Monday, February 27, 2012

AIG and GM: A tale of bonuses and greed.

On Sep 17th 2008, two days after allowing Lehman Brothers to spiral into a bankruptcy, USA nationalized insurance giant AIG. An AIG bankruptcy would have sent the worldwide financial industry into a precipitous tailspin and caused financial armageddon, coming just two days after the largest bankruptcy filing in US history. A year later in March 2009, with Obama just inaugurated, AIG announced bonuses of unto $218 Million involving specifically employees in its financial division, the main culprits behind its ignominious fall. AIG pleaded that those were 'retention bonuses' to retain talented people who were needed to set the house in order. Barack Obama, now President, exploded in anger "I've asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to use that leverage (US bailout) and pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole". Justifiable anger. Accurately expressed emotions of an outraged nation. Charles Krauthammer, being a columnist, went further and called for bringing out the "guillotine and Madame Defarge". It is a rare cosmic event for Obama and Krauthammer to speak in unison and especially when Obama appears restrained in comparison.

Obama administration caused a flutter when it shredded 200 years of bankruptcy law to give UAW ownership of GM and Chrysler. If Obama had followed that bankruptcy model for AIG, AIG employees would not need that bonus but instead would be laughing their way to the bank. According to bankruptcy law bondholders are the primary recipient of money in a bankruptcy. Obama gifted GM to UAW and stiffed the bondholders. Same thing at Chrysler. Bond holders, banks like JP Morgan, recipients of TARP, were coerced into signing off.

In February 2012 GM (General Motors) reported record profits and declared bonuses $4000-$7000 to its 68,000 US employees. The President was grinning and proudly claimed credit for having saved "American car Industry", liberals danced in the streets (ok, not literally) about how workers and working families were saved by US government. The wrinkle in that story is GM still owes US taxpayers $25 billion. What is worse US taxpayer owns a third of GM shares. The GM shares bought by US treasury is languishing at $30, the shares need to touch $50 for break even. Not feasible any time soon.

AIG and Wall Street were bailed out of a rapidly spiraling, little foreseen, calamitous event. The much maligned $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), contrary to popular idea, includes bailout of Detroit. Everyone decried how Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan were given $25 billion from TARP. Both companies were actually 'forced' and 'coerced' to take the money lest they make the non-borrowers look bad causing a different crises. Both have returned the money, with punitive interest, promptly. That GM and Chrysler were sliding towards bankruptcy was a writing on the wall for nearly 4 years. Unlike Wall Street that suffered (and inflicted) a domino effect Detroit was declining in front of the public in well foreseen course of events. Wall Street has repaid every penny and interest for TARP. FDIC and US treasury made record profits on Wall Street bailouts. Detroit bailout is yet to make money for the taxpayer.

New York Times (not Wall Street Journal) in its editorial scolding Romney for discrediting Detroit bailout, conceded that Detroit's troubles were caused by outrageous labor contracts. UAW negotiated its most recent contract stipulating that GM should not be opening plants in low-cost Mexico. The American GM worker enjoying his bonus owes it to China and India for those profits. I guess selling to China is good but opening a factory in Mexico is not good.

UAW, with some justification, always deflected criticism of their generous benefits by saying "labor cost is a red herring, Japanese cars which cost more are selling more. So cost is not the factor. It's just that American cars are not liked by people due to reliability problems". UAW is also indignant that management continued to misjudge consumer requirements and produced gas guzzlers as gas prices climbed up. True.

UAW contracts, before the bankruptcy,  are fortified and in the name of protecting the worker make it impossible for factories to retool or close down. When a factory or an assembly line closes down UAW worker enjoys 100% pay and full benefits for more than a year, the benefits include $0 in pension contribution and a very generous healthcare plan. Under bankruptcy protection UAW negotiated and got 'sign on bonus' and contracted bonuses. I don't know if sign on bonuses exist in private sector anymore for any worker lesser than the top most spot.

UAW, because GM is under Chapter 11, conceded something unheard of in Labor movement in USA. UAW conceded that new workers would be paid a different, lower, salary. A two tiered structure. When Metropolitan Transit worker in NYC struck work in the busiest shopping season of the year in 2005, a week before Christmas, their leader Roger Toussaint declared haughtily, "we will not sell the unborn" and caused millions of dollars in losses to NYC businesses. UAW was forced to concede all this ONLY because under chapter 11 they cannot strike. UAW threatened Ford with a strike because Ford, which did not need a bailout, did not have Chapter 11 protection.

A justifiable question on AIG bonuses was "if these guys are so intelligent that we need to pay retention bonuses to keep them how come they caused this mayhem?" Sure.As much as AIG employees were deemed incompetent to receive bonuses I've not seen GM employees being asked that question. Do GM employees deserve their bonus any more AIG employees deserved theirs? Were is the President asking for his Secretary to block the bonuses and pursue every legal avenue to make the tax payer whole.

Time magazine ran a cover story on the turnaround of Chrysler. The hero of the story was the CEO, not UAW. The whole story, by left leaning Time, was effusive about Sergio Marchionne of Fiat. Fiat CEO refused to put a penny of his own and forced Obama to pay everything. Marchionne lent only his legendary name and skill. This a wonderful moment lost by UAW to make good on their boast that they are the pillars behind the companies. I'd have loved to watch UAW run Chrysler without these high priced and hated CEO's. After all does not UAW shout from rooftops about how CEO's are greedy and how its the worker who is the productive unit. Time covers story is a lesson in how individuals and CEO's matter. UAW is just muscle.

Yes GM made profits but at what cost. Aside from direct bailout the Obama administration's clumsy and useless "cash for clunkers" cost is not counted. CEO (popular website for car prices) lambasted the administration for throwing money. Again, it was done with the 'noble' intention of helping workers. Never mind that that money is taxpayer money, also paid by many hardworking workers. A friend dumped an old Nissan van and bought a Lexus with that taxpayer money. No sensible consumer was going to sign on a loan for a car worth $25,000 just because he/she gets $2000 for a banged up car. Obama administration scolded CEO for telling the truth.

Everyday the President decries the billions of dollars in subsidy to the gas industry. Little does he talk of how his stooge the EPA tweaks mileage rules to favor the Detroit three. The President continues to plough money into hybrid vehicles. Does a buyer of a $25,000 vehicle need tax payer money? GM's volt is yet to sell like the hot cakes it is made out to be. Also too much is made of GM's profits. GM earned its profits from sales mostly in Asia. Also the tsunami in Japan completely threw out Toyota and Honda's supply lines causing severe shortage. Any CEO worth his salt would put the cash that is raining now for a rainy day and not disburse them as 'bonuses'.

To top off the chutzpah GM recently paid millions to release an ad during Super Bowl half time starring Clint Eastwood lauding the bailout. The thinly veiled campaign ad for Obama drew a lot of scorn from republicans. Ford, trying to sell cars, recently aired a series of ads featuring real customers boasting that Ford did not take tax payer money and is turning out good cars. Obama administration shut that ad down.

Greed, it is liked to be believed, comes wearing a pin stripe suit sipping expensive wines. No, greed is as much blue collar as it is white collar. Greed can come in overalls too. Man is greedy. Greed fuels and destroys man. The art is knowing when the fueling power slides into becoming destructive. Wall Street greed has been decried and punished by lawsuits and regulations. Union greed is commended and celebrated.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tamil Christians and Tamil Sangams.

A friend posted a comment on Facebook wondering why Tamil Christians in USA do not show interest in Tamil Sangams despite showing enthusiasm in establishing Tamil churches in USA and worshipping in Tamil. One time North Carolina Tamil Sangam did not have a single Christian member.

Language is a powerful coagulant. As immigrants we love to congregate together on linguistic basis if we could or under some denomination. In USA given the large number of Tamils it is possible gather under the "Tamil" umbrella. Christianity being an organized religion, congregants, especially those who take efforts to establish vernacular churches, make it a point to meet at least twice a month and hold services in Tamil. This gives an outlet for what Tamil Christians miss as being away from Tamil Nadu. As much as Tamil Sangam members or some enthusiasts might disagree this is pretty much the same desire that is fulfilled by Tamil Sangams. So what more can a Tamil Sangam that a Tamil Christian does not get in a Tamil Church? Sangam members might point to cultural festivals, Tamil literary events (though sparsely attended by non-Christians themselves) etc and wonder "can they not come for the sake of Tamil?". No they cannot.

I grew up in a very unique Christian home thanks to a very liberal, very open and accepting father who shaped us to be open minded. We lived amidst Hindus of all castes, friendships with those families spanned generations. When all the kids in the neighborhood enjoyed bursting crackers we were told it's ok to join and we even got new clothes. Respecting our mom's wishes we celebrated Pongal complete with tying a turmeric around the cooker for Pongal and a kolam too. As a lover of literature my father savored Bharathi mini-epic of Draupadi and his songs of Krishna. We had Rajaji's "Mahabharatham" and "Ramayanam", a Bhagvad Gita, Silappathikaram etc. I inherited a love for Sivaji Ganesan, especially the movie 'Karnan' from my dad. My mother and wife both wear a bindi.

In most Christian households most or almost all of the above are taboo. Tamil literature, Kamba Ramayanam, wearing a bindi, a kolam, pongal etc are considered blasphemous by Christians. Tamil culture or whatever that gets called 'Tamil culture' is seen as 'Hindu Culture'. Ironically the Tamil Bible and Tamil Christian Hymns (especially those by Vedanayaham Sastriyaar) are replete with Sanskrit words and Hindu philosophy. Tamil Christians have not created anything in Tamil, besides the Bible and Hymns, that could be called 'literature'. The only feeble attempt is by an immigrant Veeramamunivar (Thembavani). The same could be said of Islam too. Islam had its own language too for all its members, rich or poor, for worshipping. Tamil Christians had only Tamil and English. Going to an English Church is considered more prestigious than going to Tamil church. The socio-economic divide between Tamil and English is very evident in the churches too. English Churches, especially in Madras, are invariably rich.

Before Tamil Sangam members take issue with looking at Tamil literature as 'Hindu' literature they would do well to introspect a good number of their own members who proudly claim allegiance to Dravidian political ideology. Annathurai made a career out of lampooning Kamban as a pornographer. In any other language a poet like Kamban would be celebrated, it is Kamban's misfortune that he was born in Tamil Nadu and he wrote in Tamil. Silappathikaram, written by a Jain, replete with Brahminical influences was held up as 'literature of the Tamils' by the same Dravidian ideologues without batting an eyelid that whatever they decried of Kamban could be said of Ilango. E.V.Ramasamy Naicker (some refer to him as 'Periyar') was an equal opportunity offender who relished lampooning all and sundry. With no knowledge of literature, worldwide or provincial, he ridicules Kural, the darling of his ideological progeny, along with the rest. Poor Tamil literature, some detest it for not being secular, others lampoon it on ideological basis.

When Tamil Unicode was being decided many Tamils, especially non-brahmins, in Tamil Nadu and USA worked themselves into a fury over the inclusion of a few letters, called "Grantha letters". Propaganda poured forth to protect Tamil against 'sanskritisation'. Tamil Bible is filled with Sanskrit word, Tamil Christian hymns cannot be printed in so called 'chaste' Tamil. By the way, no Tamilian, can actually write or speak 'chaste' Tamil. Good luck building a bridge then.

On a fine Deepavali day I wished an uncle of mine, "Happy Deepavali". Being a staunch DMK person he said "oh I do not celebrate Deepavali its all Aryan propaganda, I only celebrate Pongal which is a pure Tamilian festival'. Another shibboleth of Dravidian ideology is Pongal. Pongal is just harvest festival and is common to many cultures, Telugus celebrate it as "Makara Sankranthi". Food is cooked in a ceremonial manner and is offered to the Sun god. Pongal is not complete without a visit to family deity. There is nothing secular about Pongal for Christians to celebrate.

Tamil New Year is also not observed by Christians. Thanks to Karunanidhi now amongst those who celebrate Tamil New Year there is confusion. Tamil Sangams celebrate Pongal, Deepavali, Tamil New Year. On the contrary Tamil Sangams, to my knowledge, do not celebrate Christmas or Ramzan the two major functions of non-Hindu religions.

Nothing is secular about India. The India Day Parade in NYC for Aug 15th is dominated by an overtly Hindutva flavor (not just Hindu but Hindutva) that presence of Indian Muslims is practically nil, observed Is there a Tamil Culture apart from Hindu culture?

Unfortunately there are parts of Hindu culture that Tamil Christians have retained while refusing the finer aspects. That's the caste structure. A Tamil Christian asserted on Facebook "not a single Brahmin converts to Christianity, only non-brahmins convert and that is in order to escape caste oppression in Hinduism". The latter is false partly. A long serving Catholic Bishop in Tanjore was a Brahmin convert, so was the Bishop who presided over my marriage and a colleague I met in US. Both Christianity and Islam promised a casteless society that attracted especially the Dalits who were oppressed by every other community. However Dalit Christians continue to be discriminated by other Christians, who for the sake of quota are classified as Backward. Amongst Tamil Christian societies dowry remains a pernicious evil in proportions that are shameful.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Romney, Obama and the 'empathy' debate

A South Indian poet said his heart bleeds whenever he sees a starved sheaf of corn. Another poet admonishes that all learning becomes moot if one cannot internalize the suffering of another. 'Empathy', it is reiterated, across ages and cultures, is one of the defining characteristic of being human. Christ, echoing similarities in Hinduism, asked that we treat every person as if we served the Lord himself. Given America's penchant to simplify a lofty philosophy, a question posed during Presidential elections is "amongst the candidates who would you like to have beer with?" another variant is "who would you prefer to have as your neighbor". 

When FDR's cortege wound it's way through Virginia seeing a common man weeping inconsolably a reporter asked him if he knew FDR personally. The commoner replied "I did not know him but he knew me". Gandhi, the leader and empathizer par excellence, not only dressed and led the life of the poorest of Indians but his instinctive knowledge of suffering has spun its own tales of legend. 

Romney appearing in a morning interview on CNN said, with a straight face, "I am not worried about the poor, they have a safety net, I am not worried about the rich, they are doing just fine. It's the middle class I worry about". All networks immediately relayed "Romney says he is not worried about the poor". People who call themselves conservatives to the bone cringed because according to deep conservative beliefs everyone should progress economically. Romney's comment fed into a double narrative, first that conservatives are cold and do not care about the poor, second a rich republican does not really care for the poor.

Obama held a youtube town hall where a woman asked him if he would consider reducing H1B visas in view of highly skilled Americans being unemployed. Her husband, a semiconductor engineer, remains unemployed. Obama's response was "It is interesting". 

During the 2008 primaries one criticism that kept hurting Obama was that he does not 'connect' with blue collar voters. Hillary herself was characterized as "cold" until she shed a tear on live telecast in New Hampshire. When Hillary, after a long string of defeats, defeated Obama decisively in Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries again a collective chorus of "Obama does not connect" went up. Hillary supporter and PA governor Ed Rendell said Obama has an "appalachian problem". To make matters worse Obama was recorded as saying that "people cling to their guns and religion". That fed into the conservative narrative that liberal look down upon simple folks and their faith. Obama's allies, especially Afro-americans, bristled at this characterization of him being 'aloof' and not empathetic. His allies pointed out indignantly that Obama's mother raised him on food stamps. 

On the day of 9/11 carnage Bush appeared on live TV and let tears roll down freely. Bill Clinton let his tears roll down receiving the caskets of US soldiers killed in Somalia. Presidents need to reflect a nations grief and they need to do it spontaneously.

President's also need to channel a nation's outrage and anger when enemies strike. When Bush said, about Osama Bin Laden, "there is an old poster out west that says 'wanted:dead or alive'" some in the press demurred at such language. But Americans nodded that their President understood them. Many democrats, in private whispered, "thank God Gore is not president he would be wooden".

Bill Clinton was very famous for being connected. It is said that if you stood in a room full of people and Bill Clinton talked to you for a minute he would make it appear that you were the only person in that room and he was intently listening only to you.

Obama is known to shun hobnobbing dinners and rope lines. Bill Clinton's oxygen was being connected. Gandhi, FDR, Nehru were all born rich. Both Clinton and Obama were born into poor homes. Whether somebody is rich or born poor has little to do with a person's ability to empathize. 

What about empathy amongst common men in their daily lives? That's for another day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Romney is Kerry redux and 2012 is 2004

Its beginning to look a lot like 2004. Democrats are famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The GOP is doing its best to outdo the democrats and return the favor in 2012. Lets rewind to 2004 to relive how Kerry helped Bush get re-elected.

Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" a political documentary that made no pretensions of the filmmakers bias grossed $100 Million at the box office. The documentary had more satire than facts, its a Moore documentary, enough said. At the theater I watched the audience gave it standing ovation. The country was in turmoil over the Iraq war. Iraq was front, left and center in the election. The Orlando Sentinel, a key newspaper in a key battleground state, endorsed John Kerry. It was the first endorsement by that paper of a democrat pin 40 years. The Economist endorsed Kerry over Bush in its cover story titled "Incomprehensible Vs Incompetent". The Sentinel's endorsement of Kerry was a resounding snub to Bush detailing Bush's policy failures beyond just Iraq. So how did Kerry lose?

Kerry, like Hillary Clinton, had voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq but facing a stridently anti-war party he tried to do amends that earned him the sobriquet "flip-flop". Kerry did his best to strengthen the narrative and his worst moment was when he voted down an appropriations bill to pay for military in Iraq. He had earlier voted for it and reversed his vote in the final amendment. When criticized for voting against the armed forces in harms way Kerry responded, very famously, "I voted for it before I voted against it". Eager to lure gun owners, a traditional GOP bloc, Kerry went duck hunting and had a photo that made him look ludicrous. Having earned the "flip-flop" label Kerry provided Bush with the perfect photo to go with it. Against the advise of his consultants Kerry went wind surfing and the photo promptly went into GOP ads. Also a millionaire candidate going wind surfing did not help while his VP candidate, John Edwards (a millionaire trial lawyer) was screaming about "two Americas, one for the rich and another for the poor". Kerry, born rich and married rich, was criticized for being 'out of touch'. John Edwards before he made millions was poor and used to go to Wendys to celebrate his wedding anniversary. During the campaign Edwards took Kerry to Wendy's, Kerry could not eat there.

Given the Iraq war backdrop Kerry staked out his candidacy on just one issue, that he could be better commander-in-chief. Kerry is a genuine war hero, unlike Bush whose dodging of draft was laughed about. Kerry served in Vietnam and earned three Purple Hearts and was discharged. He was in-charge of the 'swift boat' division. Out of nowhere sprang Vietnam vets who criticized Kerry as 'unfit to lead' (an eponymous book also was helpfully published) based on nothing but lies. Disillusioned by America's fate in Vietnam Kerry became anti-war, testified in the congress, threw his medals. At the convention when he came on stage Kerry said "I am John Kerry and I am reporting for duty" with a salute. The next day New York Times cribbed that his almost hour long speech had just 3-4 lines about his decades long service in the senate.

While Obama is not as hated as Bush was in 2004 there is lot of disgruntlement and after the drubbing that democrats got in 2010 2012 was supposed to be the year of GOP candidates. Kerry was not the best Democrat to contest in 2004. The best, especially Hillary Clinton, decided to sit out thinking they would have a better chance in 2008 when the electorate would be thirsting for a change from 8 years of a Republican President. Likewise the most looked up to GOP candidates decided to sit out 2012. Out of a weak field emerged Mitt Romney.

Just like Kerry Romney too is staking his claim to the Presidency on just one agenda. Romney makes the economy as the only criteria to elect him. After Bill Clinton's legendary thumping of Bush Sr in 1992 based on "it's the economy stupid" it has become customary, especially with soaring unemployment, to cite that. Conservative columnist William Kristol acidly wrote "its not only the economy, stupid". Romney will learn that when he watches Obama coast to an easy victory.

Romney like Kerry has a penchant for landing his foot in his mouth. Like Kerry Romney is now labeled a flip flop. Like Kerry Romney is mocked for not having a "core". Romney and Kerry both hail from Massachusetts, a very liberal state. Romney is now mocked by his GOP detractors as being a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Only a RINO can get elected as GOP governor in Massachusetts. No Texan or Georgian republican can ever get elected in MA. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown shook the political world by winning what was called 'Ted Kennedy's seat' and he is pretty much a RINO too though he was once a tea party darling.

Kerry was fully heroic in his service in Vietnam and even more heroic in his denunciation of that war later. But the GOP slander machine worked over time to discredit him. Bob Dole, 1996 GOP Presidential candidate, archly said "three Purple Hearts and no injury" (Dole has a permanent injury from his service and Kerry had none). Romney has not done a single illegal dealing as businessman and by all accounts was a good boss, made money for his investors and helped create some good iconic American companies. Yet the Democrat slander machine is now working overtime (and including his GOP rivals) in circulating highly debunked documentary "Romney: King of Bain". Kerry was inarticulate in defending his anti-Vietnam protests, Romney is completely incapable of defending his work at Bain. Kerry had his duckshoot, Romney has his gaffe on being afraid of pink slips and more gaffes on how his earnings from speeches, $340K, was 'not much', '$10,000 bet' etc.

Romney has been compared to past presidential contenders, always the comparisons were with losers. When Kerry staked his candidacy on being a better commander-in-chief the Iraq war was raging hot. Seeing the unemployment drop in January a commentator mused on this danger of Romney talking like the only reason people need to elect him is his ability to fix the economy, "if the economy fixes itself by November, what is Romney's rationale for asking people to vote".

Romney will lose to Obama. If, and this is a very big if, Romney wins it would be ranked a more thrilling win than what Truman had over Dewey.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mitt Romney would lose against Obama. Here's why.

I'd like Mitt Romney to be the next President of USA but here is why he would lose to Barack Obama in Nov 2012 if he is the nominee. Before that let me state that if Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum become the nominee due to some death wish of the GOP then Obama can take a long holiday and wake up to a landslide re-election.

New York Times ran detailed profiles of Mitt Romney focusing on his days at Harvard and his days as Governor of Massachusetts. The portraits that emerged was of a very hard realist, honest and decent guy. If dirt was hidden there Newt Gingrich would have dredged it up now. Romney, remains a flawed candidate not just because he is rich but because he is not the instinctive politician like Obama is. North East moderate meets hard knuckle Chicago politician. Good luck with that.

Often elections are characterized as being important in a generation 2012 is the mother of all generational elections. America is at crossroads, the world economy is in shambles, Europe is staring at abyss, China is girding its loins, reams of newsprint are devoted to swan songs of America's pre-eminence, America confronts a burgeoning debt that is threatening to swallow its very economic muscle. Rarely in politics does hyperbole become a factual statement. The role of government versus role of individual, a 200 year old debate reaches its sharpest focus. How much does an individual owe unto society? Democratic Senate candidate for Massachusetts flatly stated "no man became rich on his own". That is echoed by Obama and his advisors. If a man owes his riches to society does he hold his income at the pleasure of the society? What is the fair share that a society is entitled to of a man's salary? These are questions usually discussed in the passing in politics and passionately in the halls of academia but in 2012 ballots will decide that.

This election is a conservative's dream come true. This is time for an Ayn Rand, time for William F. Buckley Jr, time for Barry Goldwater, time for Milton Friedman and yet none of them are alive and no GOP candidate has their intellectual gravitas to call out Obama's lies and deceptions.

Obama and left's new mantra is "millionaires and billionaires should pay their fair share". Obama stated that in his recent State of the Union speech. The deception is worse in the next immediate line where Obama assuages all about whose tax will increase "if you have less than $250,000 annual household income your taxes will not increase". Hooray. But wait did he not talk about millionaires and billionaires in the previous line so why is he now saying that if my household income is less than $250,000 I need not worry. THAT is the Chicago politician talking from every end of his mouth. Obama's plan increases taxes for anybody whose household income is above $250,000. By the way for working couples in high tax states like NJ, NY, CA, CT that is really not much. The President invited Steve Jobs's widow as his guest during the SOTU speech. How I wish to hear Jobs's opinion on that he did not get rich alone. I am sure the reply would be, to put it mildly, unparliamentary expletive filled language.

One common fallacy among the population is that business people understand economics. Worse yet we assume economists know philosophy. A businessman, or any common man, understands economics in a very limited sense. Sure, Romney, a Harvard MBA, can explain intelligently how to manage money. Rarely have I seen businessmen understand macro-economics. Why has no businessman written a book explaining economics? Thats why we have economists. Has any economist, barring a notable few like Hayek and Friedman, explained why capitalism is the only sensible economic system that best lifts the poor. Why was Ayn Rand compelled to write, as recently as the 50's a book explaining the philosophical necessity of capitalism? The book was aptly titled "Capitalism: An unknown ideal".

Contrary to popular opinion it is bad for rich people to have Mitt Romney speak of any of the above. "Conflict of interest" the populace would yell. Never mind that he earned every penny of what he has through hard work.

Romney's Jeremiah Wright moment came when his tenure at Bain Capital, a private equity firm, came under attack. When during the 2008 primaries stories of Obama's pastor, Jeremiah wright, broke out Obama did a very bold political gamble. News channels were showing in endless loops Wright's invective filled anti-American sermons. Voters were aghast wondering what is Obama's ideology as a 20 year congregation member of Wright's church. Voters wondered how much does Obama share Wright's criticisms of USA and hallucinatory indictments of USA. Obama said he would address the nation. In an eminently forgettable address, nothing that is remembered today, Obama faced the voters and said he disavows it all and for good measure asked America to buy into his hope and dream of becoming a better nation. More than the speech it was the gambit that paid.

I do not foresee Romney getting up on a lectern and explaining the proper function of 'private equity' or how 'creating jobs' is never the  primary goal of any business and that that is not a bad thing.

Mitt Romney is not an instinctive conservative in the tradition of William F. Buckley and that showed in his stupid comment "I am not worried about the poor, they have their safety net, the rich are doing just fine, its the middle class I am worried". The statement is factually true. In India or USA too its the middle class that's an orphan. Veteran conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer zeroed in on the fallacy that a conservative typically worries about everyone's economic progress. A conservative primary goal is to unleash the individual and ensure that the economic pie grows enough for everyone. A democrat envisions a static pie and is worried more about distributing that static pie.

It does not take intellectual finesse to tell a majority that all their problems stem from the conduct of a minority. Thanks to Obama today the commentary on deficits is focused on how much more the rich 1% should pay. Even if Obama gets his wish to tax the 1% (actually he wants to tax the entire top 10%, remember $250,000 above) the revenue gathered would be only around $500 billion over 10 years. The deficit is $14 TRILLION. Obama own commission appointed to study cutting the debt, the Simpson-Bowles commission, advised a dual strategy of tax hike and spending cuts with the emphasis on the latter. America has a spending problem NOT a tax problem.

It would take an intellectual giant with phenomenal political gift, like a Clinton, to tell the majority that the party is over and making Romney or Buffet pay 30% is not going  to fix it. Romney is sheepish about it. He does talk of cutting spending but he dare not say "medicare" or "medicaid".

Romney repeats like a parrot that he will repeal Obamacare. Till date he has not given any proposal of what he would replace it with. Saying glib phrases like "return the money to the states" or "let it be decided at the local level" will not wash.

Romney has not made out the intellectual case for Wall Street. He is shivering to his boots when he proclaims deceptively boldly "I earned it". He lets Obama team slam him for opposing the Detroit bailout. When Obama claims, falsely, credit for bailing out Detroit I do not see Romney sticking it in that it was Bush who bailed out Detroit.When Obama accuses Romney of willing to let the auto sector die its a classic case of misleading. Death of GM or Chrysler would not mean the death of auto industry, Ford would still be there, Honda, Toyota, BMW etc manufacture heavily in USA now.

When Obama talks of how Dodd Frank regulates banks Romney has not shown pugnacity in putting to rest that fraud. Just saying "I'll repeal Dodd-Frank" only tells a voter that Romney is on the take from Wall Street (By the way Obama's biggest donor in 2008 was Goldman Sachs). Dodd-Frank is a monstrosity that is choking the life blood of the economy larded with useless rules that do nothing to avoid a repeat of 'too big to fail'.

I do not see Romney making a vigorous case against the myth of "free market" in USA. THERE IS NO FREE MARKET in USA. When I say "free market" I am not talking about a 'free for all' economy. Let us understand that government agencies and policies do skew market. The EPA, Fannie and Freddie, regulations all have an impact on how the economy is shaped.

Romney curls his lips and says "the government should not pick winners and losers". True but he has never gone beyond that explained succinctly how EPA rules, often brought in the interest of consumer, end up making cars more expensive for all. When a multi-millionaire rich guy says "I want the government out of the way of business" an ill-informed voter hears "I'll let the market trample you without protection". Romney has not explained how regulations hurt consumers, how government hurts people.

Above all where most see capitalism as a "necessary evil" Ayn Rand saw it as the only rational system that has the ability to uplift millions. Romney is failing to make the moral case for capitalism.

Alexander Pope said "a people gets the government it deserves". America deserves only Obama.