Inside Big Money

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1% - Cartoon

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1% – Cartoon (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Being naturally skeptical and impulsively contrary, my suspicions are aroused by secrecy, something that abounds in a new Vanity Fair article about candidate Mitt Romney’s finances. I am indebted to fellow blogger Pied Type for bringing to my attention the most insightful report I have yet read on how the rich and powerful handle their personal investments, how companies like Bain Capital actually work, and which illuminates Mr. Romney’s personality and manner of thinking.

The article is a little long for bloggers I think. Even Pied Type admits that she didn’t read beyond the introductory summary. When I first started reading it I first thought it was only one page, but then noticed the links to three more pages at the bottom. It is however, in my opinion, first-rate investigative reporting. I urge the reader to persist in reading all of it.  It is enlightening as to the mindset of the rich. It causes me to recall Martha Stewart praising her broker for insider trading tips and Leona Helmsley saying that taxes are only for the little people. Such sound-bites were memorable because they were glimpses into a private mind-set that is usually hidden from the hoi polloi, thinking which takes a disingenuous stance about how finances work for insiders.

The article begins with an anecdote about Romney from a former Bain and Co. employee, one that occurred when Romney was only two years out of Harvard Business School:

A person who worked for Mitt Romney at the consulting firm Bain and Co. in 1977 remembers him with mixed feelings. “Mitt was … a really wonderful boss,” the former employee says. “He was nice, he was fair, he was logical, he said what he wanted … he was really encouraging.” But Bain and Co., the person recalls, pushed employees to find out secret revenue and sales data on its clients’ competitors. Romney, the person says, suggested “falsifying” who they were to get such information, by pretending to be a graduate student working on a project at Harvard. (The person, in fact, was a Harvard student, at Bain for the summer, but not working on any such projects.) “Mitt said to me something like ‘We won’t ask you to lie. I am not going to tell you to do this, but [it is] a really good way to get the information.’ … I would not have had anything in my analysis if I had not pretended.

“It was a strange atmosphere. It did leave a bad taste in your mouth,” the former employee recalls.

There is no evidence of lawbreaking in this article.  I believe Romney’s repeated assertions that he broke no laws in his operations, but the secrecy involved does raise moral issues for me. It is apparent from the article that he has hidden his wealth well and has disclosed only the minimum of detail about it, mostly with the aid of foreign laws tailored to protect all scrutiny. The tax havens he has used include not just Switzerland but the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, a place I have written about before in this context.  In discussing the Romney wealth the article says (emphasis added),

It is hard to know the size of these investments. Romney’s financial disclosure form lists 25 of them in an open-ended category, “Over $1 million,” including So­lamere and Elliott, and they are not broken down further. Romney hides behind a disclaimer that the fund managers “declined to provide such information” about their underlying assets. Many of these funds are set up in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, where a confidentiality law states that you can be jailed for up to four years just for asking about such information.

Financial firms like Bain take pride in deriving wealth from the clever use of investment leverage and knowledge of arcane laws. As the article says, companies like Bain,

 . . . take pride in pushing the leverage envelope [i.e., use of borrowed money, which magnifies returns, while off-loading the risks onto others] more than their peers,” he says. “I have heard that from limited partners in Bain’s funds. I have heard that from bankers who lend money to finance their leveraged buyouts. Bain always prided itself on ‘We’ll push leverage more than the others.’ They brag about that, behind closed doors.”

Is there not a moral difference between companies like Bain and others like, say, Apple? Apple’s success derives from making a superior product and using superior marketing strategies. Bain and others like it, on the other hand, succeed by clever manipulation of legal and tax loopholes, including foreign laws and regulations designed in secrecy for the purpose served. One might well observe that some of Apple’s products are made with cheap Chinese labor, but its operations are at least done in full public view.

I leave it to the individual reader of course to draw his or her own conclusions about what this means relative to the presidential race. As Americans we all admire “success” and by the measure of mere money, Mr. Romney is a big success. But the principal question to be answered in the political context is, should the ability to amass enormous wealth through the clever use of arcane laws, bankruptcies, financial manipulations, and offshore accounts be considered adequate qualification for running the most powerful government in the world?

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

And if he is elected President, will Mitt Romney use his special insider know-how to promote or discourage financial reform of the vast arcane network of laws, rules and regulations that protect and leverage his business and those of the other financiers of the world? Will he of the 1% move to protect the interests of the 99% at the expense of his colleagues? And with what style would he then run the Executive Branch, the disingenuous one with which he is so familiar? Or would he etch himself into a new and transparent Romney?

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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27 Responses to Inside Big Money

  1. PiedType says:

    When I read about people like Romney resorting to offshore accounts, Swiss banks, etc., to hide and protect their wealth, I always wonder: How much is enough? You have more than you or your heirs could spend in a lifetime; it’s not like paying taxes is going to put you in the poorhouse. So how much is enough?

    I don’t begrudge the wealthy their wealth if they come by it honestly and handle it honestly. More power to them. But when they get secretive about how they earn it, how much they have, how honest they are about paying taxes, etc., people are going to wonder what they’re hiding. In my book, any appearance of impropriety in a candidate for public office — especially the presidency — is unacceptable.


  2. Grant says:

    We can only blame an inept Congress and the Federal Bureaucracy for the way many people, rich and poor, hide their assets — some for legal tax purposes and others for qualifying for benefits. When re-election time comes, these incumbents advocate tax reform and a balanced budget; they invoke class warfare (rich vs poor) and the “race card”, and attack the “messenger” rather than discussing and debating the issues, etc. After re-elected, nothing changes!
    I submit that the nation will know more about Romney prior to the election in November than they know about Obama for the past four years! We have not seen any of the promised Obama transparency in government.

    Both political parties have rich members who invest their assets outside the United States. One can mis-judge character when trying to analyze the legal courses of action of others. Should we be more concerned about the leaks of highly classified information, identifying who is responsible for the death of federal immigration official, trying to balance the nation’s budget, etc.?


  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    You raise interesting points, Grant, and I welcome the discourse.

    1. I agree that “inept” is an appropriate adjective for Congress in general, although “corrupt” is probably even more so. I also agree that both parties have enriched themselves inappropriately, and especially by the subtle use of advance information as revealed this year by CBS’s 60 Minutes. Reform is surely needed in that area. I’m glad you raised this issue because this actually comports with the central theme of the Vanity Fair article in that the behaviors of some members of Congress and of Bain Capital both exploit the letter of the law to the detriment of the spirit of fairness and equality embedded in the Constitution.

    2. I believe that “class warfare” is sometimes an appropriate topic given that the income disparity between the upper 1%, or even upper 10% and the rest is at an historic high and still increasing. As the remarkable Vanity Fair article shows so well, the accumulation of great wealth in today’s society does not usually correlate at all directly with toil, sweat, perseverance, honesty, openness, nor even endurance, but rather with cleverness and manipulation of arcane rules, laws and regulations in a conspiracy of like-minded members of those in upper management.

    3. I have not personally read Obama’s two autobiographies, only a few excerpts, but I have seen nothing indicating he has been anything but open about himself, his finances and his background. The lack of real dirt on him is probably responsible for a lot of the nutty stuff I get on him by email, most of which is slander, verifiable through sites like

    4. I assume your mention of ” . . . who is responsible for the death of (a) federal immigration official . . . ” refers to the Fast and Furious dispute, a botched Department of Justice operation initiated under the George W. Bush administration that went bad. The reason it failed was that the original planners failed to understand that our gun-control laws are so weak and flawed that prosecutors would not support the law enforcement officials trying to follow the weapons.

    5. I agree that there are other important issues to the campaign than character and style of the principals, but that I submit is no reason to ignore those. In fact, I believe that character and style, along with a sense of history and a good educational grounding in the government and the Constitution, are paramount to issues like budgets, foreign policy and national defense because they influence decisions on such matters. One candidate has a background in teaching Constitutional law at the college level, I should point out, and the other does not.


  4. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    If accumulation of wealth is “wrong” then the American Dream is “wrong”. Sure accumulation of wealth through criminal activity is wrong. But if such wealth is gained legally, then has not that been an important part of the engine driving America since its inception? Great wealth was found in the acquision of land for example, by many of our Founders, land worked by slaves to some degree.

    So were Jefferson and Washington scoundrels?

    Take Romney’s quote about paying all legal taxes owned but not a nickel more, or words to that affect. Is that wrong? If laws allow the use of “offshore accounts” is it morally wrong to make use of such legal accounts?

    Let’s talk a little about “gaining knowledge” of markets in order to make good investments. That is exactly how “high jingo” finances work as I understand them. But of course I mean LEGAL “high jingo”. Then consider how many in Congress have enriched themselves through investments based on their own legal, but still “insider knowledge” of laws that were about to change through Congressional actions. Lots of folks on both sides of the aisle could be tarred and feathered with that brush.

    Is there something inherently dishonest over the use of “blind trusts”? Even SCOTUS Justices use such tools to keep their wealth intact and still be able to make decisions. Is that “wrong”?

    But I will wholeheartedly agree that our laws related to “loopholes”, the complexity of our “arcane” tax codes, etc. are sorely in need of repair, on a wholesale basis. In my view simplicity is the mandate for any taxation. Add up ALL income (or spending/consumption) and apply the approriate tax percentage to such income or consumption, period with no ifs, ands or buts about it.

    I also note that one of the linked articles was critical of the size of Romney’s IRA. Why? There is an implication at least that it was too big. Why is a large IRA inherently suspicious or “wrong” as long as the money was legally earned and taxed as called for by the law when the money is withdrawn in later years?

    Finally, if you read carefully about Obama’s “career” as a Constitutional Law professor, one could make the case quite easily that he was merely getting a “ticket punched” in such minimal efforts to “teach”.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Anson, your comments contain at least three straw-man arguments that probably ought to be addressed just for the record:

      1. I didn’t say that the accumulation of wealth was wrong. In fact I mentioned my admiration of Steve Jobs in the post and how he earned his wealth as a contrast.
      2. I did not accuse Romney of criminal activity. In fact, I explicitly noted I found no evidence of that.
      3. Anson’s example of wealth derived from the labor of slaves is a good one, I submit, of accumulating wealth under an immoral law. Slavery was perfectly legal until the Civil War.
      4. I didn’t call either Jefferson or Washington a scoundrel, I was speculating that they were not perfect and suggesting that we think of them accordingly.
      5. We agree, apparently, that financial laws currently have flaws. I say they tilt markedly and inequitably toward the rich.
      6. I said nothing in my post against the use of blind trusts. Nothing. Nor is there anything negative about them in the Vanity Fair article, with the exception that a circumstantial case can be made that Romney may in fact have influenced the blind trust investments improperly. However, such would be virtually impossible to prove without an insider offering evidence.
      7. Romney’s IRA looks suspicious because over a period of 15 years during which the maximum permitted contribution was $32,000 per year, a total of only $480,000 could have been legally contributed, and yet 11 years later his IRA is now worth about $102,000,000. I went to for a simple savings calculator and $480,000 at 8% interest, a good return on stock over time, would have yielded $1,065,427, or about 1% of what he actually made. Be nice if he would let us all in on his little secret, wouldn’t it? That’s is better than Warren Buffet ever dreamed of.
      8. I’m not privy to the details of Obama’s Constitution course but I do know that his course curriculum had to have been vetted by his peers and subjected to public review by his students. You know, freedom of speech and all that? If his teaching had been mere ticket-punching I think we would be hearing about it by now.


  5. Jim, I sent a link to this blog to a dozen or so people encouraging them to read, as well, the Vanity Fair article. (I’m glad to say WordPress has fixed my “Blogs I Follow” glitch.) I did read the entire Vanity Fair article — it is long but important. And like PiedType, I continue to wonder why. Why does a man with $320 million want more. Is there something he could do with $400 million that he can’t do with $300 million? If he paid taxes at the rate the wealthy paid in the Clinton administration years, would his lifestyle suffer? I contend that Romney enjoys seeing himself beat up the working poor the way a dog enjoys a rabbit hunt. We are his game and he does it for sport.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      I agree, Helen, it is interesting to speculate on the motives of politicians. I guess it goes to the meaning of life. It’s clear to me from reading about Romney’s background that he comes from a very competitive family and it clearly extends to his descendants – I’ve read that all five of his sons are successful and competitive men. And in case Anson is reading this, I hasten to say that being competitive is not a bad thing. Get that? Not a bad thing.

      I really don’t think Romney’s doing this just to toy with people though. He’s not mean, he’s competitive. I see nothing sinister in his ambition, but I do fear that once in office he will do many things that bolster the fortunes of his own tribe, the wealthy, over the fortunes of the larger tribe that is all citizens.

      Politics is a tough game and going through all the travel and the rough and tumble of the primaries has to be unpleasant for any family. But power is heady stuff, addictive, and it can do worse things to some people than to others. It did to Richard Nixon for example, and to Lyndon Johnson. I am currently reading about that in the book, “The Presidents Club”, which does a good job of looking inside the heads of men who have had the most powerful job in the world. I recommend it to all. And, thanks for your comment, Helen. I’m glad you’re still with me.


      • Jim, I don’t think Mitt Romney is mean, or sinister. I think he simply does not comprehend the suffering of average working people any more than the dog comprehends the suffering of the rabbit or fox it is using for its sport.


  6. ansonburlingame says:

    First regarding the oft used critique of “strawman” arguments. I based most of my comments on the articles linked, not Jim’s blog. Jim “did not say it” outright, but the articles certainly implied the issues I raised.

    So we at least agree Romney is not dishonest, sinister, etc. Certainly no allegations of such have “stuck” in any way. But sure he is “competitive”. So is Obama. Would anyone want a President that did not have that characteristic? For sure a President must want America to “win”.

    Nixon and Johnson were corrupted by POWER, a mistake that many politicians make. It was not by and large the acquisition of wealth that corrupted those men, it was power, political power, in my view.

    Now for Steve Jobs. He was evidently a very hard man to “work for”. He was manipulative, aggressive, etc. as most such tycoons become as they advance in business, some to the very top of any business. They are all driven to succeed, period, and for some the acquistion of wealth is the standard to mearsure such success. That does not make them contemtiple, in my view.

    Steve Jobs produced a very useful set of products (but made in China to save money). Well count up the businesses and jobs SAVED by the injection of private equity capital and tell me those are not good “products”. Bill Clinton and many Democrats will tell you the same thing as well. And most of many of those companies saved by private equity were American companies by and large. Anything wrong with that?

    I am not “up” on the moral history of every President for sure. Some were probably religious zealots or at least accused of such. But I don’t know of any huge mistakes made by any President, certainly not in “modern times” where their religion caused great harm to the country.

    Romney probably is driven by a moral codes not well understood by many of us. But if you strip the Mormon Faith down to basics, I suspect you will find the same morality as other relgions, beginning with the Golden Rule, Ten Commandments, etc. in some form or the other.

    Romney is attacked by the left incessantly for his wealth yet no one has shown that he gained that wealth illegally or even immorally. My view is that Romney has an inner moral compass far more demanding than the ones used by many Americans, but certainly I cannot prove that view.

    You seem to believe that Romney will slant his policies to enrich only the “rich”. I disagree. But there is not way to prove that accusation or rebuttal, in my view. So why try to do so.

    He wants to “cut taxes”, etc. The left uses that as a moral argument against Romney and if only taxes on the “rich” were cut and raised on the young ;and poorer groups of Americans, well you might have a point.

    Now just look at the CONSEQUENCES of ACA, raising “something” on millions of younger and poorer Americans by mandating the purchase of private HC insurance. ACA forces (thru government) more money to be injected into our system of HC in America and you know where that money is coming from as the law currently stands. Romney wants to repeal the law.

    Now if you are a 30 year old American currently not purchasing HC insurance today, who would you like to see become President?

    Finally, there is a current best seller making the rounds about Obama’s earlier years. It is entitled The Amatur and has received scathing reviews from the left. Based on interviews from his professors in Law School in which Obama taught, he was a “ticket puncher” only and rarely seen on champus or interacting with students. He came in, taught one class and went right back out to the ghettos to “organize”. True or not, I have no idea. But a point to take into consideration as well.



  7. Jim Wheeler says:

    Some things in life are hard to understand and some, not so much. Take the Higgs boson for example. I simply can’t get my head around the concept. It is presented as reacting to a “Higgs field” that permeates all of space and acts on other particles like “molasses” to impart the properties of mass, such as momentum and weight and gravity. But if that’s true, then how to account for the fact that objects with mass are attracted by gravity and are accelerated by it? And what the hell is a “field” anyway? My computer dictionary says it is “a region in which a particular condition prevails, esp. one in which a force or influence is effective regardless of the presence or absence of a material medium.” That doesn’t tell me what a field is, it is simply a description of something that behaves that way. Very unsatisfying.

    However, there are things that can be explained simply and understood by almost anyone, and I just came across a NY Times essay by Nobel economist Paul Krugman that does just that regarding the Vanity Fair article discussed in this post. I’m happy to say that I find nothing in his analysis that contradicts my own regarding Mr. Romney’s wealth, but Krugman adds something quite useful that I omitted, a comparison of Mitt’s secrecy with his father’s openness. Krugman is, in my opinion, a national treasure because he not only thinks deeply but explains plainly. We can all use plenty of that, no?


  8. ansonburlingame says:

    Well, I to do not understand the “Higgs boson” or the field in which it reacts. For that matter I have never understood, nor do I think anyone else does, yet, how gravity “works”. We can measure the affects of gravity but what exactly comes from the moom to pull our oceans back and forth to create tides? Beats me unless there are very small “strings” that do it! And of course what are “strings” made of? Maybe a boson or two, I suppose!

    I to read Krugman and understand what he is saying by and large. But in my view is entering premise is wrong for our economy in todays America. Go to my recent blog from yesterday where I link a interesting article written by Samuelson in the Wash. Post. I would really like to read a Krugman rebutal to that Op-Ed.

    I have been “mumbling” for some time now why more government spending makes little sense to me today. Samuelson said it in about 300 words. Bottom line is our economy is so big now that the money required to really have an impact is simply too huge. I suggest you check that short blog, where I simply let Samuelson speak for himself. The blog title is Debt, Deficit and the Cliff.



  9. Alan Scott says:

    Jim ,

    You and your fellow Liberals use the Bain issue to make it the rich against the poor . I see it much more as competence verses incompetence . The American economy is the largest in the World . A President makes $ Trillion dollar decisions every year . It’s obviously very complicated .
    Right now we have a President who is a poor manager of that complicated economy . He came into office with no experience in running anything with a large budget . President Obama has also shown no capacity for learning on the job.

    Governor Romney’s Bain experience shows that he understands financial management . He will not be buffaloed by his financial team the way President Obama is by his team . Obama is at the mercy of that financial team because he has no knowledge in the financial field . Romney was also a Governor, so he can hit the ground running in January, and he will have to .

    The United States is a gigantic turnaround project . Fortunately Romney turned around the winter Olympics . Romney is the right man at this point in history . In the past America has been blessed by men rising to the Presidency when prior leadership has failed . Lincoln following Buchanan comes to mind .


  10. Alan Scott says:

    Jim ,

    What aout your rut ? You can go on and on about equality . I suppose everyone being equally poor and miserable is okay by you ? America has tried your vision for 3 and a half years . I respectfully suggest that it has not worked .

    32 years ago your guys were saying pretty much the same things about a man named Ronald Reagan . I don’t know if Mitt Romney is another Reagan . One term of Barak Obama does feel a lot like Jimmy Carter .


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Equality as you know is espoused in our founding documents, so I am happy to follow in that tradition. But I have not espoused Communism, something you seem to imply. Can’t you recognize that modern economics requires something other than one of the two extremes?

      Ronald Reagan was at least consistent, Alan, and that’s one thing Mr. Etchasketch is not.


  11. ansonburlingame says:

    Thanks for joining in Alan, it gets “lonely” here and on the EC blog comments for a conservative.

    Jim, used to try to be close to the middle in politics. But over the last year or so he has become consistently to the left of center, and in some cases such as HC far too the left. When you counter him you get “strawman” and now “rut” accusations. Obviously anyone that is consistently on the conservative side is in a “rut” but if one is consistently on the left they are all for equality, fairness and overall enlightenment of some sort.

    Of course that is not the way the world in general works. I particularly liked you point about competence and incompetence. Romney has demonstrated significant competence in everything he has tried to accomplish. He is obviously and has been all his life a competent Mormon, a man of spiritual faith and consistency in that faith. Of course the left attacks him and his religion for such spirituality. Jim has been particularly “suspicious” about such matters and written accordingly.

    He was for sure a very competent business man and the left attacks his ability to make money for such businesses. They also attack the basic business model of equity capital even when wiser men of the left, such as Bill Clinton slap them down.

    The one success on the part of Romney that the left has yet to attack is his ability to turn around the Olympics. I wonder why? Maybe Romney directed uniforms for those Olympics to be made in China as well. Bet someone is researching that right now!!

    But the really remarkable thing done by Romney, something that the country needs today a lot, is the ability to Govern a very Blue State successfully. For that achievement he is now accused of having no principles. Remarkable. To me it shows the ability to govern with conservative prinicples but still more a liberal State “forward” which the people of MA seem to believe he did.To be successful in business a good leader must be pragmatic, able to see what CAN be achieved as opposed to strictly an idelogical attempt to force things that cannot be ultimately


  12. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    Sorry, my computer went “nuts” and I had to restart before finishing the above.

    Some things are politically unachievable. In order to govern effectively, leaders must recognize such things. Reagan did so by accepting spending demanded by Congress, spending that he would have not persued on his own “principles”.

    But GOVERN, Reagan did so very effectively and was our most popular President seen since at least FDR. Dems sputtered then and now over Reagan’s “principles” and even try to diminish his effectiveness as a very popular President. But oh that we could have a President, from left or right today that could rally the people to his side for eight years.

    Can Obama achieve such “rallying”. No way. For sure he has failed miserably to do so for almost 4 years, just like Carter.

    Can Romney do that, rally the people. I don’t know yet. But for now I am willing to vote for “change” and give him a chance.



  13. Alan Scott says:

    Jim ,

    I would never imply you are a Communist . I think that you most likely have never seriously studied Communism and therefore do not know their tenets . I would challenge you to differentiate your beliefs from Communism and therefore clarify the discussion .

    I also challenge your point that your view of economics is consistent with the founding documents . The Founders were in most part the evil 1 % . Back then is was more difficult, not impossible, to have the education to be a leader in the founding of the country if you were poor or even middle class. So the founders had no philosophy of economic equality of outcomes . They did have a philosophy of the economic equality of opportunity . The Big Government of the English Crown had denied them that .

    Your side has a basic hatred of economic elites . This is based on pure class envy . This is natural . All of us have it . We are all jealous of those who have more wealth . We can all see people who have obtained their wealth in ways we do not approve of and are not included in .

    The Progressive answer is to demonize the rich and capitalize on class envy . So why do this ? Do Progressives just have gigantic hearts and love the great unwashed ? No . Progressives long to be part of the ruling elite . In such a society the political elites have the prestige, power, and wealth that they do not have the talent to compete for in a capitalist society . Extreme examples are N. Korea and Cuba . We will never get away from elites . You fear the power of economic elites . I fear the power of Political Elites and their almighty Bureaucrats .

    ansonburlingame ,

    Thank you for the kind words. I get bashed all the time on many boards . I do not mind it because if I choose to engage in these conversations I am inviting that .

    I find that many of the Progressives lately have redefined the middle . They label the Tea Partyers far Right Wing Extremists . Imagine living with in your means being an Extremist point of view . In order to make this sound reasonable they recreate their leaders as middle of the scale bi partisans .


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      You did imply that I might be a Communist, Alan, but I accept your word that it was unintentional. When you said, “I suppose everyone being equally poor and miserable is okay by you?”, it fit the famous Churchill quote:

      “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

      Your comments were condescending and patronizing but I will answer them anyway.

      You would be wrong that I “never seriously studied Communism”. During the 22 years I was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, the Communists of the USSR were my enemy and I did study them. But of course, those were Communists in name only, the USSR being a de facto socialist oligarchy in which the so-called Communist Party ruled with iron control through a corrupt bureaucracy and squashed human liberty with secret police.

      I didn’t say that my view of economics was consistent with the founding documents, but rather that “equality” was. That of course was in reply to your statement accusing that I “go on and on about equality.” Really, Alan, you need to concentrate if you’re going to engage in political discussion. But, back to economics. Yes, as a reasonably educated man I know that 18th Century economics was different from what it is now. (I actually have not only an engineering degree but a Master’s in business.) Back then was largely an agrarian economy dominated by the more wealthy and educated men, which is why only they in those days were allowed to vote. And of course they sought equality of opportunity. But another major difference back then, one that empowered individual independence, was the availability of cheap or free land as the nation expanded westward. (Country Wide and Wall Streets big banks have pretty well killed the real estate remnant of that dead as a doornail now.)

      While I have not formally adopted a political “side”, it is true that since I began blogging I have become more progressive in my politics, but I can assure you and other readers that this is not because I have accepted a Democrat package of beliefs as a package but rather have found that many of their views fit my own perception of what makes sense for an advanced, technological and interdependent society. I aspire to a society that has respect for the equality of all people but compassion for the fact that we are not all equally capable, nor smart, nor healthy. (I have actually voted Republican or independent all my life, up to 2008 anyway when I voted for Claire McCaskell.)

      When you say that progressives “hate economic elites”, you are simply being paranoid. Americans in general, in my experience, admire success when it is fairly achieved, and aspire to it. That includes me, which is why I recently drew a distinction in a blog comment between a Steve Jobs (or Henry Ford) type of success and a Bain Capital type of success. One involves beneficial productivity that lifts living standards for everyone and the other is destructive, involving mostly crafty financial manipulation. If Bain Capital is your paradigm of economic elites, I suppose I do fear them. They can damage livelihoods, as when they swoop in to buy a troubled enterprise, convert its assets, including retirement funds, to cash, and then leave the government pension guaranty fund (taxpayers) to pick up the pieces. Yep, pretty clever.

      The economic world is not as simple as you make it out, Alan, and neither am I. A modern technological society depends on experts of all kinds to cooperate in making the benefits of science and engineering available to everyone on a reasonable basis. This is not 1776 anymore. Everyman is not Davy Crockett who survives on his own. (Hell, even Davy didn’t make his own gun and knife.) Economies of scale are essential, as are regulations and even unions, that assure that the benefits trickle down to a reasonable degree. To see what an economy looks like without those factors you need not go further than China, another oligarchy that has discovered a brand of capitalism that favors elites. From what I read, working conditions in China, while much better than under Chairman Mao, are horrendous by Western standards.

      When you buy into right-wing propaganda that entrepreneurs are largely self-made successes through only personal hard work and ingenuity you are ignoring a vast range of government and social infrastructure that enabled that hard work and ingenuity, not to mention a reliable justice system. The fact is that similarly strong and capable people exist in the Third World as well, and yet still do not succeed. Why? It is the absence of that underlying infrastructure, the roads, bridges, dams, utilities, government research and most of all, that stable government and justice system. When you buy in to the slogan that letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the top 2%, it will damage business, you are being duped again. Businesses in general are flush with cash already and having more won’t change anything. It is economic uncertainty that stalls expansion, not a lack of money. And when the GOP says they have the answer in lowering taxes on the rich even further, it only forestalls putting the public sector back to work. When you buy into the need to kill ObamaCare with no viable alternative offered, you are being duped again. In short, Alan, your simplistic approach to these issues is flawed. You and Mitt Romney need the little people far more than I think either of you realize, and meanwhile the GOP and the Tea Party have our government moribund.


  14. ansonburlingame says:

    Well Alan and Jim,

    I begin by quoting Jim, again, wherein he wrote, “Your comments were condescending and patronizing….” First, Alan was in a “rut” and now…… I get the same retorts when I comment against Jim’s views herein. But I do keep coming back.

    Surprisingly, Jim and I have very similar backgrounds up to our “old age”. Both of us were born and raised in small, rural communities (Kansas and Kentucky), both achieved enough success in HS to be able to get a “free” government funded education at the Naval Academy and both of us served with honor and retired as Naval Officers. I served in submarines for almost all of my career and Jim for a while in such ships. We both learned the demands placed on every man on a submarine, regardless of rank or background and both of us wore our “dophins” with great pride as well. We felt like we were part of an elite military organization and in fact we were just such men, elite men that wore the “dolphins”. I say that with pride even now some 50 years after that insignia was first pinned to my chest. I suspect Jim feels the same way, at least to a degree.

    As well both Jim and I have advanced degrees after our engineering background at USNA. His was “business” and mine was “international relations”. But then at some point we departed in our political points of view. That does not make either one of us right or wrong, just different, politically.

    For whatever reasons, my political views have always been conservative. But such views have “softened” over the years as well. Jim has “gone left” to a degree. Fine with me and each to his own.

    But in “going left” in these blogs, Jim gets a lot of rebutal from me for about two years or so now. He used to rebut my conservative blog as well but no longer. Again, fine with me and each to his own. Jim now goes “over there” to our really leftist local blog in support almost, but not always, all the time. He is “comfortable” commenting on that blog and garners politidcal support in doing so. Again, fine with me and each to his own.

    BUT, I suggest that his defensiveness as shown above is the wrong approach if one chooses to write publicly. No, in my view at least, Jim is not a communist but he does call for the Public Option of universal health care for all Americans and refuses to explain, specifically how to pay for it. Jim does not like food stamps fraud but refuses to agree on how to control it in a meaningful way. I could go on but so what? I would be “condesending and ….” in Jim’s eyes if I did so.

    NOW, I do NOT write this “history” to condemn Jim. But I do write it to show the deep political divide in our country. Honest men, Jim and I, with similar backgrounds have “written each other off” politically in these local blogs. Rarely can we find any agreement on almost anything.

    Well does that suggest why our national politics are so divided, today as reflected in STALEMATE in Congress? Does it suggest in any way how to get out of such poltical stalemate?

    If Jim and I cannot agree on almost anything politically today, much less the far more polemical EC “over there”, locally, what hope do we have for compromise and political resolution of burning issues that if left unresoloved will bring the country down around our ears or the ears of our children or grandchildren?


    PS: Alan, I am the “duty grump” on this blog site and the “duty crazy conservative” on the other local blog. I don’t know if Jim wants you to do so, but in my view “keep coming back” right here to let your views be known. Actually I am not very “lonely” around here as this, Jasper County, MO is very very conservative, far more than I am on many issues. But I keep trying to make rebutals locally as well and will continue to do so unless I just get too frustrated with politics of any sort.


  15. Alan Scott says:


    You take exception to my implication, sorry . But as a far right economic cheerleader, to me, your views are not that much to the right of Socialism . I agree that the USSR was not classically Communist . I argue that Communism is only possible on a small scale. Commune-ism , as you scale it up you inevitably get a ” de facto socialist oligarchy “.

    So why is this ? Because Government elites are no more noble than any other . They become corrupt as they cling to power . I argue that Barak Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Chucky Schumer, and Harry Reid sought to construct a ” de facto socialist oligarchy ” . That is what Global warming and ObamaCare are all about, nothing else .

    I am really glad you brought up Country Wide and Wall Street . They are classic examples of a ” de facto socialist oligarchy ” combined with Crony Capitalism. I invite you to google Friends of Angelo, and see what and who pops up .

    You are totally wrong when you say I ignore the government provided infrastructure and Justice System . How can I put this ? Those are the few things I want government to do . Government is like a guy who does everyone else’s job except his own . Government does a poor job on the basics because it has it’s fingers into everything . My favorite example is the People’s Republic of California . In fact every single thing wrong with big government can be found there . They are cutting back vital services, raising taxes, and laying off state employees, so they can waste $ Billions on idiocies like wind farms and bullet trains . Contrast that with Wisconsin and Indiana .

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion of what I, Romney, the Tea Party, and the GOP are doing . If we have gone far right it is to slow down what the far left has done . Having 3 1/2 years of plus 8 % unemployment, running up $ 5 Trillion in new debt, and blocking domestic energy production is all on Barak Obama .

    ansonburlingame ,

    I once worked with an ex submariner . Most capable boss I ever worked for . I know the standards to become what you and Jim achieved are higher than I ever dared . Jimmy Carter was a Submariner and headed a team that shut down a damaged nuclear reactor . At least on paper, as a former Governor he should have made a great President. Yet his rigid techno over regulation of energy and the economy were a disaster when he was President . That is the same path President Obama has gone down.

    My bluntness has gotten me invited out of a few boards . I really am trying to be ‘ diplomatic ‘ in the way I word my responses . I just have no patience for self delusion, including my own .


  16. ansonburlingame says:


    Your rebutals to Jim are very much on the mark in my view. He won’t like them but if he joins the fray in a public blog, well “frays happen”, I suppose. If you scan back six months or so you will find a HUGE argument between Jim and me over censorship, screening and not publishing comments that meet the standards of civility of any public newspapers, as just an example.

    BUT, PLEASE, do not think that Jimmy Carter was a nuclear submariner by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think he even wore “dolphins. You must have served on a submarine in the crew of such and “qualified” to wear that insignia. Carter worked in Rickover’s HQ only as far as I know and I am not sure he even ever went to sea on a submarine. Carter MAY have been a “nuke” by training but that alone is not being a “submariner”.

    Knowing how to operate the reactor plant on the “back end” of the ship does NOT mean you can operate the “front end” by any stretch of the imagination. A submariner must be able to do BOTH, to every high standards of performance. Carter probably could never looked through a periscope or make sure the “cooks’ served good chow” and all the other things needed to lead a ship of war, in peace or wartime.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ All,

      Somehow I am not surprised that AB would demean former Naval officer James Earl Carter by speculating on his professionalism. After all, AB speculated on how I feel about my own submarine qualifications two comments back on this very post (emphasis supplied) when he said:

      “We both learned the demands placed on every man on a submarine, regardless of rank or background and both of us wore our “dophins” with great pride as well. We felt like we were part of an elite military organization and in fact we were just such men, elite men that wore the “dolphins”. I say that with pride even now some 50 years after that insignia was first pinned to my chest. I suspect Jim feels the same way, at least to a degree.”

      At least to a degree? What the hell does that presumptuous qualification imply? Do my perceived politics demean the significance of my service?

      Just for the information of other readers, here is what Wikipedia has to say about Carter’s submarine service, a passage that I submit speaks for itself regarding Carter and which also says something entirely different about the source of the demeaning comments above, a source who previously demeaned President Obama as a man who, because he lacked military experience, “had to be taught to salute”:

      After high school, Carter enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College, in Americus. Later, he applied to the United States Naval Academy and, after taking additional mathematics courses at Georgia Tech, he was admitted in 1943. Carter graduated 59th out of 820 midshipmen at the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree with an unspecified major, as was the custom at the academy at that time.[15]

      Carter served on surface ships and on diesel-electric submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. As a junior officer, he completed qualification for command of a diesel-electric submarine. He applied for the US Navy’s fledgling nuclear submarine program run by then Captain Hyman G. Rickover. Rickover’s demands on his men and machines were legendary, and Carter later said that, next to his parents, Rickover had the greatest influence on him. Carter has said that he loved the Navy, and had planned to make it his career. His ultimate goal was to become Chief of Naval Operations. Carter felt the best route for promotion was with submarine duty since he felt that nuclear power would be increasingly used in submarines. Carter was based in Schenectady, New York, and working on developing training materials for the nuclear propulsion system for the prototype of a new submarine.[16]

      On December 12, 1952, an accident with the experimental NRX reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories caused a partial meltdown. The resulting explosion caused millions of liters of radioactive water to flood the reactor building’s basement, and the reactor’s core was no longer usable.[17] Carter was now ordered to Chalk River, joining other American and Canadian service personnel. He was the officer in charge of the U.S. team assisting in the shutdown of the Chalk River Nuclear Reactor.[18]

      Once they arrived, Carter’s team used a model of the reactor to practice the steps necessary to disassemble the reactor and seal it off. During execution of the actual disassembly each team member, including Carter, donned protective gear, was lowered individually into the reactor, stayed for only a few seconds at a time to minimize exposure to radiation, and used hand tools to loosen bolts, remove nuts and take the other steps necessary to complete the disassembly process.

      During and after his presidency Carter indicated that his experience at Chalk River shaped his views on nuclear power and nuclear weapons, including his decision not to pursue completion of the neutron bomb.[19]

      Please note, readers, that I highlighted in bold that Carter completed qualification for command of a diesel-electric submarine. I can assure you, that didn’t happen without “looking through a periscope”, and it also didn’t happen without qualifying for the dolphin insignia. I can also tell you from personal experience that qualifying for dolphins in diesel boats in those days not only entailed at least 6 months’ training, but it culminated in a rigorous oral examination by a Commanding Officer of another submarine and an operational exercise on yet another submarine in which the candidate made an exercise torpedo ready himself and fired it in an actual two-ship exercise. I don’t know if nuclear-power requirements for qualification are the same or not.


  17. Alan Scott says:

    ansonburlingame ,

    I am glad for your information on Jimmy Carter. I read various articles on him and had no reason to doubt the accuracy of his pre Presidential life . I also previously read the Wikipedia entry Jim posted . Your posting would solve the mystery for me, of how someone of Carter’s military and technical excellence should have become the President of Malaise, if you are correct . Perhaps you and Jim can resolve whether Carter ever served on a Submarine .

    Jim ,

    Wikipedia, while a useful research tool, I do not believe should be quoted as a source to settle a dispute .


  18. ansonburlingame says:

    Here we go again, and again, with Jim taking offense at some of my comments.

    First regarding Carter’s military experience. I will defer to Wikipedia and admit that I was wrong by thinking Carter had never served at sea on a submarine. And if in fact he “qualified for command of a submarine” then obviously he “looked through a periscope” and knew what he was seeing.

    Jim’s description of the qualification process is also accurate and it makes no difference whether such qualification occured on a “nuke” or a “diesel” submarine. Yes, earning the dolphins on a “nuke” was somewhat more difficult in that deeper understanding of the engineering systems and operations was required. But the dolphins on a man’s chest were all the same with no distiction between what kind of propulsion plant was on the ship.

    Now for the “to a degree” comment. In the early 60’s when Jim entered the fleet, very few nuclear submariners were in the fleet. Most submariners were diesel boat submariners and all nuclear submariners at the time had served on diesels before entering nuclear power training.

    My class, 1965, was the first Naval Academy or NROTC class to go directly into nuclear training before first serving in the fleet for a couple of years. So I became a “baby nuke” right out of the gate so to speak. I also point out that my first sea tour was on a diesel submarine so my submarine qual process was exactly the same as Jim’s a few years earlier.

    As time went on with more and more “nukes” in the fleet there became some animosity between the DBFers (diesel boats forever) and “nukes”. The new began to replace the old in a manner of speaking. SOME of those DBFers HATED “nukes” at least professionally. I served with some of them.

    Jim and I have never had that discussion but given Jim’s demeanor I doubt seriously if he was that sort of naval officer, a DBFer if you will that hated “nukes” for no good reason other than professional jealousy. Jim served honorably for about as long as I did in the Navy though our career paths were different, not better or worse, just different.

    But as well, I will freely admit that my politics and style of writing are based in part because I was a Rickover trained nuke, right out of the gate and such training and experience imbedds itself rather deeply in me at least.

    My uncle a WWII submarine hero and retired Admiral hated Rickover and everything he stood for. He was a classic DBFer but long before the first “nukes” came into the fleet. He retired in 1957 about three years after Nautilus went to sea. But Creed pinned HIS dolphins on me, the ones he received from Admiral Lockwood after being awarded his first Navy Cross during WWII. I pinned the same dolphins on my son some 30 years later as well. One DBFer and two “nukes” wearing the same “pin”.

    As to why Carter was such a lousy President, a micro-manager if you will, I cannot claim any insight for sure into his state of mind. One of the big complaints against “nukes” has long been that they micro-managed too much. In my view, some did so and some did not. It depended upon the man, and all nukes were not equal for sure, one way or the other. I also note that Carter was the ONLY USNA grad to ever become President. West Point produced several however such as Grant, Ike, etc. As well I suspect Jim will disagree with me that Carter was a “lousy President”. But that is politics, not how we both served in the Navy!

    Finally, I only know of ONE President that called a corpsman a courpseman. Those men, and now women saved lives, they did not embalm the dead!!!



  19. Alan Scott says:

    Thank you both for the Jimmy Carter discussion . It was my fault we got so far off track .


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