Just when you think Mitt Romney can’t sink his well-heeled foot any deeper into his mouth, he shoves it in even further. The outrage over his dishonest, political point-scoring over the Muslim riots in Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya was still unfolding, when Romney defined “middle income” as “$250,000 and less.” But nothing could top Mitt Romney calling 47% of Americans moochers, on a secret video that Mother Jones released this week of Romney speaking to donors in Florida earlier this year.
While it’s been interesting to watch conservatives either quietly condemn Romney’s remarks, race to distance themselves, they shouldn’t get away with dismissing them as Rich Lowry did when he said Romney “overheard some conservative cocktail chatter” or “maybe read a conservative blog or two,” and “is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read.”
Uh-uh. As I’ve written before, Mitt Romney said what he meant and meant what he said. Romney’s words indeed echo well-worn right wing rhetoric, but they also reflect the values that informed his vulture capitalism at the helm of Bain Capital, and inform his bully economics today.
This inforgraphic from BainOfOurExistence.Com illustrates the point I’ll explain below.
By now, the Romney “47 percent” talking point has been thoroughly debunked. The only thing Romney came close to getting right was the “47 percent” figure. That was pretty close. According to the Tax Policy Center, 46.4 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, but two thirds of them paid payroll taxes, and they all pay state and local taxes, not to mention sales taxes.
But those 47 percent don’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes. The question isn’t “Why don’t 47 percent of Americans pay federal income taxes?”, the question is, as Dave Johnson pointed out, “Why don’t 47 percent of Americans earn enough to pay federal income taxes.”
Mitt Romney was caught on video complaining that 47% of us don’t make enough to pay taxes, believe they are victims, are dependent on government, etc. The right question is why do so many of us make so little?
Moving Jobs To Places Where People Don’t Have A Say
You often hear that competition due to “globalization” means that we have to accept lower wages and fewer benefits, because people “over there” make so much less. What has caused the pressure, however, is “free trade” agreements that allow companies here to close factories here and open them over there, and then bring the same things they used to make here to sell in the same stores. The only “trade” involved in this transaction is trading who does the work.
In places where people are able to have a say, they say they want better wages, benefits, good schools, good roads, parks, a clean environment, safety standards, and things like that. In places where people do not have a say, they are told they can’t have better wages, benefits, good schools, good roads, parks, a clean environment, safety standards, and things like that.
When we allow our companies to close factories here, where people have a say and move them there, where people do not have a say, and then bring the same goods back here to sell, we are allowing them to escape the borders of democracy. When they are no longer subject to the We, the People that has a say, they can do what they want, exploit workers, exploit the environment, and reap the profits of not having responsibilities to others. And because it costs less to pay people less and exploit the environment, allowing them to escape these responsibilities makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.
Sound familiar? It should. As Dave pointed out earlier, Mitt Romney and Bain Capital pioneered the profitable practice of shipping American jobs overseas. Not only is Bain still in outsourcing business, this time shutting down the Sensata factory in Freeport, IL, and sending the jobs to China, but forcing workers to train their overseas replacements before being put out of a job. In another clip from the leaked video Romney described his days as a vulture capitalist and offshoring pioneer.
When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there. It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married.
And they work in these huge factories, they made various uh, small appliances. And uh, as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with uh, with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10, 10 room, rooms. And the rooms they have 12 girls per room.
Three bunk beds on top of each other. You’ve seen, you’ve seen them? (Oh…yeah, yeah!) And, and, and around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers. And, and, we said gosh! I can’t believe that you, you know, keep these girls in! They said, no, no, no. This is to keep other people from coming in.
These are the labor conditions Romney and Bain were looking for to drive down costs. It’s not clear if they actually followed through and bought this factory, but we know that moving jobs overseas was the business Romney and Bain were in. And Bain is still doing it, with the help of hefty investments from Romney. Right now, a group of workers in Illinois is pleading with Romney to keep their jobs at a company he’s invested in from being sent to China.
Mitt Romney says he didn’t ship our jobs to China, he’s “sharing with the world.”
In newly released footage, Mitt Romney tells donors the story of visiting China with his Bain Capital friends and seeing a crowded factory with fences, barbed wire, and guard towers — but rather than being outraged, he holds this up as a shining example of how our economy should work.
As you know, I’m losing my job to China. So I sat down with my coworkers at Sensata and we taped this response to Mitt Romney’s video:
We’re exactly the kind of workers Mitt Romney outsourced when he was at Bain Capital. And not only does he continue to profit from it — recently leaked Bain files show Romney owns stock in Sensata right now — he also created the business model that’s going to cost us our jobs by the end of the year.
My job is a good job — certainly not enough to make me rich, but I can support my family. But we’ve been told Bain Capital, which owns Sensata, is shipping our jobs by the end of the year. We’ve already been forced to train our replacements in China.
If you want to know what the Romney Economy is, just see what’s happening to the people of Freeport, Illinois. It’s not what I want for my future. Please share this video and get the word out if it’s not what you want for yours.
And this is where the infographic above comes in. Newt Gingrich called it a “Wall Street model” where “you can basically take out all the money leaving behind the workers.” And to give Romney credit, though the evidence is scant, he may have created some jobs at Bain. The problem is, as Dave pointed out earlier, most of the jobs Romney wants credit for creating are low-wage jobs, with no path to upward mobility.
Mitt Romney says the U.S. can be “the best place in the world to be middle class again” and points to his hand in founding companies such as Staples Inc. (SPLS) and The Sports Authority Inc. to show he can create jobs to get people there.
While these retailers provide salaried positions, including store manager, that offer a path to the middle class, the majority are hourly jobs that don’t. Sales associates at the two chains make less than $9 an hour on average, according to survey data from Glassdoor.com. At that rate, which is common in the industry, someone working 40 hours a week would earn below the poverty line of $19,090 for a family of three.
“Some people in those companies in management do fine,” said Stephanie Luce, who studies low-wage labor issues as an associate professor at the City Universityof New York’s Murphy Institute. However, “the way to make a living wage is to get into a management position, and there are very few of those.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 percent of workers in office supply and sporting goods stores are salespeople or cashiers, who are generally paid even less.
While Romney, a former private equity executive, has pegged his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on aiding the middle class, the bulk of the retail jobs he touts underscore the widening income gap that can hold workers back from reaching that status.
That makes Romney the “Bain of the 47 Percent” for his part in making sure that 47 percent of Americans don’t earn enough to pay federal income tax, working at jobs like the one’s Mitt Romney wants credit for creating, while promising more of the same as President.