I was having a very quiet Monday — only a couple of phone meetings, no pressing deadlines — when two bolts of news lightning made my day. The first was Mitt Romney’s open admission that “I like being able to fire people.” I never had a moment’s doubt about that, Mitt, but thanks for making it crystal clear. And then the news broke that Bill Daley was resigning and Jack Lew is taking his place. Suddenly the day is hopping, baby! Politics are rarely dull, but it is rare that you get a doubleheader of news like that.
Romney’s statement, and in fact his entire career at Bain Capital, shows that this whole Republican job creator mantra is, to steal a line from Newt Gingrich, pious baloney. The word pious fits because Republicans really do worship the top 1 percent and the Wall Street tycoons like Romney who manipulate money but don’t actually build anything or create net new jobs. In fact, not only do they not create them, they actually destroy them. They, as Romney was so happy to admit, enjoy being able to fire people, lay off people and outsource jobs. What a Wall Street company like Bain Capital does is buy companies and then move very quickly to turn a short-term profit on them. This occasionally means changing the executive team or adding real value to their operations so that they start to grow and make more money that way, which is fine. But because they are looking for a short-term profit, and because what they know how to do is manipulate the finances of companies to maximize that short-term profit, what most often happens is that they sell off pieces of the company to the highest bidder, or they merge the company with other businesses, or they do mass outsourcing and layoffs to slash labor costs, or they manipulate the debt and utilize tax loopholes to maximize their short-term profit and then dump the company, or maybe they do some combination of all these options. The problem is that not only do none of these things actually create jobs, but they definitively, actively do destroy jobs. Giving tax breaks for this kind of financial manipulation and speculation that destroys jobs is terrible public policy. And giving the Presidency to someone who made hundreds of millions of dollars doing it, someone who clearly and openly enjoyed it, would be a disaster.
As to the other news, I have been wondering when it was coming that Bill Daley would resign. I have known Daley for a quarter century now, and have always liked him personally, but given his temperament and Wall Street background, and given the Republicans complete unwillingness to work with the administration even when they desperately wanted to earlier in 2011, Bill as chief of staff never made sense. As a former Wall Street executive, he could not have been comfortable with the populist, Teddy Roosevelt-emulating, taking-on-Wall-Street direction this campaign was heading in. And when he lost an internal power struggle and got some of his day-to-day management power taken away from him, I assumed he was leaving soon.
Bill’s replacement is Jack Lew, who I worked with closely on the effort to reform health care in the Clinton White House. As I’m sure the folks at Third Way are relieved to know, Lew is not the same sort of populist progressive I am, we certainly disagree on some issues. But I always thought he was a solid guy with great intelligence, a strong feel for politics, excellent management skills, and a good heart. He will be a strong COS for Obama, and will be more at home with the kind of populist campaign the political guys in the White House and on the campaign need to run to win.
This quiet Monday turned into a big news day, and it’s another good day for Barack Obama.