THE PRESIDENT WE DESERVE
A lot of you took issue with my prediction that a Ron Paul victory in Iowa will sew up the nomination (and quite possibly the presidency) for Mitt Romney -- and while you may have doubts about the likelihood of that chain reaction, it's looking more and more as if the Ron Paul victory is going to happen, with Romney the runner-up and Newt Gingrich and the rest of the field as also-rans. Public Policy Polling:
Newt Gingrich's campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa. He's at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.
Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row. His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%. And there's been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47)....
But Paul isn't exactly following a formula for victory in the rest of the GOP contests:
Paul's base of support continues to rely on some unusual groups for a Republican contest. Among voters under 45 he's at 33% to 16% for Romney and 11% for Gingrich. He's really going to need that younger than normal electorate because with seniors Romney's blowing him out 31-15 with Gingrich coming in 2nd at 18%. Paul is also cleaning up 35-14 with the 24% of voters who identify as either Democrats or independents. Romney is actually ahead 22-19 with GOP voters. Young people and non-Republicans are an unusual coalition to hang your hat on in Iowa, and it will be interesting to see if Paul can actually pull it off.
Republican voters have been ordered to hate Gingrich and they're falling in line. I'd say that the only thing that can slow down Romney now is a late surge by one of the God-botherers tied for fourth place (Santorum, Bachmann, Perry) -- but even if that happens, it's clear that the Republican establishment can order the voters to abandon a non-Romney candidate and the electorate will obey.
And Romney, according to this New York Times story, really is the president we deserve:
Almost 13 years ago, Mitt Romney left Bain Capital, the successful private equity firm he had helped start....
Yet when it came to his considerable personal wealth, Mr. Romney never really left Bain.
In what would be the final deal of his private equity career, he negotiated a retirement agreement with his former partners that has paid him a share of Bain's profits ever since....
In the process, Bain continued to buy and restructure companies, potentially leaving Mr. Romney exposed to further criticism that he has grown wealthier over the last decade partly as a result of layoffs. Moreover, much of his income from the arrangement has probably qualified for a lower tax rate than ordinary income under a tax provision favorable to hedge fund and private equity managers, which has become a point of contention in the battle over economic inequality....
"Exposed to further criticism"? It won't matter because, as Charles Blow noted on Saturday, we as a nation are really living in a state of denial about the fairness of our economic system:
Is income inequality becoming the new global warming? In other words, is this another case where the facts of an existential threat lose traction among a weary American public as deniers attempt to reduce them to partisan opinions?
It's beginning to seem so.
A Gallup poll released on Thursday found that, after rising rather steadily for the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who said that the country is divided into "haves" and "have-nots" took the largest drop since the question was asked....
This is the new American delusion....
Here's the chart, via Gallup (click to enlarge):
The moment when the financial system was on the verge of imploding (and was beginning to be bailed out using our tax dollars) was the moment when belief that the country is divided into haves and have-nots reached parity with the belief that it isn't. Since then, things have gotten worse for the non-wealthy, but the percentage of people who see the country as divided into haves and have-nots has decreased.
We're content with this system. We're content with a system in which a Mitt Romney can make money passively from this kind of activity, and pay a lower tax rate on that money than we do on money we earn by actually working:
The 2000 [Bain Capital] purchase of KB Toys, then one of the country's largest toy retailers, became one of the most contentious.
As in most Bain deals, the partnership put up a small fraction of the money -- in this case $18 million -- and borrowed the rest of the $302 million purchase price. Just 16 months later, the toy company borrowed more to pay Bain and its investors an $85 million dividend.
That gave Mr. Romney and the other partners a quick 370 percent return on their money. But it also left the toy company with a heavy debt burden. Before long, the company began closing stores around the country and laid off 3,400 workers. It filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004.
Two more recent deals have also led to spiraling debt loads and layoffs. Since Bain and another private equity firm led a buyout in 2008 of Clear Channel Communications, the company has struggled under nearly $20 billion in debt and has cut 2,500 jobs.
Sensata Technologies, a European company that makes sensors and controls used by the auto and aerospace industries, prospered after a Bain-led buyout in 2006, but the firm also laid off several hundred American workers. Most of the jobs were moved overseas, and the federal Labor Department spent at least $780,000 to retrain some people who lost their jobs.
We're Americans. We don't care. We think the rich get richer and we get poorer, but we don't really believe that the system is unfairly rigged. We think it's our fault if we aren't rich, even now. That's why Romney's probably going to be our next president.