Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Wall Street Primary

New Op-Ed By: Wes Messamore

Mitt Romney has done well for himself in early Republican Primary contests this year, but what he doesn't want you to know is that if Wall Street had a primary, Mitt Romney would win that too. His top three contributors this election cycle are Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse Group, and Morgan Stanley. In addition to these three, four more of Mitt Romney's top ten contributors are also "too-big-to-fail" banks and giant international financial corporations, including: HIG capital at #4, Barclays at #5,  Bank of America at #7, and JPMorgan Chase & Co at #10.

Of the remaining three of Mitt Romney's top ten donors, two are major international law firms that consult and litigate for big finance: Kirkland & Ellis and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Sullivan & Cromwell is another major law firm that heads up Romney's biggest supporters, clocking in at #14 on his list of top donors and followed by even more big Wall Street banks, with Bain Capital at #15, UBS AG at #16, followed by Wells Fargo, with Blackstone Group next, Citigroup Inc. after that, and Bain & Co rounding out the list at #20.

That's who wants Mitt Romney to be the Republican Party's nominee: big banks that profit from lobbyist-written legislation and public sector bailouts at the taxpayer's expense, as well as the big law firms who advise, consult, and litigate on their behalf. This isn't capitalism and Mitt Romney knows it. Capitalism is what happens when companies innovate, work hard, and create products and services that consumers value and willingly pay money for. Every cent of profit from that kind of activity is well-earned and belongs to the companies that create it.

But any TARP-opposing Tea Party protester could tell you that Wall Street doesn't produce its profits-- it lobbies for them. It doesn't create wealth-- it steals it from taxpayers. It doesn't engage in capitalism-- it engages in public sector wealth redistribution, straight from your wallet to Wall Street's bottom line.

That's how it worked when Mitt Romney was a big banker himself. One of Romney's biggest talking points is that he has proven experience in the private sector, but it takes some Obama-level audacity to bring up his time at Bain Capital and actually call that "private sector experience." Under Romney's leadership at Bain Capital, a company he co-founded in the 1980s, the company received millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts from the federal government. Romney and his partners profited to the tune of $4 million from the bailout at the taxpayer's expense.

That isn't private sector experience. That's public sector lobbying for the taxpayers' money. It doesn't prove Romney has solid business acumen and leadership. It proves he couldn't even turn a profit. The government had to bail out his failing company by taking from hardworking Americans who actually produce something of value. Rick Santorum cluelessly accuses Romney's critics of attacking capitalism by attacking Romney's time at Bain, but that ain't capitalism; that's government wealth redistribution, and it's at the foundation of everything that's wrong with this country and with its economy right now. Mitt Romney cannot solve the problem because he is the problem.

Considering what he did at Bain, it's no wonder that Romney continues to support government bailouts like TARP to this very day, using the same tired old line that it wasn't perfect, that it wasn't implemented as well as it should have been, but that it absolutely needed to be done to save the economy, that Washington absolutely had to loan at your money to big Wall Street banks. There might be no better litmus test for who should be the Republican Party's nominee this election cycle than what each one thinks about TARP. Any candidate who actually supports TARP like Mitt Romney is looking out for Wall Street, not for you. Americans in both parties overwhelmingly opposed TARP in 2008. Politicians in both parties-- including Barack Obama-- "reluctantly" supported it.

And that's why Wall Street continues to use its dollars to support politicians like Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Big TARP recipients like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley were some of Obama's biggest contributors in 2008. They paid for his ads. They helped him get elected. These same companies are among Romney's biggest contributors in 2012. They are paying to run Romney's ads right now. They are helping him to win Republican nominating contests. They are trying to get him the Republican Party's nomination. How on earth have Republican voters allowed themselves to be duped into supporting another Wall Street candidate for their party's nomination? Do they think he'll be any different than Wall Street's last candidate who sits in the Oval Office now?

The most commonly-mouthed bromide of this year's primary season has been that anyone will be better than Barack Obama, that the very most important thing we can do is defeat Obama and replace him with whomever the Republicans nominate as his challenger. But the reason Obama's presidency is so dangerous is that he does not care about America's interests. He is not looking out for us. He is looking out for his Wall Street bosses. Replacing him with another Wall Street candidate like Mitt Romney will change absolutely nothing. It would be an exercise in futility. Republicans might as well just scratch out the "D" next to Obama's name and replace it with an "R." Those letters hardly mean anything to politicians anymore. Instead look at who wants Romney to win and see who else they support.

A common theme of primary-related political analysis is the disproportionate influence of early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire over the eventual outcome of the primary, but the more seriously disproportionate influence is that of the Wall Street primary. Whichever candidate wins that "primary" should lose the Republican Party's primary. Whichever candidate wins that primary will serve Wall Street's interests, not America's interests. It's time for a real change in this country, and the only way that is going to happen is if America rejects Wall Street candidates like Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It's time to ignore Wall Street and elect an American like you.



UPDATE: Watch the video version of this op ed here.