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Pity the Quarter-Billionaire

Posted on Jan 8, 2012

By Thomas Frank, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

Promethean Job Creators and Heroes of Venture Capital

You say Romney is an unprincipled faker. Fair enough—he is. He’s so plastic he’s almost animatronic. But have you looked in the mirror recently? Aren’t you the ones who fall for it every time Fox News wheels out some Washington hack to confuse this or that corporate issue with the sacred cause of freedom or states rights or man’s inalienable right to mine uranium in his backyard? Aren’t you the ones who thought that Glenn Beck’s tears were markers of emotional sincerity? And for Pete’s sake, your populist Tea Party movement was actually launched from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade!

I know, I know: for almost three years now you’ve dazzled the world with your proclamations that we’re being dragged into “tyranny,” that the country is being “destroyed,” that America needs to be “saved”—and now here comes Mitt, with his fondness for workaday compromise, ruining your carefully contrived atmosphere of panic.

That must be disappointing, but don’t lose the faith! Give the man credit: he has tried. He’s no stranger to the core Tea Party myth of the noble businessman persecuted by big government.  Indeed, at the Conservative Political Action Congress in 2009, he opened his talk as a stand-up comic this way: “I gotta get through this speech before federal officials come here and arrest me for practicing capitalism.”


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Meanwhile, he has the perfect Tea Party sense of social class. A centimillionaire who made his pile as a venture capitalist, Romney has both deplored class warfare—meaning, certain criticisms of Wall Street—and practiced it, taunting President Obama as a modern version of Marie (“let them eat cake”) Antoinette.

There’s no contradiction in any of this, either for him or you.  When someone has made his way in life via academia, like the president, he is, of course, a snob, and part of the ruling elite.  When, on the other hand, a person’s multi-millions were visited upon him by open-market actions directed from the C-suite, he is automatically a man of the people, a horny-handed son of toil. In fact, Romney takes this kind of market populism a step farther than you ordinarily dare: corporations, he has famously announced, are themselves people.

And keep in mind that, with Mitt Romney, venture capitalist, carrying your banner in 2012, you will finally get to submit your capsized vision of social class to the verdict of the people—the actual flesh-and-blood people, that is, not the corporate “people” who make up the S&P 500. You will get to defend exactly the sort of “person” your movement has longed to defend since it was birthed by a CNBC reporter almost three years ago to the cheers of a bunch of derivatives traders in Chicago.

You will get to explain your peculiar conviction that the way to react to a gigantic slump brought on by frenzied finance is to unshackle Wall Street. You will get to line up behind a heroic businessman, like those rugged, resourceful fellows in the Ayn Rand novels you love. You will get to go into battle for the job creators, which is what all capitalists are, right? (Well, okay, maybe not the guys at Bain Capital, the particular outfit where Romney made his pile, but the theory is all that really matters, isn’t it?)

Indeed, your leadership cadre is already playing up the inevitable criticisms of Romney as a job decimator as a way of launching a grand debate about capitalism—by which they mean, of course, freedom itself. When Newt Gingrich criticized Romney a few weeks ago for his career in private equity, the airwaves of your winger-tainment world exploded with outrage. “This is the kind of risk-taking, free-market capitalism that most people who call themselves conservatives applaud,” intoned Brit Hume on Fox News. If Newt had a problem with Bain’s operations, announced syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, “then Gingrich really doesn’t believe in capitalism at all.”

Washington Post columnist George Will declared that what Romney did in his venture capitalist days was an “essential social function,” that his company was “indispensable for wealth creation.” (Just whose wealth was being created he left discreetly undefined.) Yaron Brook, head of the Ayn Rand Center and a familiar figure at Tea Party events, is no fan of Romney’s, but he had this to say about Romney’s career: “private equity serves an incredibly important productive function in our economy… Private equity is in my view a heroic activity.”

“Heroic”: that’s exactly the word! In Romney we have finally found a quarter-billionaire to cry for. And so Suzy Welch, author and wife of Jack, appeared on Fox Business to wonder why Romney wasn’t defending himself aggressively against criticism of his business career. Romney, she announced, is “an American hero to people who believe in free enterprise, or he should be.”

And that combination of tragedy and heroism, my friends, is why you will soon be signing up for the Romney juggernaut. In him you will see the saintly victimhood of Sarah Palin melded with the Promethean job-creator who was the cult object of your 2010 efforts. Social issues be damned!  Romney will ensure that we get the one thing that this country can’t do without on its path to hell: further deregulation of Wall Street.

The nation’s all-powerful elitist socialists will, of course, disagree, and you’ll have a field day, raging and weeping at the way they are going to set out to persecute this noble, wealth-creating soul.

Pity the billionaire: it will be a powerful rallying cry for 2012.

Yours in petulant individualism,


Thomas Frank is the author of the just-published “Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right” (Metropolitan Books). He has also written “The Wrecking Crew,” “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” and several other abrasive volumes. He is the “Easy Chair” columnist for Harper’s Magazine and founding editor of The Baffler.

Copyright 2012 Tom Frank

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By dr wu, January 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment

Dont’t like Romney, try Obama.

Increasingly it looks like a Romney vs. Obama race – Sadly, both are in the grip of Wall Street. Obama’s last 3 chiefs of staff—Wall Streeters/hedge funders all. Obama calls Lloyd Blankfien of Goldman Sachs (Obama’s single biggest contributor in 2008)  a “savvy businessman,” instead of the speculative casino operator he is. And Romney—born rich, got richer thru vulture capitalism. The Republicans say get government off our backs; I say get the vulture rich off our backs and let America shine again.

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By David J. Cyr, January 10, 2012 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

QUOTE, Thomas Frank:

“For the last few months, the world has been fascinated by your [Tea Party Movement’s] frenzied search for a presidential candidate who is not Mitt Romney.”

Just wait to see how horrifically fascinating America’s “progressive” voters will be, when they surge backwards to attempt to justify their false faith-based support for the corporate party’s Final Solution: a 2nd term for Obamanation.

If the Tea Party people are dumb, the “progressive” liberals are definitely dumber.

VIDEO - A Message of Change, on Which Real Hope Depends:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

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By mrfreeze, January 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

doctor doctor - I sincerely believe you are mischaracterizing Frank’s view on the TP. Just read his new book and then draw conclusions. His main issue is that too many neoliberal/uber-conservative beliefs, thoughts and values have been wrapped in, through and around things where they don’t logically (or common-sensically) belong.

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By doctor doctor, January 9, 2012 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

I love the way outsiders like to tell the tea party what they should like and what they shouldn’t. I’ve never seen one yet that knows what the tea party really stands for.  It’s obvious that the main flaw in ol Frank’s thinking is that he believes all tea partiers are right wingers.  WRONG!  Try independents who don’t really care a crap about the Republican or Democrat party. We usually vote republican only because its the lesser of 2 evils.  Since no one will run on a third party ticket, we try to find someone in the Repubs who think like us.  Unfortunately, R Paul is the only one close enough this year, but its obvious he can’t get elected because there are too many old blue hair ladies (along with their husbands) in the voting block that require the candidate to “look presidential”.  These old ladies and their ilk don’t belong to the tea party but unfortunately they make up a large percentage of the voters.

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By mrfreeze, January 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm Link to this comment

ocjim - Read Frank’s book. He discusses, at length, the role of the plutocrats (Kochs and others).

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By ocjim, January 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment

Your argument should actually be with plutocrats, especially the Koch brothers, whose Americans for Prosperity (AFP) put millions into the tea party effort. The tea party got big and was pushed into importance because big money played it like a fiddle to oppose the 99% and Obama’s campaign rhetoric. I say rhetoric because Obama actions never materialized for the people. That was trumped by big money and their exploitation of a movement that was never grass roots, but propaganda gave it that flavor.

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By mrfreeze, January 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

I’m plowing through Frank’s book as I write this post. It’s a must read.

All I have to say is I pity the fools who would have Mitt Romney as president. Just as all Mormons are, he’s a “capitalism” idolater…...his faith is a business masquerading as a religion and, once “enthroned” in the White House, he will go about the business of dismantling all the programs that are holding our country together.

Frank spend a lot of time in the book talking about the way in which the uber-wealthy managed to co-opt the mantle of the “downtrodden” in current American discourse and how, as always, Americans have been duped into voting against their own best interests….......Vote for Romney at your own risk.

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By bpawk, January 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

Obama and Romney are quite similar - Obama’s actions are more right wing than his rhetoric - Obama continuing Bush’s corporate bailouts, tax benefits for the wealthy, pursuing endless wars and eroding civil righs with Romney’s relatively progressive beliefs on issues like gay rights, health care, and climate change. Obama is a conservative democrat - Romney a liberal republican - they are fairly close with both parties representing the elites. There is no one for the average American. That’s why it’s time to create a third party to speak for them.  If you want more of the same, vote for one of the two elite parties - if you want a real change, bring in someone else like Ralph Nader or the Greens (they’re a start) otherwise you can’t complain.

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By LeeMcD, January 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Important to consider Mitt Romney’s role in the Leveraged Buyout of America—LBOs vs jobs—Wall St Banks and private Equity firms like Romney’s Bain Capital, KKR, and Goldman Sachs
that enacted a large scale Leveraged Buyout of America and the pending LBO credit crash and its imminent impact on the US economy…then join those standing up for you and genuine
capitalism—not rigged capitalism and all this cheating and looting of our economy for short term gain.. See Lady Gaga Does LBOs [short]...

See Ron Paul in…Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bank?: An Uncensored Investigation of the US Federal Reserve Banking Cartel—one of the most controversial institutions of our time…(Self-Serving its Country Since 1913).

Try SubPrimal Scream Therapy: %

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Or you might like Banking On It (New Republican Seinfeld-esque Comedy Series): %

And: this [short]: Neverminditol-The Great Recession Depression Drug and then get up and JOIN those not against capitalism but against rigged capitalism…

Or at least see Chitty Chitty Bank Bank:

And if you just want someone to blame, try The Blame Game:

But if you want to return our crap money to its source, try fast free online game “Take That: A Federal Reserve Crap$hoot Stress Relief Game”:

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