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Is the election of 2012 as simple as Obama the Human Capitalist vs Romney the Financial Capitalist? I caught a bit of the Martin Bashir show on MSNBC earlier this week. One of his guests was Jonathan Alter. I was not paying full attention, but something Alter said caught my attention and I rewound (thank FSM for Tivo) to hear it again. I liked what he had to say...the way he framed the contest between Obama and Romney. I liked it a lot.

Having now read his recent Bloomberg article ("Obama Versus Romney Offers a Clash of Capitalisms"), it is evident he was just touching upon the ideas presented there...but, imo, in a more succinct and clear manner. It has been running through my head now for days...so I figured I would put it out 'here' to hear your opinions on it.

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Join me below to see/hear what caught my ear.

After a bit of hunting I was able to pinpoint and clip the wee bit of the show that captured my interest:




Alter: To me this campaign is about the difference between a Financial Capitalist, Mitt Romney, and a Human Capitalist, Barack Obama. Human Capitalists invest in people, in education, in health care, in construction jobs. Real people to work. Financial Capitalists, all that they're interested in is letting the magic of the market go to work by giving the wealthy as much money as they can through tax cuts with the assumption that that will work. The problem with their theory is that it was tried over the last ten years with the Bush Tax Cuts, and it Failed. So Financial Capitalism has Failed. Human Capitalism which goes back to Abraham Lincoln, investing in...

Bashir: FDR

Alter: ...and grant colleges...FDR...all the way through. Human Capitalism is what built America. So this is the philosophical dilemma.

Bashir: If I may say so, that is a brilliant definition. Thank you so much.

(Before Alter was interrupted by Bashir, he was about to touch on the Land Grant Colleges made possible by the Morrill Land-Grant Acts signed into law by Lincoln. Those Acts provided the States with lands to use for Agricultural Colleges/State Colleges. They promoted and fostered the spread of education and knowledge across the populace. A solid example of putting the belief that 'Knowledge is Power' to use.)


When our Government invests in our people...our Nation thrives. The Morrill Land-Grant Acts, G.I. Bill, WPA, Social Security, Public Education, Medicare/Medicaid, Civil Rights Act, ADA, Lilly Ledbetter Act, Pell Grants, School Breakfast/Lunch, and any number of other programs/policies meant to help...to strengthen...to encourage...to protect. They all have played a great part in the successes of our Nation. They have each in their way provided tools for improvement...bridges to equality...building blocks to success. Our Nation thrives when our people thrive...and our people thrive when they have opportunities.

Obviously Obama did not enact all of the above. However, I am pretty well confident that he supports all of the above and would gladly have signed any of it into law. I am also confident in his belief that Americans are capable of amazing things when given the tools and opportunities to pursue their dreams...the RIGHT to pursue their dreams.

I also believe that the majority of Americans, regardless of party affiliation, would agree that the above programs have helped many thousands (likely millions) reach goals and achievements that would otherwise have been beyond their grasp. I think if the contrast of Obama and Romney as Human Capitalist and Financial Capitalist is driven home at every opportunity...we will handily see Obama into a second term. It is hard to argue against investing in the American People when put in those terms.

I think back to the 'Made in the USA' push in the 80's and how it was embraced by Americans of every political flavor...and can't help but believe that a campaign built on the promise of investing in the American people would ride a wave of support all the way to election day (I am not a Pollyanna...I really want to believe this).

I don't believe that investing in the American people has be literal investment of a monetary sort (as with the G.I. Bill, Pell Grants, School lunch vouchers)...it also includes investments in equality (Civil Rights Act of 1964, Lilly Ledbetter, the repeal of DADT),  investments in health (health care reform, strengthening FDA powers), and investments in other plans/programs that strengthen our middle classes.

Obama's adult life has been spent as a Human Capitalist. Romney's adult life has been spent as a Financial Capitalist. I don't see either of them changing their stripes anytime soon.

It is long past time that our country returns to a governing style that promotes investment in her people. History has proven that our greatest growths as a nation have occurred during the greatest investments in our people.

I just liked the way that Alter framed it and have been thinking on it since I heard it.

What do y'all think?
Human Capitalist vs. Financial Capitalist?
Invest in the American People vs. Invest in the Market Forces?

I know which I choose.

I know WHO I choose.

Obama 2012!


*A little something extra:
There have now been several Rec listed diaries on dKos that discuss a TED talk given by Nick Hanauer. I think his point ties in pretty well with what Alter was saying. We tried the Financial Capitalist route...and it has failed. Our country does best when our focus is on building (investing in) the middle classes, not catering to the upper. I'm sure many of ya'll have read those rec listed diaries already, so I will not rehash their content. I will let Mr. Hanauer do the talkin'.

Here is Nick Hanauer (venture capitalist and first non-family investor in Amazon):




It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies.  Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down.  

This idea is an article of faith for republicans and seldom challenged by democrats and has shaped much of today's economic landscape.

But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe.  It's not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy.  

In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are "job creators" and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.  

I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That's why I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a "circle of life" like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.

So when businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it's a little like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it's the other way around.

Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do only when increasing customer demand requires it.  In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.

That's why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

Since 1980 the share of income for the richest Americans has more than tripled while effective tax rates have declined by close to 50%.  

If it were true that lower tax rates and more wealth for the wealthy  would lead to more job creation, then today we would be drowning in jobs.  And yet unemployment and under-employment is at record highs.

Another reason this idea is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the median American, but we don't buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, we go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.

I can't buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can't buy any new clothes or cars or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the vast majority of American families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.  
Here's an incredible fact.  If the typical American family still got today the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would earn about 25% more and have an astounding $13,000 more a year. Where would the economy be if that were the case?

Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as "job creators" at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling. For instance, it is a small step from "job creator" to "The Creator". We did not accidentally choose this language. It is only honest to admit that calling oneself a "job creator" is both an assertion about how economics works and the a claim on status and privileges.

The extraordinary differential between a 15% tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest for capitalists, and the 35% top marginal rate on work for ordinary Americans is a privilege that is hard to justify without just a touch of deification

We've had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don't create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an eco-systemic  feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That's why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.

So here's an idea worth spreading.  

In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are consumers, the middle class.  And taxing the rich to make investments that grow the middle class, is the single smartest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor and the rich.

Thank You.



I like that last bit a lot...so I'm gonna quote it again.

In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are consumers, the middle class.  And taxing the rich to make investments that grow the middle class, is the single smartest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor and the rich.
Preach it.
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(Just as a final note...for those of you reading who have not yet discovered the joys of the TED talks...go HERE now. Go...watch...learn. Cheers!)

~cross-posted at The Motley Moose~

Originally posted to Look What I Can Do on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Moose On The Loose, Realistrati, I Vote for Democrats, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  great diary (14+ / 0-)

    now we need to keep reminding the Democrats to stop trying to sound like Republicans when talking about the economy and start using the human capital frame.

    It is a really good frame. It works well to show why Democrats are better.

    As a nation, the U.S. consumes the most hot dogs per capita. So you'd be wise to never underestimate our powers of denial.

    by jbou on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:29:05 PM PDT

  •  Hanauer is a wise business man and Alter has a (10+ / 0-)

    great frame. Isn't the human capital what it is all about?

    Proud Slut...Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:44:01 PM PDT

  •  We May Stave off Romney This Way, But the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kysen, chuckvw

    nation is still sunk if the most economics we criticize is W years.

    Reagan-Clintonomics is a not-terribly-long road to the identical destination.

    Time to get onto the real issues Nov. 7th.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:51:27 PM PDT

  •  Unlike all other developed nations (8+ / 0-)

    ...the US is the only one that has been scurrying away -- like a rat -- from investing in human capital or the commonwealth.

    Our constitution allows both the land and the people to be asset stripped -- and that is exactly what has been going on for the past 35 years.

    While I agree that President Obama is a human capitalist at heart -- I do not believe that Presidents have any control over the Financial Sector Wing of the Federal Government. Presidents come and go -- the asset stripping will continue until the structural flaws at the foundation of the government are eliminated through the direct granting of human rights to the citizens.

    In other words, a modern constitution for the 21st century.


    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." ― Isaac Asimov

    by Pluto on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:53:09 PM PDT

    •  I hear ya... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, MKSinSA, Texknight

      it is one of the many...many...topics that, to me, seem so bloody logical...yet, our government for decades has done the opposite of what logic would dictate (and, sadly, our 'people' have voted so many times against their better interests that it boggles my mind).

      I don't know about another constitution...but, I do know that the one we have needs to have its tires kicked. Hard.

      Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

      by Kysen on Fri May 18, 2012 at 04:08:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The constitution we have (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kysen, a2nite

        ...precludes kicking the tires. It is now impossible to amend in any practical sense. The Supreme Court will be the first to tell you that.

        All other serious and developed nations have modern constitutions addressing the 21st century -- the average age of a constitution is 22 years. The US constitution cannot even address the industrial age, let alone post-industrial -- or global!

        The US constitution confers very few rights on the people and allows their commonwealth to be privately exploited. That's why I am forced by reality to refer to Americans as "colonists" rather than "citizens."


        Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." ― Isaac Asimov

        by Pluto on Fri May 18, 2012 at 04:21:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Won't happen unless more people wake up; (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto

      A new constitution. Too many people benefit from status quo.

      The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

      by a2nite on Sat May 19, 2012 at 05:13:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Alter is wrong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kysen

    Voodoo economics has been in play since Reagan.  It's been DECADES of failure.  And look what fun we're having now!

    NOW SHOWING
    Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
    Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

    by The Dead Man on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:54:33 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this great diary. (7+ / 0-)

    I love the idea of framing the discussion as human capitalist vs. financial capitalist, Obama vs. Romney, Dems. vs. Repubs. good government of and by the people vs. greedy corporations of and by a few individuals.  We need to spread this idea.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy

    by helpImdrowning on Fri May 18, 2012 at 05:58:15 PM PDT

  •  Nick Hanauer's speech only made it (8+ / 0-)

    ..to TED's website due to uproar on the web.

    I loved his take on (Luntz' no doubt) "Job Creators."

    I'm far further to the left than the current President, but am "all in" because the only other possible option is to horrible to even ponder.

    Obama must win. We need to do something about the House too. If not this year, then in 2014. The country is swirling down the goddamn toilet and I want my kid to have a decent life.

  •  Thanks Brother Moose ;) (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kysen, nomandates, Fogiv, Larsstephens

    tipped and rec'ed.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:35:20 PM PDT

  •  It's a little bit too simplistic to say (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    disrael, Kysen, Larsstephens, evilstorm

    that investing in financial capitalism fails.  The guy who gave the TED talk nailed it.  You need an ecosystem.  You need a financial system to be there and to be big and healthy enough to sustain a growing human economy.  What FAILS is the idea that one part of that is necessary and another part isn't, and that's where the Republicans FAILED as well, and want to FAIL again -- this notion that free money for the rich will multiply the money and make everybody else more prosperous through some magic black box effect.  Typically, the people most fond of this idea are the same people who stand to benefit from it, and they, in turn, are often the big donors of both parties.

    Thus we are doomed, unless something changes.  As better as Obama may be than Romney, he's still a tool of the wealthy.  

  •  If only we could go back to Ike's tax rates (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    filkertom, Kysen, UniC

    Dave Johnson wrote an article on the CAF website about this,

    14 Ways a 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy and Our Country

    By Dave Johnson

    April 26, 2010 - 12:05am ET

    A return to Eisenhower-era 90% top tax rates helps fix our economy in several ways:

    1) It makes it take longer to end up with a fortune. In fact it makes people build and earn a fortune, instead of shooting for quick windfalls. This forces long-term thinking and planning instead of short-term scheming and scamming. If grabbing everything in sight and running doesn’t pay off anymore, you have to change your strategy.

    2) It gets rid of the quick-buck-scheme business model. Making people take a longer-term approach to building rather than grabbing a fortune will help reattach businesses to communities by reinforcing interdependence between businesses and their surrounding communities. When it takes owners and executives years to build up a fortune they need solid companies that are around for a long time. This requires the surrounding public infrastructure of roads, schools, police, fire, courts, etc., to be in good shape to provide long-term support for the enterprise. You also want your company to build a solid reputation for serving its customers rather than cheapening the product, pursuing quick-buck scams, cutting customer service, etc. The current Wall Street/private equity business model of looting companies, leaving behind an empty shell, unemployed workers and a surrounding community in devastation will no longer be a viable business strategy.

    3) It will lower the executive crime rate. Today it is possible to run scams that let you pocket huge sums in a single year, and leave behind the mess you make for others to fix. A high top tax rate removes the incentive to lie, cheat and steal to grab every buck you can as fast as you can. This reduces the temptation to be dishonest. If you aren’t going to keep the whole dime, why risk doing the time? When excessive, massive paydays are possible, it opens the door to overwhelming greed and a resulting compromising of principles. Sort of the definition of the decades since Reagan, no?
    (continued at link)

     http://www.ourfuture.org/...

    But I think the chances of this happening are pretty much nil.

    Everybody got to elevate from the norm....

    by Icicle68 on Sat May 19, 2012 at 05:22:35 AM PDT

    •  Estate Tax or Death Tax (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kysen, Larsstephens

      Republicans won the framing argument with their Death Tax.  Thomas Jefferson was one of the strongest proponents of the Estate Tax.  

      Without an Estate Tax, you end up with Koch Brothers and Walmart Heirs sitting on their Fat A$$e$, spending their unearned, inherited fortunes, skewing the political messages.  Just like now!

      Impeach Grover Norquist! Defeat a Republican!

      by NM Ray on Sat May 19, 2012 at 10:48:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Love this framing- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kysen, UniC, SoCalSal

    we all need to get out and use it over and over.

    Intellect and romance triumph over brute force and cynicism

    by Hill Jill on Sat May 19, 2012 at 06:51:09 AM PDT

  •  Obama's Audition 2006 (0+ / 0-)

    Obama's Audition is very helpful to understanding the "human capital" concept.  Free trade, and compassion for the "losers" in a global competition as we race to the bottom.

    Shill Pretenders like this Democratic Senator Tim Johnson betray the narrative and show how corrupt and captured we have become.

    Dimon 2012!  Why not just cut out the middlemen and go with the real deal?

  •  *claps* (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kysen, Larsstephens

    Spot on, Kysen.

    Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative. - William S. Burroughs

    by sricki on Sat May 19, 2012 at 10:00:41 AM PDT

  •  Superb Frame (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kysen, SoCalSal

    It'll be a lot more effective than shouting about capitalism downsizing and asset stripping.

    It's powerful enough to give independents a clear choice and subtle enough to excite democrats and simple enough to give Republicans a chance to think.

    Avoiding Theocracy at Home and Neo Cons Abroad

    by UniC on Sat May 19, 2012 at 12:18:11 PM PDT

  •  OT - so where should I transfer my (0+ / 0-)

    Ameritrade account?
    Are they all into pink slime politics?

  •  The President has invested (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashoil

    a lot of money during his term and I am just wondering where the human investment is?

      Can anyone quantify it or point to a place where it has been invested?  When can we expect to see a return on that investment and what kind of return will it bring?

    When will the economy get better?

  •  Afghanistan! (0+ / 0-)

    About 100 billion in FY 2011.  Win The Future!  Dimon/Corzinne 2012.  Can the middlemen and get the real deal.

    •  Afghanistan: Human Capitalist (0+ / 0-)

      Money Well Spent

      These days, Parwan is infamous for being the site where U.S. troops accidentally burned Korans, a February debacle that caused days of countrywide rioting. Needless to say, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I took a tour of the detention facility in August 2010, and officials boasted of the sophisticated security systems that would allow guards to humanely and firmly monitor and control detainee activity.

      But this is the legacy that a decade’s worth of U.S. detention operations will leave in Afghanistan: locks that don’t lock. And across Afghanistan, even as U.S. troops withdraw from the country, the U.S. is still building jails.

      Big Brother really cares.

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