Who needs a house?  Go anywhere, do whatever.

    Now that said, I like to think I’m smart enough *not* to do something that ridiculous if I had the money – there are substantially better places to spend it to make the world a better place…

    But I’m not going to pretend something obscenely lavish like that hasn’t crossed my mind.

    Also on my list – an M4A1 Sherman.  and a bunker complex under a mountain somewhere.

    (I did mention I’m silly right?)

  • AnonymousSam

    For a moment, I read your username as Mistborn Squirrel. Now that’s a scary mental picture.

    Who says a tank and a bunker are trivialities? Depending on how you plan to use them, I might call that adequate preparations. You know, for when They are the first against the wall.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     I was thinking the tank would be a  helluva go-cart (‘x’) (The bunker is just for my own moments of “I HATE EVERYONE” >< so I can just lock the world out.  I get too many of those.)

    And nothing to fear here (^_^) Just your average neurotic water vaporous squirrel here.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Mistborn Squirrel? Damn, the Lord Ruler would have had some pretty bizarre genetics going on there!

  • Magic_Cracker

    You may not need a house, but think of the annual outlay for diesel fuel!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     True that.  I wonder what it’d take to make a carrier work entirely on solar power?  Sure it wouldn’t be authentic, but even ensconced in a very cushy floating fortress, well… why not save the planet while I’m at it? (^_^)

    (See now this gets me thinking of what it would take to make a flight deck out of solar panels… as in what would it take to make a solar panel that still performs it’s role effectively while also offering a useable and safe runway?)

  • The Lodger

    Probably enough solar panels to cover 20 flight decks… less if you don’t care if the carrier ever leaves the dock.

  • Chloe Lewis

     Figuring out how to run a carrier off a flight-deck of solar panels would absorb any fortune you could imagine. There is the risk that you would find an answer and get *even richer* from it. This is an acceptable risk.

  • wendy

    Really? You can’t think of enough things to spend more than $4M? You have a limited imagination. 

    Get an airplane. A fast airplane, with enough comfy seats for your whole family. There goes $40M. That airplane allows you to take weekend trips to your Mediterranean or Caribbean or South Seas vacation home. Where you keep your very nice boat. It’s very easy to spend tens of millions, even hundreds of millions, of dollars. It’s not until you get into Bill Gates territory that spending it all requires you to do things like eradicate malaria and provide birth control to every woman in the world, 

  • Grey Seer

    Of course I COULD find ways to spend more money than about the four million. Except I’m a practical sort with no particular need for that sort of thing.

    Why would I buy my own airplane? There are whole companies out there who fly people around, often in excellent comfort, for a miniature fraction of the cost. The same goes for the idea of buying my own holiday home. I see no benefit in isolating myself from the rest of humanity behind my giant wall of money.

    Unless, you know, I can do it literally. I have to admit, if I had enough money to build a fort in the living room out of stacks of notes, I totally would.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I see no benefit in isolating myself from the rest of humanity behind my giant wall of money.

    That’s kind of the key that I think a lot of rich people and their pretenders have forgotten.

    Someone linked to a Forbes write-up about business CEOs which had been penned and printed in 1955.

    The sheer mundanity and pedestrian-ness of their lifestyles, and the way they didn’t try setting themselves off from their fellow humans by living in gated communities or remote mansions was very noteworthy.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    BUT BUT BUT

    Job Creators!
    Unleash Productivity!
    Burdensome Taxation and Regulation!

    Blah blah blah, and sadly, all these soundbites will convince enough people to believe Romney’s bullshit that another round of Reaganizing the tax system is just what the doctor ordered. :|

  • Wingedwyrm

    “I mean, what do you even do with that sort of money?”

    I reference another of Romney’s comments.  He made a statement that Israel is wealthy and Palestine less so due to the superior culture of Israel.  He likened that to the relative cultures of America and Mexico.  Essentially, he betrayed a believe that the superior gain wealth and the inferior are penalized with poverty.

    It doesn’t matter what he would *do* with that money.  What matters is that he has that money and other people, people he considers to be proven inferior by their poverty, do not.  What matters is that he and his peer group be, financially, ever more proven the superior class.

  • Michael Cohn

    I think Romney’s argument would be that people become rich because they spend their money in wise and effective ways, and that the economy is set up such that it rewards business activities that create wealth and serve the common good. Romney is a wise businessman, so he falls into the category of people who would personally benefit from a tax cut that would also be good for the nation as a whole, and he’s a virtuous leader, which means he wants to enact that kind of tax cut. The benefits to him aren’t coincidental, but they couldn’t be avoided either. 

    I don’t disagree that we should ignore his obvious self-interest in this case, but I don’t think he’d have trouble arguing that his motives are pure. I also suspect that politicians who do this kind of thing aren’t always corrupt in the sense of deliberately lining their own pockets; they’re often just acting out of sympathy for and identification with people who are like them, while ignoring and demeaning the concerns of people who aren’t like them. 

  • ReverendRef

    Sunday’s upcoming New Testament Lectionary reading is from Ephesians 4, where it reads in part: Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

    One of my commentaries (which can hardly be classified as liberal) says this:

    How much of our work is a means to selfish end.  Jesus warned about laboring for plenty and hoarding what we harvest or earn . . . Paul seeks to provide an antidote for that kind of neurotic need for material security.  We are to labor in order to have something to give to him who has need.

    Sunday’s passage is all about truth telling, honesty, building up, forgiveness and self-sacrifice.  And I’m posting here because I’m really procrastinating on putting together a sermon that basically touches on this post.

    I’m not sure what book the Fox news crowd is reading, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the bible.

  • Monala

     Jesus also said quite a few things about the wrongness of laying up treasures on earth, didn’t he?

  • ReverendRef

     Yeah . . . there were one or two things.

    But why listen to some hippy dippy socialist when you’ve got a guy who tells women to shut up, rants about icky sex and insists men are the keepers of all that is pure, right and authoritarian?  And, granted, you have to do some serious cut and pasting in order to ignore the balance he presents, but still . . .

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    This shows exactly why it is extremely relevant to the election that Romney is so rich, as much as beltway people complain about this being irrelevant identity stuff. People’s values and what they emphasize are guided by their life experiences. If someone is elected to office, they have to make choices about what they put their effort into, and so what happens will be determined by what they consider personally important.

    What do average Americans think about when they think about what the problems in this country are? They might think about the difficulty of obtaining or paying off student loans or a mortgage. They might think about the difficulty of finding work or the fear of losing a job they currently have. They might think about whether they will be able to make their bills or whether they will be able to save for their future.

    What does Mitt Romney think about when he thinks about problems in this country? Apparently, the estate tax.

    You have to be in a very special place for the estate tax to be something which can even potentially affect you. The estate tax effects Mitt Romney quite a lot. Whereas those other kinds of  issues– obtaining a loan, obtaining a job, saving for the future– are not problems Romney has, has had for a very long time, or will ever have again. This would not be so bad except Romney has not shown a tendency to be able to understand and care about the problems that people who are not him face. If Mitt Romney becomes President, you can be sure his personal attention will be focused on fixing the problems the Mitt Romneys of the world face and not much attention paid to his effects on anybody else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     I feel like that’s what gets me too. Most of our politicians are wealthier than average; it’s probably always going to be that way, especially since campaign cycles become longer and more disruptive each year. The most important aspect in overcoming this financial barrier is empathy. Can you remember a time when you weren’t rich? Or, failing that, can you at least imagine what it must be like?

    Romney has probably worked very hard in his life to get where he is. He worked hard because he was ambitious and wanted to earn his own way in the world rather than just living off of his parents’ money forever, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t reap any advantages from being born into a millionaire family, the son of a former governor and Fortune 500 CEO, and that doesn’t mean he was facing the same repercussions for the rest of us. If Romney completely screwed up, what was his worst case scenario? He was never
    facing homelessness. Even if he was profligate and incompetent, he would
    still be firmly nestled in the top 1% of the country, simply by virtue of who his parents were. He worked hard because he wanted to, not because he had to in order to survive.

    That’s something that he seems to underrate. If Bain Capital had collapsed all around him, he would probably have been disappointed and frustrated but he wouldn’t have really suffered physical pain. But if you’re an aging factory worker in Detroit (to pull out a random example), and your company implodes, you’re out of your pension, you’re out of your health insurance, your savings are probably going to be eaten up pretty fast, and you’ll be struggling to stay afloat and find one of the few remaining jobs that still requires your skills. That’s two different worlds and I think in order to be a good president you have to get that.

  • aunursa

    4.  Some policies that justly serve the public interest may also result in financial benefits for some politicians who support them. This is bound to occur. A lot. I have no problem with that, but in such cases the burden of proof lies with those politicians to demonstrate which way cause and effect is working.

    The issue is whether the policy is in the public interest.  If the Romney’s tax plan will result in an economic recovery and a higher standard of living for Americans across the economic spectrum, then it serves the public interest — regardless of how much the candidate and his family may benefit.

    This shows exactly why it is extremely relevant to the election that Romney is so rich

  • Nathaniel

     Tell me oh psychic one, what does the average undecided voter think of my new haircut? Given that you’re a mind reader and all, I’d love to know.

  • Lori

    Polls indicate that 50.1% of respondents think the new haircut is great. Congratulations, you have a mandate to keep this haircut forever.

  • PJ Evans

    The average undecided voter cares whether Romney’s tax plan will benefit average Americans more than Obama’s proposed policies.

    Which is where this post comes in. Romney’s tax plan will hurt the average American, in order to benefit the extremely wealthy. The bite on average taxpayers is estimated at $2000 a year.

    Unfortunately, this is a habit of his: he got his house in La Jolla reappraised, after two years of arguing with officials. His first request was for a 45 percent reduction in value, which is truly out of range – most houses in the middle price range only dropped 30%, and his is beachside, in a high-end area, so even the 25% reduction he got is probably too large.

    Romney is greedy.

  • Noirceuil

    “Romney is greedy.”This. I often wonder when enough is enough. 80 million, as someone posted above, takes care of your family for life. When does the drive to have more turn into simple greed?I think there’s some pathology in there; some compulsion, or obsession to hoard. They just can’t be happy if they don’t have more.Also, I laughed a lot at this little Freudian slip:

  • Emcee, cubed

     It’s photoshopped. but still funny.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The issue is whether the policy is in the public interest.  If the Romney’s tax plan will result in an economic recovery and a higher standard of living for Americans across the economic spectrum, then it serves the public interest — regardless of how much the candidate and his family may benefit.
     
    There’s a tax calculator somewhere on the Internet. My paid-under-thirteen-dollars-an-hour ass will pay a couple hundred dollars more in taxes under Romney than either I do now or I will under Obama next term (I don’t remember which the calculator was for, sorry). I have no objection in principle to paying more taxes, but in practice, that’s a couple hundred dollars I could really use to improve my life, or donate somewhere to improve somebody else’s, and that’s a couple hundred dollars that will (through the magic of Romney’s tax plan) go straight into the bank account of Romney or someone like him, there to rot.

    Romney’s tax plan does not serve the public interest, unless ‘the public interest’ is defined as ‘helps the few who happen to include Romney, hurts the many’.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “The average undecided American voter doesn’t care how many gazillion dollars Romney has. The average undecided voter cares whether Romney’s tax plan will benefit average Americans more than Obama’s proposed policies.”

    If so, this would do a good job of explaining why poll averages have for some time shown Obama winning the popular vote and winning the electoral vote by a moderate landslide.

  • AnonymousSam

    Considering the numbers every quarter have shown that nearly every major corporation is simultaneously cutting jobs and claiming their highest revenue numbers in history, the average American appears to have too functional a brain to believe the answer is really “they need MOAAAAR MONEY!

  • Mary Kaye

    It’s fairly common practice, if you can’t recuse yourself from making a decision that will profit you personally, to either decline the resulting money or pledge to donate it to charity.  The University I work for says that  if I write a textbook and then make it required reading for one of my classes (which would be a conflict of interest since I would get royalties).  I am required either to distribute the royalties among my students or donate them to the University; I can’t keep them.

    This particular example is not voluntary but I’ve seen many situations in which it’s voluntary.  When my family discovered that we were exempt from a tax funding transit (which we rely on heavily) we had a family vote and donated the amount we’d have been taxed to the bus service.  (They wrote a nice thank-you letter.)  I believe that I’ve seen richer folks do this with much larger sums.

    Mitt Romney could certainly defuse concerns that he is pushing this tax break to benefit himself by pledging to donate the resulting money.  It could go to the paying-down-the-debt fund, for example, or an uncontroversial charity such as the American Heart Society.  (My husband maliciously suggests Komen instead….)

    One might still argue that it’s a decision to benefit his class as the expense of others, but at least he would be free and clear of the accusation that it’s a decision to benefit him personally.  And it’s hard to see how doing this would hurt him, unless he has incurred a huge debt campaigning, and I haven’t heard that he has.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    One might still argue that it’s a decision to benefit his class as
    the expense of others, but at least he would be free and clear of the
    accusation that it’s a decision to benefit him personally.  And it’s
    hard to see how doing this would hurt him, unless he has incurred a huge
    debt campaigning, and I haven’t heard that he has.

    Well, I actually do think that Romney’s tax policies are intended to benefit the wealthy at the expense of everybody else. If Romney was in it solely for his personal profits with no other motive, he could probably make more money quickly by sticking with Bain Capital; if he wanted to, he could even set up a PAC and back another candidate who would enact similar policies — it’s not like there is a shortage of Republicans who say they can balance the budget while cutting taxes on people with lots of money and at the same time increasing federal spending to the tune of hundreds of billions per year on  pet military projects.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Didn’t all of Romney’s businesses collapse due to mismanagement under his watch? Reminds me of Shrub Junior whose companies didn’t do so well even when his daddy was Vice-President and then President.

  • Lori

     

    Didn’t all of Romney’s businesses collapse due to mismanagement under his watch? 

    No. Romney’s one business, Bain Capital, did very well by purchasing other businesses and then managing them to benefit Bain (by doing things like loading them down with the debt Bain incurred to buy them). Which was a contributing factor in the failure of many of those businesses. I don’t think it counts as mismanagement when it does exactly what it was designed to do.

  • Turcano

     According to Brad Hicks, that was a feature, not a bug.  Reaganomics dictated that low unemployment is a bad thing, so Reagan had normal business loans shut down and gave junk bonds to private equity firms like Bain Capital under marching orders to cut human capital to the bone.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    To be fair to LBJ,

    First of all, the Johnson administration’s insistence that we could
    fight a major land war in Asia without asking for any economic
    sacrifices from the American people (hmm, boy, does that suddenly sound
    familiar, where have I heard that more recently?), known as “Guns and Butter,” had bankrupted the US Treasury.

    LBJ did increase taxes in the late 1960s and did so across the board rather than concentrating it on the poor and working class, unlike Reagan’s Social Security tax hikes. Also, Nixon had a hand in that too. He decided to remove the income tax surcharge and quietly allowed monetizing debt in the early 1970s to help pay for continuing the Vietnam war.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I dunno. It seems like Romney has a solid defense in the form of “What’s 80 million dollars to me?”

    I mean, in the past few years, people have occasionally said, roughly, “Why don’t we fix the debt by not paying congress. Even though it would not actually solve the problem, it would certainly feel good.”  The biggest counterargument to that is, I think, that Congress is corrupt enough as it is without senators having to worry abotu where their next meal is coming from*.

    I mean, yes, on one level, duh, romney’s tax plan benefits romney, and that is shady. But if you want to go there, you have to deal with the idea that an exceedingly rich leader is a leader who, practically speaking, does not stand to make *real* gains from abusing his office, and has a lot more *to lose* if he fucks up badly enough.

    (* The basic problem of congress and money boils down to this: If you are in congress, and you are sufficiently competent in a specific field to be trusted to regulate it, then if you do your job as a legislator and properly regulate them, you are pretty much guaranteeingf that you will never get a job in private industry in your field again.)

  • Ursula L

    $80,000,000.  That’s enough money to hire 1600 people at a salary of $50,000 each.  

    Which is what I’d expect Romney to do, if he actually is a “job creator” and his tax break is intended to create jobs.  Even if no one else who gets the tax break uses it to create jobs, the fact that he is creating the tax break with the intent of creating jobs means that he should feel honor-bound to actually use the money to create jobs.

    But, of course, he isn’t a job creator.  And he’s already sitting on much more money than the amount involved in this tax break, without using it to create any jobs or hire anyone.  

    If he’s got $200,000,000 sitting in the bank, then he can hire 4,000 people at a salary of $50,000 for at least a year.  He isn’t doing it.  He is proof, absolute proof, that money in the hands of the rich does not translate into jobs for the poor.  

  • DavidCheatham

    Indeed, and that’s what _I_ would do if I won the lottery.

    I’d hire a crew to build a building, find something that seemed a reasonable business idea, and start a business. And repeat.

    Some of these businesses would make money, and that’s good, and some of them would not, but hey, they created jobs, so they’re basically a form of charity.

    Alternately, if I ran into someone else who had a good idea for a business, I’d set _them_ up in one, with me as silent partner.

    And I’ll also start competitors to  some of the currently more abusive businesses, like payday loan places, and destroy, or at least seriously screw up, the market.

    Even if the place I start goes out of business after two months, I’ll have ran half of them out of business in that time, and the other half will have entered a price-war spiral they will find it hard to recover from. And with payday loans, my company going around buying ‘rollover’ loans of people who constantly can’t pay will really harm them, as that is where most of the money is.

    Selling at a loss to price other businesses out of the marketplace is probably illegal somehow, but, hey…the government should feel free to sue my company over that. It’s not like its going to last long enough to finish a trial. I don’t think there’s any real way to handle kamikaze companies. (Please note I’m not talking about bankruptcy. This company borrowing money without the intent to pay it back would be unethical. I’m talking about it just burning my capital and then folding when hitting zero.)

  • DashRendar1128


    $80,000,000.  That’s enough money to hire 1600 people at a salary of $50,000 each.”

    For one year. And then?

  • EllieMurasaki

    “$80,000,000.  That’s enough money to hire 1600 people at a salary of $50,000 each.”

    For one year. And then?

    Presumably you are not actually paying these people to entertain themselves. While it is of course plausible that you are paying them to do something that needs done but that is not profitable to do, one, that seems unlikely and not terribly bright from a free-marketeer perspective (which is the usual perspective held by anyone lauded as a job creator, which is where this discussion started, isn’t it?), and two, that’s what the public sector’s for. So whatever your employees are doing, it’s probably bringing in money. Not necessarily as fast as the money’s going out, but I’m not sure what one would need sixteen hundred people for to begin with, so start with a smaller operation (and possibly cheaper labor–no cheaper than local living wage for the unskilled labor, of course, and more for skilled, within reason) and it could easily be self-sustaining for some time, and the lower initial outlay would mean reserves on hand to ensure that if it ever stops being self-sustaining, one, you can pay your employees severance so they’re not fucked (nor on unemployment, which is really just fucked with a bit of lube) while looking for new employment, and two, you still have capital for your next try at job creation.

    Anyway, even if you really are just handing sixteen hundred people fifty grand apiece and telling them to entertain themselves, that’s sixteen hundred people who can suddenly afford to buy shit. There might be more efficient ways to inject eighty million into the economy, but handing sixteen hundred people fifty grand apiece and telling them to entertain themselves would certainly be effective at injecting eighty million into the economy.

  • DashRendar1128

    I don’t disagree with the main premise, that the eighty million could be used effectively for job creation as opposed to just lining Romney’s pockets further. But, er, there are slightly less…temporary methods of using that money in that way. (For one thing, if you burn every dime on salaries, what do you do for tools, equipment, transportation, overhead, or whatever other costs you’re incurring?) Eighty million could probably be used to start a series of small businesses in a variety of fields, many of which would fail, but enough of which would hopefully flourish as to make the outlay worth it.

    Just handing people wads of cash, though, that strikes me as a very bad idea, for several possible reasons. For one thing, geographical distribution – if all these 1600 people are in the same small town, for instance, you just killed that town’s economy.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    If I had $80 million $70 of it would go into a bank account. Even at 5% interest that’s $3.5 million a year to live on.

    The other $10? Making sure I have a nice place to live and so I never have to want for anything again. :P

  • EllieMurasaki

    Even at 5% interest
     
    It’s possible to make 5% interest?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You might be able to swing it on long-term bonds and/or money market vehicles if you negotiate. I’m still a little too used to 1990s-era interest rates, which were very rentier-friendly.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    When I was packing for my recent vacation (travel is my one vice — I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat fast food, and I don’t buy $5 coffees — I buy plane tickets and rent hotel rooms), my cats took turns hiding in my suitcase.

    This is how the idea that if I had zillions of dollars (and $80 million is pretty close to zillions) I would buy a top-of-the-line yacht.  Then I could travel wherever I wanted and take the animals with me.

    Of course, I do tend towards a bit of seasickness, so I  would need to open up one side of the yacht (or convert part of the deck into a bedroom with a verandah) so that I can get enough air to stave off the seasickness, but so long as I’m fantasizing, why the heck not?

  • Firestorm172001

    I just talked to somebody who said that Romney could use the tax evasion allegations here (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/rick-newman/2012/08/07/heres-how-mitt-romney-might-have-paid-no-taxes) to defend himself against allegations of corruption here.  The argument was pretty much that if Romney was weaseling out of paying taxes entirely and intended to continue to do so, the exact sum Romney would be weaseling out of paying would be academic with respect to Romney’s personal greed.  In Fred’s analogy, the city councilman would be writing a bill to pay himself out of a fund that he is already secretly embezzling. 

    My friend acknowledged that this would make Mr. Romney significantly more dishonest than previously supposed, but people who bought him as a “job creator”  might be  taken in.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    This is how the idea that if I had zillions of dollars (and $80 million is pretty close to zillions) I would buy a top-of-the-line yacht.  Then I could travel wherever I wanted and take the animals with me.

    Top-of-the-line yachts cost billions, not millions.  Yes, they are very, very silly.

    It’s possible to make 5% interest?

    If you’re investing 80 million dollars, yes.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

     

    Top-of-the-line yachts cost billions, not millions.  Yes, they are very, very silly.

    If I’m spending billions of dollars on a boat, it better have guns on it. Maybe something in the twelve inch range, with some smaller guns added here and there.

    And fireworks. It has to be able to launch fireworks. The kind that would make NASA jealous.

    And probably a small helipad or seaplane launcher for when I really really must send someone ashore for fresh tomatoes right this minute.


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