Friday, December 7, 2012

Rules, Britannia

“I’m British, I know how to queue.” –Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

LONDON – The England of Shakespeare, Newton and Churchill has become a country more concerned with compliance than accomplishment. There is little that evinces this decline so clearly as the conduct of the British tax department and the general attitude of servility toward the nation’s public sector.

Last week, Britain’s coalition government conceded that their plan for closing the budget deficit will not be completed by 2015, as promised. Among the remedies proposed by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and others is the standby of sticky-fingered government-types the world over: ensuring taxpayers pony up their “fair share.”

There is no way an intelligent man like Osborne believes that wringing yet more money out of people who often find themselves forking over 60 percent of their income to the government is a practical solution. In fairness, he has also proposed spending cuts and a reduction in borrowing. Even so, the fixation of the nation’s governing class on squeezing every ha’penny they feel they are owed from citizens is animated by the modern British fetish for control and compliance.

Along with new measures to raid Britons’ bank accounts in other countries, London’s Telegraph newspaper carried a front-page report that “tax hitmen” will be deployed to pore over citizens’ spending records, to assess whether their purchasing seems consistent with the tax they have reported. Proponents of such Kafkaesque silly-bears suggest the measure could raise as much as 10 billion pounds.

Now, in the time it takes to say 10 billion pounds, a welfare state like Britain can easily spend 10 billion pounds. And that assumes the figure is net: Will the snoops of HM Revenue and Customs be working on this file for free? If not, be assured that their corpulent enforcement mechanism can gobble down the expected returns at a rate that would put Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote to shame.

Recently, a British family known to me, having just paid a tax installment of over a quarter-million pounds, were found to be a few days behind on a separate, tiny tax bill amounting to a few hundred quid. The result was a stream of government vehicles, filled like clown cars with collection agents, pulling up to their front door.

“Ooh, this is a lovely place, i’nt it?” one sneered to the lady of the house, scrutinizing her home with that combination of urgency and self-satisfaction peculiar to public sector scolds. She responded that there was no arithmetic whereby the petrol, paperwork and professional hours consumed by the squadron of snotty civil servants pawing about her yard was justified by the piddling amount they came to collect.

But again, it wasn’t about the money, it was about the rules. And when rules are the priority, government enforcers will descend on a suburban family about a matter of a couple hundred bob as though they had cornered Al Capone for tax evasion.

The reality is that Britain’s fiscal troubles are not caused by people paying too little in taxes. Its overgrown government apparatus simply spends too much and has been temporarily spared the economic collapse seen elsewhere in Europe by the grace of God and the retained ability to print its own currency. But it is utterly anathema to the nation’s politicians and civil service that liberating the private sector, urging Britons to spend, invest and hire, is the path to prosperity.

Oscar Wilde once quipped, “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.” How interesting that an Irishman who spent time in an English prison should encapsulate the British condition so neatly.

And the bureaucracy’s growth is guarded and abetted by agents of HMRC, who behave as though they are in a trans-Atlantic rivalry with the IRS to see who can be more officious and obnoxious. For them, rules must be upheld, even if they do no bloody good.

This prioritization of compliance is complemented by a culture of surveillance, both figurative and literal. London has more closed-circuit security cameras than any city in the world, such that a person going about one’s business in the British capital is filmed 300 times per day. Meanwhile, inspectors creep around residential areas on behalf of the BBC, checking whether people are watching television without paying a licensing fee to support the public broadcaster.

Not to be outdone, the tax department has recruited schoolchildren to its spy ranks. This past summer, it was reported that HMRC was encouraging pupils as young as 11 to tell their teachers of “anyone in their local area who is not paying their fair share of tax.” Again, we must assume such an initiative is philosophical, born of a need to monitor and control, rather than practical – unless one actually believes the budget deficit could be closed by sending the nation’s youth about like the Village of the Damned kids with calculators.

Britain, which bravely stood up to dictators time and again through the centuries, including no more than a couple generations ago, now shrugs blithely as Big Nanny shoves her stout fingers into every aspect of citizens’ lives. It’s not so much that the state does all this – it has always been the impulse of governments to render individuals legible and accountable – it’s that today’s Britons don’t seem to mind.

Some say this modern, docile mindset is born of Britain’s shame over its imperial past. Whatever the cause, a people who used to rule two-fifths of the globe willingly line up to be counted, scrutinized, taxed and accused. A nation once famous for its will to conquer now prefers simply to queue.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Friday, November 9, 2012

Good luck, America (you’ll need it)

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Democracy simply doesn't work."
– Kent Brockman

And here I believed that Obamacare, chronic 8 percent unemployment, stagnant economic growth, crippling spending and the potential for more would sink a sitting president. Boy howdy, was I ever wrong. I take small comfort that people far smarter than I am were much more mistaken than I was – Michael Barone and George Will among them – but even so, I and my fellow crestfallen conservatives must ask ourselves just why we were so far off the mark.

My friend David Frum (also smarter than I am) has for years been urging Republicans to moderate if, in David’s parlance, they wish to orchestrate a “Comeback” in national politics. With a monsoon of respect for David’s intellect, I disagree with that notion.

Our previous nominee, John McCain, was as moderate as they come – even downright lefty on some issues – and he got trounced. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, despite apparently successful efforts to paint him as a corporate pirate, swinging in from the hard right with a dagger in his mouth and a briefcase full of pink slips in his free hand, is and was a moderate, too.

This may seem like utter rhubarb to those who have been fed a steady diet of Romney’s supposed radicalism, but here is a man who spoke of tax cuts as “spending,” enacted gender quotas (see also, “binders”), and, not for nothing, constructed the state-level prototype for Obamacare.

Moderate or not, we have seen that GOP presidential candidates are painted as extreme. With that in mind, can Republicans reconcile their core beliefs with an electorate that thinks in completely different terms? For example, we believe that a simpler tax system with lower rates increases tax revenue, while causing the wealthy to pay a greater share, and we can prove it by citing presidencies all the way back to Calvin Coolidge (as economist Thomas Sowell has done). But what good does that do when the reflex of every journalist, politician and undecided voter is to refer to tax cuts as something you “pay for”?

On social issues, Republican candidates will always be asked the most difficult, gut-wrenching questions, regardless of whether they choose to campaign on such matters. In a way, this is a good thing, as it forces us to scrutinize our views. But Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock ought to have known that, sure as God made little green apples, Republicans running for office will be asked about abortion in the cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. If the best you can do is make Leviticus sound like a Planned Parenthood pamphlet, let someone else run.

To be sure, Democrats will almost never be asked to defend partial-birth abortion (or “late-term” abortion, as they insist it be called, along with attendant euphemisms like “evacuating the cranial cavity”), nor will they be asked just why an infant who survives an abortion should be denied medical care and left to die – as was Barack Obama’s policy as a member of the Illinois legislature.

But that’s just life on the right. There are many such unfair double standards; it’s why Republican Sharron Angle is supposedly too obtuse for the US Senate, yet a Democratic loony tune like Debbie “I can feel global warming when I fly” Stabenow cruises to re-election.

Republicans knew much of this going into the election, though. So again, why were we wrong and can we win without compromising our beliefs?

Columnist Andrew Klavan notes, “The smartest political writers in the country, all of whom are conservative, will now be addressing those questions.” But is it even a question of who is smarter than whom? For example, is Charles Krauthammer smarter than Paul Krugman? (Answer: Oh, yes). That said, Krugman was closer to calling this election than Krauthammer was.

Barone has been typically gentlemanly and philosophical in defeat: “So I was wrong. I take some pleasure in finding I have been wrong, because it’s an opportunity to learn more. As I prowl through the 2012 election statistics I will have an opportunity to learn much more about America and where we are today…Lots to learn for all of us.”

And perhaps therein lay the answer. Maybe we were so far off because the United States simply isn’t the country we thought it was.

As an American immigrant, I idealized this nation’s embodiment of liberty. Bit by bit, I have had to let go of those illusions. The Land of the Free locks people up at a rate 13 times faster than its population growth, and holds more prisoners than any other country on Earth. Its tax department treats citizens and their families as US government property, regardless of where they live in the world. And now that same IRS will be the arbiter of whether your health care meets the requirements of the federal government that ordered you to buy it.

Two years ago, I wrote that Americans would not stand for the excesses of a depraved organization like the TSA. And yet, polls show widespread support for that literal manifestation of government overreach, even as its perversions have spread beyond airports. Citizens born into freedom obediently line up to be molested and manhandled by government employees in the name of “safety.” No one wants to break from the herd. In truth, Americans would rather belong than be free.

Actually, it seems Americans rather like being told what to do. And that is what modern liberalism is all about – telling you what you can say, what you can eat, what kind of car you can drive, and whether you must wear a helmet while talking, eating or driving. The late William F. Buckley described a liberal as, “someone who wants to reach into your shower and adjust the temperature of the water.” Americans have voted for just that kind of official officiousness.

I never would have thought it, and it flies in the face of convention to say so but, with lower tax rates, greater freedom of movement, and a more liberated view of industry and energy, Canadians are more attuned to freedom than their American cousins are (socialized medicine notwithstanding, but just wait…).

It is said that Americans will elect anyone to Congress – once (John Edwards, please call your office). Since 2008, I have wondered if the same is true of the presidency. Obama swept into his first term amid a unique confluence of events, including a financial crisis, a deeply unpopular incumbent party, and a somnambulant Republican opponent. It could have been a fluke.

And despite his liberal leanings, I thought it was possible Obama might pleasantly surprise. As I wrote at the time, “Here’s hoping that he is such a smashing success that he gets busted onto Mt. Rushmore and his face knocks Thomas Jefferson’s right off the nickel.”

But it was no fluke, and Obama was utterly unsurprising. As I said on radio after this year’s election, nothing would make me happier than to become a fan of Barack Obama. But this time, there is far less reason for hope. He has proven to be the hard-left, big-government liberal he seemed. And Americans seem to be okay with this.

I genuinely do not know if conservatism can win again, or what this will mean for the future of the nation. While others on the right have pronounced this to be the end of America, perhaps they’ll forgive me if I rage a little longer against the dying of the light.

Lord knows I have been wrong before (and recently), so I hesitate to make hard and fast predictions. Nevertheless, it seems that in re-electing Obama, the United States has ratified its own decline. Good luck, America. You’re going to need it.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Obama, Biden and Economic Patriotism

Perhaps the clearest example that Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has abandoned all hope is their slap-dash effort at articulating an economic agenda for a second term. Specifically, in response to trillion-dollar deficits, an imminent tax cliff, and the largest debt in the history of planet Earth, the president issued an absurd little pamphlet populated with pictures of himself.

Apart from the sheer flimsiness of the document – it looks like an Order of Service for some Eco-Unitarian congregation in Culver City (though they’d probably have a paperless “app” with complete liturgies and Wiccan hymnal) – one is struck by its Stalinist title: “New Economic Patriotism.”

From the beginning, it has been the wont of this administration to equate their leftist policies with patriotism itself. In 2008, Joe Biden chided those who might dare to disagree with the wisdom of raising tax rates, saying it’s “time to be patriotic” – this from a man who gives about 400 dollars to charity annually, despite collecting a hefty government salary for 40 years. As others have noted, Mitt Romney donated 1,000 times more to charity last year alone than Biden gave in a decade. Demonstrably, Democrats do not consider personal choices like charitable giving to be as worthy as forking over money to the IRS. For statists like Obama and Biden, patriotism means government redistribution.

See how that works? If you oppose Obama and Biden, or if you simply feel that the private sector is better able than centralized government to spur economic growth, you are unpatriotic (and probably a racist).

One more word on Biden: It was an act of monumental irresponsibility for Barack Obama to place that malignant buffoon a heartbeat from the presidency. If nothing else, the fact that Biden is followed around by the backup nuclear football ought to be enough to secure a Romney vote. Since he entered the Senate in 1973, Biden has been deadly, desperately wrong on every major issue of his time – from South Vietnam to the Nuclear Freeze to the 1991 Gulf War, right up to opposing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But beyond Biden’s legendary bad judgment, his clearly unhinged temperament – the sort only Democrats can get away with in public – poses a greater danger. To voters who imagine his maniacal, bizarre behavior while debating Paul Ryan was somehow an aberration, take it from those of us who have watched him for years: That’s just Joe.

As for Obama himself, on June 30, 2008, he declared, “I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.” Three days later, he labeled President George W. Bush “unpatriotic” for adding $4 trillion to the national debt in eight years (a rate of borrowing that now seems quaint, as Obama has added $6 trillion to the debt in half that time). Democrats are always getting their aprons over their heads that their patriotism is being questioned, yet they are the ones who routinely hurl such charges in explicit terms (Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, please call your offices).

But back to Obama’s 20-page treatise and its totalitarian parlance: Economic patriotism is not defined by any one person or party. However, since Obama and Biden have presumed to provide their version (in short, “give us your stuff”), here is another: It is the belief in the American Dream, that tomorrow will be a bit better than today, that in this great country, it’s worth the risk and effort to build something, and to make something of yourself, free from fear that the fruit of your labor will be confiscated to satisfy someone else’s notion of fairness. If you believe that, and are willing to strive for such a goal, you are, indeed, an economic patriot.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Presidential Race is Over, Cue the Conspiracy Theories

This race is over, but the conspiracy theories are about to begin. And, boy howdy, are things going to get ugly.

To wit, Mitt Romney will defeat Barack Obama for the presidency on November 6, after which there will be hysterical blowback. The election result is quantifiable, with Romney consistently leading in national tracking polls, finding a level at or above 50 percent in many, and closing the necessary gaps in swing states and among demographic groups. Greater evidence can be found, however, in Obama’s sour demeanor and the conduct of his campaign. What a mess.

Opinion-peddlers have noted that the Obama re-election effort has taken on the hallmarks of failed campaigns from previous cycles: scattershot messaging, flailing narratives, ad hominem attacks and joyless mockery. This was never going to work, and Democratic political veterans like Bob Beckel and Doug Schoen will likely admit as much once the polls are closed. Incurables like Alan Colmes and Maureen Dowd, however, will never let it go. And this latter stance – that Obama’s defeat is somehow illegitimate – will take hold in many, noisy quarters.

It is not only the politically interested who will adopt this view – even casual observers will be sucked in. We often see leftist orthodoxy morph into popular convention. This is because, while there are some smart people on the left, it requires almost no thinking to be a liberal. Simply absorb the political sentiments you hear in almost any Hollywood film, or on most any television program or newscast and, presto, you’re in. Repeat these nostrums at school or work and you will be rewarded. Augmented by the emotional satisfaction of the left’s perpetual righteous indignation, this dynamic becomes self-fulfilling and very cozy.

And it’s that snorting indignation warming up in the bullpen that augurs an ugly autumn. After Obama loses, every bellyacher you know will take to the world wide interwebs to blame the Bilderbergs, Bain Capital, Big Oil, Brigham Young – basically anyone but Obama himself. It will be insufferable. Theories will be all over the map, mutually contradicting one another, but advanced with furious certainty. Again, we see this often. The showerless outrage of the left knows no bounds, and it is impervious to reason.

Whether Romney’s margin of victory is large or small will matter little to the tone of these plaints. Certainly, a resounding win will foreclose the Democrats’ propensity to steal close elections through after-the-fact chicanery (presented as Exhibit A: Al Franken is a senator) but, for Obama apologists, a blowout will simply evince a wider conspiracy, and darker depths of American ignorance, bigotry and credulousness.

This sort of heads-we-win-tails-you’re-a-cheating-moron default is endemic to Democrats and emblematic of the international left. The last time a fabulously wealthy politician from Massachusetts ran for president, he lost fair and square. But John Kerry had the good fortune to be a Democrat (and had the further good fortune to marry into money – twice – making him several times wealthier than the self-made Romney), which is why California Sen. Barbara Boxer, among others, made it her business to overturn the electoral results in Ohio owing to voting “irregularities” she knew, just knew, had occurred. Britain’s Daily Mirror, meanwhile, responded to George W. Bush’s 2004 defeat of Kerry by asking, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”

It will be far worse this time, however. Accusations of racism have been hurled at Obama’s opponents since he first announced his candidacy. While the effectiveness of this tactic has seen diminishing returns, its cynicism and ubiquity remain nonpareil in American politics, and will reach new heights after the election. But if, as Dr. King dreamed, we should be judged on the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, then any such assessment can be either good or bad.

The simple truth is that Barack Obama has been a lousy president – worse than Jimmy Carter, and the most antipathetic to the US Constitution since the despicable Woodrow Wilson (incidentally, one wonders how Wilson, an actual racist, would react to seeing his Progressive Era rhubarb revived by America’s first black president – food for thought).

Obama deserves to lose, and he will. By turning him out of office, the American people will be affording him the same treatment owed any president, regardless of color or creed, whose term has been a failure. In this way, Barack Obama’s defeat will provide greater evidence of America’s racial progress than his election ever did.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hope and Cringe

I defy you to watch the video of Barack Obama’s 2007 speech to Hampton University without cringing. In the worst fake accent since Madonna decided she was British, Obama preaches the gospel of grievance to his mostly black audience, claiming that racial bigotry was behind the federal government’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina, while heaping praise on his dyspeptic pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Like Obama’s presidency itself, it is an embarrassing display.

In releasing the full, 40-minute video of the 2007 speech – rather than the 9-minute portion that was made available at the time, which informs Obama supporters’ outrageous assertion that this is somehow old news – the Daily Caller and Fox News have performed a tremendous public service. While other media outlets have, predictably, demurred at playing the tape, making the speech available in its totality allows Americans to peek behind the curtain of Obama’s hopey-changey routine. And that could make all the difference.

It is ironic that as this administration is plagued by trillion-dollar deficits, unprecedented debt levels, unemployment above 8 percent, anemic economic growth, a murdered ambassador and subsequent cover-up, the Salafist flag of al Qaeda flying over US embassies, the Fast and Furious scandal, and a deeply unpopular health care law, this little video could be what jars the electorate out of its stupor when it comes to Obama. That’s because America is faster to forgive a failure than a phony.

And Barack Obama is a phony baloney of the first order. It’s not just the Tropic Thunder accent he puts on in the Hampton address – it’s the race-baiting message. Remember, this speech was given three years after Obama’s “no red states, no blue states, but the United States of America” effusion at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that launched his career.

But that was always and obviously rhubarb, to those who cared to see. Now, all Americans are a click away from viewing the other Obama, the race-hustling hack who referred to his own grandmother as “a typical white person,” urged Latino voters to “punish their enemies” and caricatured rural Pennsylvanians as “bitter” people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

The contrast between Obama’s cultivated image and the Hampton version is akin to the incongruity of a political career that began in domestic terrorist Bill Ayers’ living room and ended in the Oval Office. This was ever Obama’s way: one side for consumption by an incurious public, another for his radical base.

Lest anyone imagine it is merely Obama’s style that rankles in the Hampton speech, including his “shout out” to Wright (“Where’s he at?”), his disgraceful claims also warrant scrutiny. Playing on the fashionable leftist narrative that the Bush administration dragged its feet after Katrina because many of the victims were black, Obama charged, “The people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about as much!”

As Dick Morris has reported, more money was directed toward Katrina relief than for Hurricane Andrew and 9/11 combined. As for Obama’s insistence that the feds refused to waive the requirement that local government contribute ten percent of disaster relief funds (“Where’s your Stafford Act munn-ah?”), not only did the administration do so after Katrina, but it gave the state of Louisiana 30 years to repay its small portion of rebuilding costs.

Americans are tired of being divided by race and, if they wanted a leader who specializes in doing so, they would have elected President Jesse Jackson or President Al Sharpton. With the help of a complicit media, Obama was able to confine his race-mongering to receptive audiences. Now, with the release of this video, there is no more excuse.

For those of us who believe that in 2012, it is time to treat people, simply, as people, and that we all ought to be judged on the content of our character, rather than the color of our skin, this performance confirms that America is ready for its first black ex-president.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Presidents Don't Run the Economy

So often when he addresses crowds, Bill Clinton officiates at a marriage of mendacity and excitable ignorance. This was plainly the case in his acclaimed address to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. The speech was very well received, and my suspicion is that President Obama’s post-convention poll bounce was primarily attributable to Clinton’s performance.

"No president, not me or any of my predecessors, could have repaired all the damage in just four years," Clinton claimed, absolving Obama of blame for America’s economic misery since he took office. This is a recitation of the Democratic plaint that Obama “inherited” a mess (notwithstanding Obama’s tripling of an already-massive budget deficit), and it perpetuates the leftist fantasy that the president runs the economy.

Clinton’s image of the president as a repairman, who really needs to get in there with hammer and tongs, maybe holding some nails in his teeth, and tinker with every aspect of the economy, is especially galling because he knows this is nonsense. He knows it because the successes of his own presidency – from his declaration that “the era of big government is over” to Welfare Reform, tax cuts and beyond – came from getting government out of the way and letting the private sector thrive.

To be certain, a president can cripple or ruin an economy, as Obama’s term in office has aptly demonstrated, but the extent to which the economy thrives is inversely proportionate to the amount of meddling an administration does.

Indeed, the “damage” Obama encountered, in the form of the 2008 market crash, was thirty years in the making, and largely attributable to government meddling. President Jimmy Carter mandated mortgages for people who could not afford them in the form of Community Reinvestment Act loans, and Clinton’s own HUD Secretary, now Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, threatened lenders with charges of racism and discrimination if they did not extend CRA mortgages.

Admittedly, this was exacerbated by investment whizzes who bundled those risky mortgages into securities, then sold them around the world to bankers and fund managers who should have known better. But how does a president “repair” greed and bad judgment? By signing Dodd-Frank, which codifies that such greedy parties will perpetually be bailed out by the government, if their losses are big enough?

The current “damage” afflicting America is the largest debt in history and unfunded net liabilities exceeding the GDP of the planet. Even if we accept the notion that a president runs the economy, would there be anyone less qualified than Obama, who has added almost $6 trillion to that debt in less than one term, to “repair” it?

Yet there was Clinton, the presumed personification of an economically successful presidency, casting out theories and numbers he knows to be at odds with how he attained that status. The sight and sound shook one’s faith in democracy. The cutaways to the DNC crowd were unhelpful, also – silly people nodding along to Clinton’s statistics as though they'd checked the numbers themselves and could confirm his veracity, blithely unaware of their absurd appearance (it is axiomatic that you can wear a giant foam cowboy hat in public, or be a policy expert – but not both).

“Arithmetic,” Clinton crowed to whoop-whoop approval, was the secret to Democrats’ success. A more accurate reading of history, including Clinton’s own tenure, is that Democrats are successful when they abandon their impulse to central planning and let people get to work.

Economist Thomas Sowell has documented how, from the administration of Warren G. Harding to the present, downturns have been less severe and recoveries more robust when presidents resist the urge to intervene. To wit, whenever politicians get agitated to “do something,” they almost always do it wrong.

Even so, Clinton and other Democrats insist Obama must be re-elected because there is, “more work to do.” What “work” would that be, exactly? More taxes? More spending? More regulations, to go with the tens of thousands of pages Obama has added to the Federal Register?

Command economies don’t work, and demand economies cannot be commanded. America, at least for now, remains the largest market on the planet. That means hundreds of millions of people making independent choices, each pursuing happiness in their own way. Politicians and voters must set aside the conceit that such a complex mechanism can be manipulated by a lone individual. No one person, not even a president, runs the economy.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Friday, September 14, 2012

Canadians Should Root for Romney

TORONTO – Many Canadians are predisposed to dislike Mitt Romney. He is a Republican, and robotic even by those standards. In this land of center-left sensibilities, such party affiliation and corporate mien often rankle. But I would urge my Canadian compatriots to reconsider. Romney is running for a foreign office, not joining your curling team, and if he can unseat President Barack Obama, the Great White North will be greater for it.

Whatever one’s views on North American free trade, or capitalism in general, it remains immutable that Canada and the United States share the largest bilateral exchange of goods and services in history. Even those Canadians who instinctively gravitate toward Democratic candidates should wish for Canada to gain the greatest possible benefit from that arrangement.

Canada is, essentially, an exporter nation, largely because we have lots of natural stuff – rocks and trees and skies and seas – and we send it to places that do not. This is a function of how and where the Good Lord placed us, and it is not necessarily so that a country is entering terminal stages of Dutch Disease simply because resources represent a major portion of its economy. Indeed, with strong capital markets, technology, and other industries, Canada has achieved a pleasant equilibrium, all things considered.

But, perched as we are beside the largest consumer market in the world, we have a particular sensitivity, and advantage, when it comes to international trade. The US consumer represents 70 percent of that country’s economy, and 20 percent of the global economy. Canada benefits most when America is open to its products, and has the money to pay for them. Emotionally satisfying as it may be for Canadians to see the Loonie at parity or soaring above the American dollar, a stronger US currency maximizes Canada’s strengths.

Obama inherited a massive budget deficit, which he proceeded to triple. At no point in his projected budget plan does he propose to balance the budget. Those ongoing deficits will be financed in large measure by an increased money supply. This augurs continued weakness in the US dollar, making it harder for Americans to afford Canadian goods.

Though the Romney plan takes its sweet time in doing so, it does balance the budget eventually, and even some measure of government spending restraint will result in a stronger US greenback.

As a matter of basic policy, Romney is, like most Republicans, a free-market, global trader. Obama, meanwhile, like most Democrats, is beholden to American union interests, and thereby eager to hose foreign workers whenever possible.

Fundamental to Canada-US trade is, of course, energy. The first of Romney’s five principal campaign pledges is that North America will be energy independent by 2020. That means opening the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, which Obama has blocked.

There are those who loudly insist our energy must come from wind, solar, and their own sense of self-satisfaction. But even the shrillest of Birkenstocked, Begley-ite, “No Blood for Oil” protesters must, on some level, be practical. Canada’s oil will be tapped and sold. Would they prefer it go to our imperfect ally, the United States, or to a demonstrably malevolent power like the People’s Republic of China? As to their reasonable environmental concerns, would they rather Canadian oil be shipped by the safest possible means – pipeline – or by far riskier sea tankers? And when that black gold reaches its market, which nation’s environmental regulations – China’s or the United States’ – will be most likely to preserve and protect the planet our Green-minded friends so long to cuddle?

Canadians are perennially and properly concerned about national sovereignty. If you do not know much about the US Department of Homeland Security, fear not – it knows plenty about you. They’re the folks who, thanks to the acquiescence of the Canadian government, can put the kibosh on you flying from Canada to any location in the world if your flight plan covers even one inch of American airspace. The existence and conduct of the DHS is a bipartisan disgrace, and a global problem.

Republican President George W. Bush created the department and hung its Stalinist moniker over the door. Obama made it worse, severely clamping down on domestic security, demanding that other countries do the same if they wished to have access to the United States, and appointing as his DHS Secretary the appallingly ignorant Janet Napolitano, who came into office professing that the 9/11 hijackers came through Canada.

Romney remains largely a blank slate on the issue of security overreach. But, as a free-trader, he at least understands the danger of blocking borders and thickening barriers between businesses.

Finally, if nothing else, consider this: If Obama is re-elected and his socialization of American health care becomes complete, where will Canadians go for treatment when waiting lines at home grow too long?

Counterintuitive though it may seem, Canadians should be rooting for Mitt Romney.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Taxes, Obama and Romney Obfuscate

Democrats are fond of saying that Republicans rely too heavily on tax cuts in their economic proposals. In reality, Mitt Romney’s tax plan is not only tepid and incomplete, but he has neglected to expose the true destructiveness of Democratic policies.

Absent an effective Republican rejoinder, President Barack Obama gleefully mocks GOP tax prescriptions, including in his address to the Democratic National Convention: “Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the mornin’,” the president quipped in that painfully pandering, g-droppin’ manner he sometimes deploys, to the admiration of Harry Reid.

Obama characterizes tax cuts as contrary to his concept of “citizenship” and detrimental to progress in fields from medicine to technology and beyond. It is emblematic of the modern Democratic party, and the Left in general, that a person can rise through its ranks, even to the office of president, while remaining ignorant of the demonstrable truth that lower tax rates often lead to economic growth and higher tax revenues.

A particularly nonsensical Democratic talking point is that lower taxes – “the Bush tax cuts,” in their misnomer – are “what got us into this mess in the first place.” But in the four years after 2003, when the second phase of Bush’s tax plan was enacted, tax revenues increased by over $700 billion. Romney’s refusal to point this out explains, in part, why he persistently trails in the polls.

And it is not as though the country’s tax burden is light. America has the highest corporate taxes in the world, while claiming a greater share of personal income than its largest trading partner, Canada – and Obama seeks to push these rates even higher.

Beyond the rates, the Byzantine nature of the US tax system, including its worldwide reporting requirements, creates an expensive and inhospitable economic environment and disadvantages Americans overseas. Romney has offered a vague plan to eliminate the double-taxation of international US businesses but, without specifics, even Joe Biden is comfortable disdaining it.

“It’s called a territorial tax,” the vice president scoffed to the DNC, with apparent confusion. This evinces an unfortunate American myopia, whereby something that is commonplace in the rest of the world is held up and marveled at like a glowing rock that fell from space. It is particularly galling in this case because the “territorial tax” Biden considers so otherworldly was, in fact, a key recommendation of Obama’s own Jobs Council.

This same blinkered perception applies to the tax burden on US citizens living abroad. A record number of Americans renounced their citizenship last year and, if Obama is re-elected and enacts his massive tax hikes and expanded reporting requirements, the number of renunciations will increase. Invariably, such news brings howls of “good riddance” from “These-Colors-Don’t-Run” nincompoops who do not understand that their erstwhile compatriots are not dodging their taxes, but escaping anomalous, extra-territorial demands placed on them by the IRS. As a consequence of this institutional stance that US citizens remain government property, wherever they reside in the world, Americans living abroad enjoy less financial freedom than ex-pats of the People’s Republic of China.

The solution is simple: American individuals and businesses should be required to file and pay taxes only in their country of residence – just like the citizens of almost every other nation on Earth. For all his economic acumen, Romney has not made this straightforward proposal.

But perhaps most troubling is Romney’s inability to translate Obama’s tax policy as it pertains to jobs.

Two-thirds of American companies are small businesses, known as Chapter-S corporations, and they pay taxes at the same rates as individuals. This is not widely understood by the general public, or by politicians – indeed, a senior Congressional Republican recently told me that half the House Budget Committee was unaware of this fact. Moreover, these small businesses create 70 percent of America’s new jobs.

So, when Obama talks of raising taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” or, equally absurdly, “those who can afford it,” he is saying he will raise taxes on small business. Whether he realizes this or not, one cannot know (and those who still suppose Obama’s brilliance precludes him making such rudimentary mistakes should consider the tax burden of the average Navy “corpse-man,” whether he is stationed overseas or in one of the 57 states). Either way, Obama’s plan cripples job-creation.

If Romney wants to win this election, he must clarify his tax proposals – while exposing Obama’s, as well.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Police State Conventions

TAMPA, FL – “They know better than we do.”

This was the comment of a Republican attendee, surveying the massive security surrounding us at the GOP Convention in Tampa. What began as a mumbled musing about the militarization of an American metropolis settled into a calm self-assurance that, whatever the authorities had chosen to do, that must be the right thing.

“Maybe there’s a threat they haven’t told us about,” he continued. “They can’t tell us everything.” He chuckled at me, expecting I would concur.

“I don’t assume they know better than we do,” I replied. “Perhaps they know less.”

As he squinted at me, he wasn’t angry or disputatious. While I cannot claim to know his exact thoughts, he just seemed confused. It had not occurred to him, apparently, that there is such a thing as too much security.

This column has often made the case that many of our liberal friends simply do not know that there is another side to policy issues. So ensconced are they among like-thinkers and fellow-travelers that they never hear a differing opinion. Some senior, experienced, ostensibly erudite leftists are utterly buffaloed by the demonstrable notion that lower tax rates commonly lead to higher tax revenues, for just one example.

But this interaction with my Republican interlocutor served as a reminder that we have blinkered associates on our side as well, albeit on different issues. For generations, conservatives have been proudly pro-police, strong on defense, and in favor of security. But the time has come to re-think that admirable respect for the rule of law and recognize that not everything done or decided by someone with a badge and a gun is right, or necessary, or even consistent with the principles of a free country. It is also perfectly consistent to favor a strong military while questioning Pentagon policies.

This was alluded to by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who, in his speech to the Convention, averred, “Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well spent.”

To bolster Paul’s point, a military that promoted Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan to the rank of Major and, after Hasan murdered 13 people, saw Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey opine that, “it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here” is not one that can claim to have unimpeachable judgment. Further, a Navy “green fleet” that requires alternative fuels costing 26 dollars a gallon is not an expenditure of unquestionable sagacity.

So Republicans who purport to be strong on defense, their strength measured in the number of dollars they wish to fling at such nonsense, are missing the solar-powered boat.

Just as there is a distinction between hard work and effective work, there is no guarantee that spending lots of money means those funds will be wisely deployed. While the GOP Convention went off without incident, that does not mean all these silly-bears were necessary. Similarly, if there is a riot at the DNC in Charlotte, that does not mean, ipso facto, that not enough money was spent.

The city of Tampa was reportedly given 50 million dollars in federal funds to keep people safe, but the overlap and Tower of Babel-type communication among municipal, county, state and federal authorities made for a right mess.

One senior Republican found former New Hampshire governor and Bush 41 Chief of Staff John Sununu stranded on the roadside, his ride having been turned back by the all-knowing police presence for violation of some aspect of their Byzantine protocols.

There is some cold, egalitarian comfort to be taken from the fact that even senior public officials are chomped by the mindless maw of the security state. This week, I spoke with former Missouri governor and senator Kit Bond (who, incidentally, assured me he will not agree to be drafted as a replacement for hapless Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin, whom Bond agrees should withdraw from the race) and he lamented that he is routinely molested and undressed at America’s airports, and neither Congressional waivers nor doctor’s notes about his metal implants spare him these ordeals. Either Bond, the septuagenarian, 40-year public servant, is the most patient sleeper cell operative in history, or the system requires reform.

Compare this with the recent London Olympics. Those of us in attendance at the Games encountered annoyances and security overkill, and questionable calls were certainly made (missiles on rooftops, for example), but the sheer mass of machine guns and fatigues, not to mention the grinning deference to police-state tactics, simply did not exist. How interesting that London, with more closed-circuit cameras than any other city and a populace inured to surveillance, was able to accommodate a much larger event with less kerfuffle than the host city where the party of limited government convened.

But the state of affairs on display in Tampa is not the city’s fault, nor Republicans’, and the security imbroglio at the Democratic convention in North Carolina won’t be that party’s fault, either. It is a cultural problem. America has adopted a safety-first mentality, as Mark Steyn observed in his critique of the decision to shut down Day One of the RNC due to the incoming storm. We must be bolder, Steyn aptly asserts. As to, “They know better than we do,” Americans should not think in these terms, and Republicans least of all. This is, however, a bipartisan conundrum.

President George W. Bush should not have created the Department of Homeland Security, much less given it such a Soviet-sounding name, and Barack Obama should have shut it down, not staffed it with nincompoops like DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano (in this way, the breathtakingly ignorant Napolitano is a disgrace to an office that should not exist).

It is worth noting that, having followed Mitt Romney fairly closely since he ran for Massachusetts governor, advocated his inclusion on the ticket in 2008, and having assured anyone who would listen that he would come back for the win in 2012 (notwithstanding our misbegotten notion in late 2011 that Newt would overcome, in spite of himself), I have heard him say precious little about rolling back the nation’s rapidly expanding security apparatus. This is troubling, but hope springs eternal.

Specifically, one hopes that the impulses of the modern police state will be overcome by a President Romney’s apparent decency and sense of fair play. Further to that fair and decent aspect, a word on the rest of the potential First Family: Mrs. Romney is a gem and, as for their boy-band brace of sons, some of whom I got to speak with this week, they are gentlemen.

As to the election itself, there has been and will be such carnage of inkshed in the coming weeks, my humanity permits me to add only this: Mitt Romney will win with 300 or more Electoral College votes (270 are required for victory). This will confound network anchors and liberal pundits who have been parroting that this will be “a close race” and “a base election” and who will muse and mewl late into the evening about how “nobody saw this coming.” But as both a quantitative and a qualitative matter, this race is over.

Romney’s calm, competent presence, complemented by a specialty in fixing colossal messes, makes him the right man for this moment (among those who will be on the ballot, anyway). This is something the nation will sense, apart from politics and ideology, and some measure of this demeanor and poise was evident in Romney’s acceptance speech.

With regard to the numbers, a study of the electoral map shows four or five feasible paths to a Romney victory, starting with winning New Hampshire and retaining or flipping several combinations of states from Florida to Wisconsin. To wit, there are simply more ways for Romney to win than for Obama.

On Election Night, by the time New Mexico is called, we will already know Mitt Romney is the 45th President of the United States. The question then becomes, what will he do to return America to its rightful place as the Land of the Free?

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Ridiculous Modern Presidency

And then there’s Mitt.

After all the speechifying and handshaking and recriminations and commercials and countless debates, the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination ends pretty much where it began: with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the presumptive winner.

The most recent pretender to the Republican crown was former Senator Rick Santorum, who bowed out of the GOP contest in advance of an uncertain primary in his home state of Pennsylvania. For this, the party and the country should be grateful. Had he carried the Keystone State and somehow gone on to seize the nomination, Santorum would have remained a tough sell.

Simply put, Santorum is not suited to be president of the United States. That’s not a slight. The vast majority of us are not cut out to be president, including the guy who currently has the job.

The problem is not Santorum’s social policies – some of which have been amplified and even outright fabricated through the power of those pesky, worldwide interwebs – it is his demeanor. He is too intense at the wrong times. One could easily see Santorum as the guy arguing a call in a friendly softball game, and taking it way too far.

And so, it shall be Romney.

Despite being preferable to Santorum, Romney is nowhere near our first choice, and he is not even in our top ten list of prominent Republicans we’d wish to see as the GOP standard-bearer this November (Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Jon Kyl, Marco Rubio, Rudy Giuliani, David Wilkins, Bill Frist, and Mitch McConnell, please call your offices). But here we are. Romney personifies Ben Franklin’s axiom that politics is the art of the possible (or, perhaps more infamously, Donald Rumsfeld’s musings on America’s preparedness for the Iraq war) – since it is not possible to have the nominee we might wish for, we must do the best we can with whom we have.

As regular readers know, this column would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, so let us apply this philosophy to Mitt’s nomination.

One of the qualities that recommend him is that no one is ever going to get misty about the guy. There is no romance to Romney. If anyone ever faints at a Romney rally, the reasons will be purely medical, utterly unrelated to whatever charisma is emanating from the stage.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan opines that America is moving toward a “post-heroic presidency.” That is, we will cease to consider the president some kind of public sector demigod, and recognize him simply as a citizen with a job to do. If this is true, now more than ever, it will be a very good thing. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was embarrassing, what with the chanting and the race-baiting idol-worship and the “Yes we can” rhubarb that resulted in the election of this preening, ridiculous person as president. The intervening, desolate four years and the fatuity of his term of office permit us to call that phenomenon what it was: sheer, mass idiocy, demonstrating Winston Churchill’s aphorism that, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

But, his acolytes and self-regard notwithstanding, Obama cannot be blamed for the layers of nonsense that come with the job. To wit, the modern presidency is a pompous absurdity. With its giant airplanes, its 17-car motorcades, its Praetorian Guard of a security detail and on, the office demands more deference than King George III ever did. It has taken longer than most – over two centuries – but the American Revolution has gone the way of all others: The revolutionaries have made themselves royalty.

Moreover, the American president is no longer the Leader of the Free World in any meaningful sense. Besides that the nation’s self-imposed, weakened economic state represents a de facto abdication of leadership, America is arguably the least-free country in the West. With federal “security” checkpoints posted everyplace from freeways to bus stations to sporting events, a Treasury that demands tax filings and complete account information from citizens and “U.S. persons” living abroad (anomalous among other tax treaty nations, which properly believe people should simply file and pay taxes where they reside), and a criminal justice system with a conviction rate north of 90 percent (the upshot of which is that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners), the “land of the free” is now little more than a song lyric. In short, America will search your person, take your money, and lock you up quicker than any other “free” country in history.

Would President Romney fix all this? Doubtful. Unless his anodyne economic policies and milquetoast pronouncements are masking a robust agenda of true reform (and thus far, such indications exist only in the columns of the recently unrecognizable Ann Coulter, a surprising and relentless Romney cheerleader), he will mostly likely lower expectations of the office while managing America’s decline. Even so, he beats the alternative.

As to his chances of winning, Larry Kudlow calls Romney perhaps, “the most underrated politician in America.” He’s a grinder. Many times during the GOP contest, Romney found himself eclipsed by other candidates, but he stuck to his game plan and wore them out. This augurs well for the general election, however pointless his presidency might prove.

If Gandalf the Grey taught us anything (and plainly, he did), it is this: “Even the wisest cannot see all ends.” From here, certainly, it seems America is pooched, and no potential president has the prescription to save it. But of the available options, Romney gives the country its best chance. Perhaps, somehow, circumstances will align such that Romney’s cautious, managerial, split-the-difference approach to governing will be just what the nation needs.

And if Romney’s stunning lack of star power reminds America that its president is just a person, and its politicians work for us, not the other way around, he will have served his country well. In this way, perhaps government of the people, by the people, for the people may return to the earth.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Time to Deploy Jeb

What if the Republican Party could field a presidential nominee able to guarantee victory in the state of Florida, and perhaps across the entire South? What if this person also possesses twice the executive governing experience as the GOP’s current front-runner, Mitt Romney, and is broadly considered the best Republican governor in recent decades? Finally, what if this person espouses precisely the limited government philosophy for which dispirited Republicans yearn?

To wit, what if the Republican Party turned its lowly eyes to Jeb Bush?

In the wake of Super Tuesday, with Romney capturing the grand prize of Ohio, Rick Santorum making a hat-trick of Oklahoma, North Dakota and Tennessee, Newt Gingrich winning Georgia, and Ron Paul giving everyone another stern lecture, no one is satisfied.

More than this, there is real and growing concern that none of these candidates, including and especially Romney, can defeat Barack Obama in November.

The question becomes, then, could Jeb Bush beat Barack Obama, especially if he did not secure the nomination until the GOP Convention at the end of August? Boy howdy, he could.

As the first Republican governor re-elected in Florida since Reconstruction, Jeb could carry the Sunshine State with his little finger. The rest of the South, including Virginia and North Carolina (which wandered haplessly into Democratic territory in 2008), would be pleased as punch to pull the lever for a proper conservative. Hence, Jeb removes the South from contention in a way Romney, in particular, could not.

From there, Bush’s record of accomplishment and straightforward philosophy on the role of the public sector – he maintains that government should do nothing that is advertised in the Yellow Pages – would create a welcome contrast with Obama, and rekindle enthusiasm among Republican voters.

Apart from the logistical challenges of launching a run at this late date (discussed below), there are two major impediments to Bush’s presidential candidacy: branding and will.

Branding is the easy bit. There are many who negatively associate Jeb Bush with the presidencies of his brother and father. Years ago, after I published a newspaper column extoling Jeb’s success as Florida governor and suggesting he would make a potent president, one fellow responded, “I wouldn’t listen to another Bush if it were burning.”

But consider, gentle reader, your own parents and siblings. Would it be fair, or accurate, for folks to suppose you think and act precisely as members of your family do? Whatever your opinion of the previous Bush presidencies, as Floridians can attest, Jeb is his own man.

As to the deeper challenge, that of will, the man simply does not want to do it, as he has said as much.

On a personal and professional basis, Gov. Bush has for some time been profoundly tolerant of my nonsense, and my incessant needling that he run for president. On that latter point, I am nowhere near alone, as myriad Republicans have been trying to coax him into the race for some time.

Jeb has allowed me to interview him for television and print, and, on-camera about a year ago, he was plain as can be in telling me he was not going to be a candidate. The specific reason he gave then was that he does not favor Ethanol subsidies, which suggests he would not be competitive in Iowa. But the Iowa Caucuses are long over, Santorum won (sort of) and, even if Bush’s perfectly defensible position on this issue caused him to lose the state’s 6 Electoral College votes, he could still muddle along to victory.

As the declared GOP candidates continue to go about the country, stirring up apathy, Jeb Bush is among the pantheon of dream candidates Republicans call forth, along with Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and others. But there is no substitute for Jeb. Indiana is an important state, a presidential bellwether, but it is not the must-win that Florida is. And as an articulate champion of freedom, with a sterling executive record, Republicans have no one who can hold a candle to him.

So, with a campaign in full swing, several hundred delegates already allotted, filing deadlines for state primaries and caucuses long past, and an ideal candidate who emphatically does not want the job, how could Jeb become president?

This is what conventions are for.

Romney supporters aver that neither Santorum nor Gingrich can hope to overtake him in the delegate count, and this is probably true. But they don’t have to. All Santorum, Gingrich and Paul must do is garner enough delegates to prevent Romney from reaching 1,144 before the convention. Then, with Romney denied a first-ballot victory, a Byzantine system of state and district rules kicks in, allowing many delegates to meander off and support someone else.

Jeb is someone else. And, with Romney et al. having been examined and found wanting by Republican voters, not to mention the GOP Convention being held in Tampa, Florida (an astoundingly happy coincidence), Gov. Bush would be the natural choice to lead the party. Even the most reluctant candidate – and, with his many polite yet firm Sherman-esque statements, Jeb may just be that – could not resist such a confluence of events and the acclamation of his party.

Conservative pundit Rich Lowry refers to Romney as the candidate of “Eh, I guess.” That about sums up Republican enthusiasm for the moneyed yet milquetoast former Massachusetts governor. I have been sharply critical of Romney’s tepid economic plan – and his recent announcement of a 20 percent reduction in marginal tax rates does little to change my view – while maintaining that he could at least defeat Obama. Lately, though, even that seems in doubt.

This column has called Romney the Republican Al Gore, several others have noted his similarity to John Kerry, and these are various ways of making the same observation; that is, the negative appeal of phoniness is bipartisan and powerful.

Romney is tough to take. I say that as someone who has watched him for many years, and who advocated his selection as Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008 (but what a loss to reality television that would have been). It comes across in speeches and debates. At the end of particularly pat answers, Romney thanks his questioner with the smugness of those South Park characters driving around in their hybrid cars: “Thaaaaanks.”

Recently, in a thumbless grasp for the support of rural voters, Romney said he is always “delighted” to go hunting. Back that up for a moment. You outdoorsy types among our readership in particular, please give this scenario careful thought: You are at home, the weekend is upcoming, a buddy calls and invites you hunting – it there any universe in which you would reply, “Why, I’d be delighted”?

The concern is that when general election voters get a load of Romney’s routine, they will inevitably be as put off as we nonplussed Republicans.

Santorum would make a newsworthy Health and Human Services Secretary, but it is hard to imagine him becoming president. As for Gingrich, who remains this column’s top choice among the currently available candidates (Newt’s single term could be as consequential as that of the only other former Speaker of the House to become president – James Polk), whether by Romney-sponsored negative advertising or the op

Finally, there’s Ron Paul. There is always Ron Paul.

With Super Tuesday in the books and Republican chances looking bleaker by the day, the party must summon its ace. When the GOP gathers in Florida, it will be time to deploy Jeb Bush.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Citizen Bain

There is a film about a ruthless, wealthy man who just wanted to be loved. The man bought up everything that caught his eye, but it was not enough. All he really yearned for was his childhood sled.

Replace “his childhood sled” with “the presidency of the United States” and you have the gist of a new movie about Mitt Romney’s career in venture capital, which this column calls, “Citizen Bain.”

The actual, considerably less-catchy, almost yuletide title is, “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” and viewers might be surprised that the 28-minute film is the work of supposedly rightist Republicans, rather than seething, class-warrior Democrats (though the latter are reportedly working on a sequel, to be released during the general election).

Sponsored by supporters of Newt Gingrich, and produced on a Super-PAC basis at arm’s length from the former Speaker (Super-PACs being yet another absurdity of America’s campaign finance laws, requiring candidates to have no official involvement in, and to feign implausible ignorance of, the actions of some of their most heavily invested advocates), the movie is meant to document Romney’s career at Bain Capital.

Four companies are highlighted, ostensibly representing thousands of jobs lost to Romney’s personal greed. That is, by taking over entities that were not viable and selling off their assets, Romney made himself unspeakably wealthy by putting vulnerable people out of work. Counting his money with one hand while twirling his Snidely Whiplash moustache with the other, Mitt supposedly went about the country seeking out simple lives to destroy.

Bollocks on stilts, it says here.

Forces for and against Romney’s candidacy, as well as neutral observers (to the extent those truly exist in this age of ubiquitous politics), have analyzed his Bain career to determine whether he was a net creator, or eliminator, of jobs. Results have varied, but none of this is the point. Jobs are important, as are the lives and livelihoods of individuals, but even those of us who are sharp critics of Romney must recognize that when it comes to wealth creation and contribution to the economy, Mitt is very much on the happy side of par.

Josef Schumpeter observed that capitalism is incomprehensible without understanding the role of the entrepreneur. Specifically, absent individuals with ideas and courage, combined with people who can pony up the money to turn those ideas into reality, nothing would get invented, produced, bought or sold. At Bain Capital, Romney was part of that second group, selecting nascent enterprises for investment, and he was very, very good at it.

Venture capital, like any number of investment fields, requires a highly specific skill set, and you can come in for an intergalactic hosing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Indeed, this column has a monsoon of respect for Mitt’s acumen when it comes to picking companies, and for what he was able to accomplish in the private sector. Newt Gingrich should, too.

Simply put, without men like Mitt, able to identify opportunities and provide the capital to make them successful, our economy would not work. Conversely, the free market can trundle along just fine without Gingrich being compensated by government agencies to the tune of $1.6 million for his services as a “historian” (which, as George Will points out, is a heckuva lot more than anyone ever paid Herodotus).

Of course, we are talking business here, and in that arena, Mitt trumps Newt every day of the week and twice on Sundays. In matters of public policy, however, and in terms of a record of fostering limited government, Gingrich wins going away.

To wit, much as I may admire Mitt’s business skills, I still don’t think he should be president, unless and until he smartens up – starting with his tax plan, which the Wall Street Journal and others have correctly called, “timid.”

While the film’s faux-populist silly-bears may scare off some potential Romney voters, it is perhaps likelier to entrench his current supporters. More than anything, though, it reveals a disappointing side to Gingrich – one which we hoped he would keep under wraps until near the end of his first term as president.

Our disappointment in Newt is informed by the fact that he has a responsibility to present an alternative on Romney’s right. For all the story-ginning excitement among those who sell news for a living, none of the other Republican candidates has much chance of surpassing the former Massachusetts governor.

With successive strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Ron Paul seems to be getting weirder, if that were possible, cackling through speeches like Dwight Schrute at the Dunder-Mifflin sales conference. As for Rick Santorum, politically interested people who for years have been spraining their fingers on the mute button whenever he appears on a news program already know what new voters will soon discover – he does not wear well. Santorum’s trouble isn’t his unwavering social conservatism, or that he lost his last Senate race by 17 points, it’s that he’s even less likeable than Romney.

One assumes Rick Perry is simply giving his donors their money’s worth, giving a conspicuous best effort before repairing to his successful governorship of Texas and shootin’ coyotes full-time. Finally, this column sheds no tears for Jon Huntsman who, we have every confidence, will emerge from this race to find no shortage of audiences to which to deliver his special brand of squinting, stern lectures.

Our support of Gingrich is not born of some notion that he is the best possible person to lead America. Rather, he is the best among the candidates who are currently on offer (seriously, Jeb Bush, please do call your office – you have about 300 million urgent messages).

Newt presents the boldest course on the economy, with a phenomenal, pro-growth tax plan that would restore America to preeminence in global markets. This is the contrast Gingrich should draw. “Citizen Bain” does not become him.

Theo Caldwell, an international investor and broadcaster, has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the Kansas City Board of Trade. He can be reached at