Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mitt's Little Gusher And Grandma's Purse

Mitt’s Little Gusher And Grandma’s Purse

Mitt Romney is unveiling a new energy plan, “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence.” 

Since I am a card-carrying member of the middle class, I was feeling more than a little patriotic, and decided to peruse its high points.  Just a few minutes with it took me back to the simpler and more innocent pleasures of my childhood.

When I was about nine years old, my grandmother went down to the basement, opened the safe, brought up a small and tattered cloth purse with a steel clasp and handed it to me.

Together we sat at her kitchen table and examined the treasure trove.  Roughly a dozen American coins that my Grandfather, who had owned a candy store, had put aside because they were old or interesting.

I was hooked.  Even at nine I was already a history junkie, and these things were history.  There were a couple of half dollars from the early part of the 19th Century, and a two-cent piece, a large penny from 1803 (1803-Jefferson and Adams!) a half-dime, and a commemorative coin from the Columbia Expedition.  I also got a lesson in capitalism.  When I took out my “Red Book of American Coins” I found that the best looking coin in the bunch was actually less valuable than the more worn one.  Scarcity drives prices.

Before you start thinking that Grandma’s purse is paying for my kid’s college educations, there weren’t any Antiques Roadshow moments.  But they were just so cool they brought me this sense of being in a place and time with muskets and three-cornered hats and great speeches, and brave men and women carving out the country.  I had devoured Sandberg’s biography of Lincoln-perhaps one of these had somehow found their way into and out of his hand, or one of his cabinet members-anything was possible.

Those great men led me back to Mitt Romney, because Mitt Romney has an excellent chance of being the next President, and perhaps he, too, might cup a half-dollar in his hand.

For someone who may be only a few months away from being the most powerful person on Earth, we know little detail about his plans, beyond a sense that he wishes to take us back to the Gilded Age.

His tax plan disproportionately helps people like him at the expense of the middle class.  Just how much it would help him personally we cannot know, since he refuses to share his tax returns.  And just how much it will hurt us, is hard to tell, since he refuses to identify which tax deductions he plans to eliminate.  Most likely are the mortgage interest deduction and that of employer-financed health insurance- both of which aim directly at the middle and working classes. But we can't be sure.

Entitlement reform is also somewhat vague-he promises seniors (who vote in high proportions) that he won’t touch either Social Security or Medicare-even though the Ryan Plan changes Medicare in two years.  The savings seem to come from everyone else, who will continue to pay, but should expect very little.  However we can’t be sure of that, since he won’t really tell us that either.

But, what we do know is that we are getting Mitt Romney, Olympics’ Fixer and Bain Capital Uber-Capitalist.  A man who knows his way under the hood of an economy, and who is going to make it all better.

And now we are fortunate to finally have his new Energy Policy to fill in the blanks.  Mitt is indeed going to bring his special Bain talents to the White House.  Find someone’s undervalued assets, take control, and monetize them.

Mitt’s Energy Plan is an unconscionable give-away to the special interests so large it is hard to take in in one reading.  Drilling off of Virginia and the Carolinas.  A roll back of safety and environmental regulations.  Giving up Federal control of public lands to the states and the oil and gas industry.  And additional Federal subsidies to help them extract our assets for their profits.

It’s the mining part that brought me back to Grandma’s purse.  I thought of those coins, and one in particular.  The 1826 Liberty Capped Bust silver half.  Just absolutely beautiful, crisp lines front and back, superb, classic design, well struck, and in really nice condition.   How did my grandfather come into possession of this really fantastic looking coin-how did he get any of them?  He surely wasn’t a collector.

I asked my Dad, who owned a pharmacy, and who would also occasionally come home with something nice like a (real) silver dollar.  Why would anyone give up these treasures as nothing more than loose change?

Because they had to, he explained.  The man who walked into my grandfather’s candy store in 1938 and handed over that beautiful 50-cent piece had absolutely no choice.  Maybe he needed a carton of cigarettes, or a treat for a child, or to get a notary stamp.  So, with not much else to use, he went into the back of a drawer, or a coffee can, or some other hiding place, and put the coin in his pocket for spending. 

Is that where we are?  Digging into our coffee cans for anything to sell?  Or is it just Mitt, dressing it up as help for the middle class, but selling at ten cents on the dollar to his friends?  He’s already bringing those Bain skills to this particular transaction.  Reports are he’s raised $7 Million fresh dollars from the oil and gas interests.  Now that’s a good business; taking a commission before you even have the signed agreement. 

I don’t think my grandfather would have been comfortable with that.