In a recent appearance, as part of a long campaign speech, President Obama said that if anyone became financially successful, someone else along the way helped him or her get there. It was a flagrant challenge to the Sinatra song-based theory of success, “I Did It My Way” — a theory that holds that folks who made their pile did it without the help of teachers, employees, family, investors, lenders (including the SBA), government tax breaks, or any other outside party. Did it against all the odds. Alone.
The president’s assertion of a shared road to success almost immediately morphed into a Rush Limbaugh rant that Obama hates business, especially the Republicans’ new favorite prop, small businesses, and thence to the Mitt Romney campaign trail assertion that Obama “hates success.”
Some might shrug off this Romney crack. See it as just an early bit of campaigning twaddle. Another cheap attempt to do what both parties now do with a sleazy regularity — take something our of context and use it against an opponent they want to smear, the template for which was the hugely effective and utterly nonsensical campaign ad that worked so well against John Kerry by labeling him a “fliop-flopper” using an out of context speech clip.
I don’t think that’s really the case here, however. I think that when Romney said that Obama hates success, he really, really believed it down to the private school, country club, Wall Street-honed core of his being.
I think that to Governor Romney and folks like him, the path to “success” has almost nothing in common with the path that gets the elderly small business-owning couple at a Vegas midnight show slobbering in their fifth gin and tonics when “I Did It My Way is warbled by a Sinatra look-a-like. Rather, I think the Romney road to success is the product of raising huge amounts of money as possible from as many sources (domestic and foreign) within a crony-based deep pocket network, to do deals whose only aim is to maximize profits for these lenders and investors, at whatever corollary costs, positive or more often negative, for everyone else.
This particular path to success doesn’t appeal to me. In fact, I hate it. Hate it for the terrible place it has landed this country and the world generally.
Maybe some entities do have to play the vulture and dung beetle roles, not only in natural ecologies but their economic clones as well. But I find other paths to economic success infinity more appealing — and infinity more worth pursuing as national priorities.
Here’s the kinds of economic success that Governor Romney and his circle have had no experience with, and that I hope will one day again become the main goals of this country’s economic policies:
—The success that allows working Americans to find well paying jobs with a modicum of security and decent benefits;
—The success that lets them get their kids through college and maybe more advanced education without turning these kids into lender-indentured adults;
—The success of knowing that you’re not always one serious illness or accident away from personal bankruptcy;
—The success that comes with the freedom to leave a job you hate with at least some confidence you can get another one, as good or better, after you do a personal life search.
No. I don’t hate every kind of American success story. Just the one that begins: “I happened to know a bunch of guys with a lot of cash who knew some other guys with a deal that couldn’t miss and even if it did I and my pals would be made whole-plus.”
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