Mitt Romney's "competence"

Near the GOP convention (the one where the delegates are at, not the VIP one separated out for big donors) site, Mr. Noun-Verb-and-9-11 said that this upcoming election was between Mr. Cool - i.e. President Obama, and Mr. Competent - also, I assume, President Obama. Well, of course Giuliani wasn't referring to President Obama when he picked Mr. Competent; he was referring to Mitt Romney. So, even though this might be somewhat redundant on this blog, I decided to examine just what type of competency Mr. Romney will bring to the White House, should he get to live there for the next four years.

Of course, when you are talking about competency, you are talking about competency in a given field. I may be a competent health care policy reviewer, but be a rather incompetent fool when talking about immigration policy (not that any of the big blogging heads will admit to this). I may be a competent writer but a completely inept singer. The relevant competency in our discussion is the competency to govern - the competency to be President of the United States, the leader of the free world.

Mr. Romney has been competent in certain things. He was a competent corporate vulture. So competent, in fact, that he delivered millions for his investors, and could call the shots where no one without at least $1 million to invest even needed to bother with his firm. That competency, though, came through a painful set of realities. Not painful for Mr. Romney, mind you. Painful for the laid-off workers in the companies he and his firm loaded up with debt and bankrupted, painful for the federal treasury that had to come and bail out pension guarantees at some of those firms, and painful for entire towns and communities devastated When Bain Came to Town.

But Mitt Romney was competent in delivering all the profits to himself and his investors as he and his firm got paid with the debt he racked up on these firms. Ruthless? Sure. But you see, you have to be ruthless if your sole goal is not to invest in businesses based on their merits but based on their ability to pad your bottom line (either through expansion or through bankruptcy - you still make out like a bandit). No one doubts that Mr. Romney was a ruthless, soulless competent corporate vulture. Mitt's problem is that it's that sort of competence that has the American people asking questions, and when they find the truth, being horrified at Mitt Romney's "competence."

Mr. Romney, one may safely assume, is also a competent tax evader. He has Swedish bank accounts, money stashed in the Cayman's, and in the one year of tax returns he has released, paid a whopping 13.9% on an income of over $20 million. Certainly, the real culprit at fault is the US tax code, which brazenly favors the super rich by giving preferential treatment to money made from money rather than that made from work, but still, Romney is competent enough to take advantage of it. At least, he's competent enough to hire the right tax attorneys and accountants to do that for him.

Another big area of "competence" for Mitt Romney has been highlighted by his own wife at the Republican National Convention: his "success" in running the Salt Lake City Olympics a decade ago. That "success" came at the tip of a US taxpayer bailout to the tune of $1.3 billion, which Mitt Romney "competently" extracted from our pockets. And then he competently shredded documentation for the Olympic's budgeting. Meet Mitt Romney, the competent bailout lover.

Speaking of shredding documents and being an opaque executive, one may also remember Romney's "competent" wiping out of his records in Massachusetts. But all sarcasm aside, his tenure in Massachusetts provides the only actual evidence of his governing competence - or any competence at all - that has benefited ordinary people. It is also something he and his campaign dare not speak of. It's Romneycare, which has provided near universal coverage in Massachusetts, and became a groundwork model for (though not an exact replica of) health care reform at the national level, the Affordable Care Act. But now that President Obama has adopted the principles of expanded coverage, subsidies and an individual responsibility provision, Mitt Romney has been reduced to grandiose claims to repeal his own idea. I am certain that we are to find this flip evidence of Mitt's "competence" in deserting his own principles.

As Mitt Romney stakes his claim to competency, let's see a rather small subset of things he plans to accomplish, competently I'm certain, if he gets elected President:

  • Ending Medicare and replacing it with a voucher program that will leave seniors in a $6,400 hole.
  • Using the money stolen from Medicare and other social safety net programs to give the uber rich the lion's share of a $5 trillion tax cut, in addition to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
  • Repealing health care reform, creating tens of millions of more uninsured, and returning us to the days when insurance companies got to drop you when you became sick, and deny you treatments your doctor thought required.
  • Repealing Wall Street reform, letting the banks run wild and free once more. Oh, didn't that just work out dandy for us the last time we tried it.
  • Rolling back student loan reform (which was part of the ACA), and once again subsidize banks to do... essentially nothing but be the middle men. After all, students can just borrow money from their parents.
  • "Getting rid of" Planned Parenthood, and along with it, support for family planning services.
  • Handing over women's reproductive health care decisions to their employers as far as deciding whether they can access contraception as preventive care.
  • Ending federal support for wind and other renewable forms of energy. Hear that, Iowa?
  • Return a Bush era foreign policy of petulance that emboldened our adversaries and alienated our allies.
Mitt Romney can rather competently accomplish all of these tasks and worse, if given the chance. He can rather competently and quickly reduce America's middle class to rubble, insulate the super rich, and destroy all opportunities for the poor. He could be very competent at doing just that.

And that's what this election is about. If we want a "competent" CEO who is hell bent on enriching the super wealthy at the expense of everyone else, Mitt Romney is the sure choice. But if we want competence in governing - in helping the middle class, in expanding opportunities, in preserving and strengthening health care and the social safety net, in investing in our future and in our infrastructure, and in preserving America's strength abroad through not just the barrel of a gun but the force of our ideals, there isn't a doubt that President Obama is the most competent president we have had in most of our lifetimes.

Although we have reminded this to the world many times, it bears repeating: when President Obama came to office, our economy was hemorrhaging nearly a million jobs a month, the American auto industry was on the verge of becoming a thing of the past, we were in the greatest economic slump since the Great Depression, and presidents had been talking about health care reform for more than a half century without doing much. When he came to office, members of our armed forces - those who stand on the wall to defend us - had to hide who they loved in order to serve the country they loved.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stopped the economic bleeding. It invested in America, gave targeted tax relief to the middle class and working Americans, and helped states retain teachers, police officers and firefighters. It created or saved up to 3.6 million jobs, an undeniable fact. He kept at it, instituting multiple smaller measures to help people in stress, and enacted the first tax cut for the working poor in generations in the form of the payroll tax cut. That is competence.

The president's insistence on rescuing the American auto industry has saved and created nearly 1.5 million jobs, reinvigorated and retooled the American auto industry, putting us back on top and saving communities from collapse.

The Affordable Care Act - OBAMACARE - has already ended pre-existing condition discrimination against children (and will for everyone beginning in 2014), extended the life of Medicare by nearly a decade, allowed for young adults to be or stay on their parents' insurance plans (covering nearly 6.6 million young adults), stopped insurance companies from dropping you when you get sick, and provided no-copay preventive services. It will insure an additional 32 million people when it goes to full effect, and expand community health centers. President Obama made affordable health care a right for all Americans and not a privilege. And he did it despite the political consequences. That is dedication. That is competence.

President Obama passed Wall Street reform that created the nation's first consumer protection agency - with the sole mission to protect consumers - and created an orderly process to wind down institutions threatening systemwide catastrophe. President Obama repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell so that no gay soldier has to ever choose between serving the country she loves and the love of her life.

Oh, and the president ordered the bold operation that put Osama bin Laden out of his misery.

If there is one reason why America is today coming back, albeit slowly (thanks to GOP intransigence), it is Barack Obama. If there is one word that describes how it was possible for the President to stop the economic bleeding and to start to build the groundwork for a more resilient economy, it is competency.

All of this would be "competently" undone should there ever be a Romney-Ryan White House. That is our choice in November. Do we want to "competently" undo the social compact of America and our investments into our future, or do we want competent leadership to strengthen that deep and abiding value that makes us an exceptional country? What kind of competency do we want?