Romney, The Unapologetic Plutocrat

I confess I’m already tired of the horse race, but it’s here, and GOPers have gotten out of the gate so quickly that all one can see are horses’ asses. Today’s particular horse’s ass is Mitt Romney, whose father gave him advice about running for office:

“I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54 years old,” Romney said. “He had good advice to me. He said never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage. …

Yep. Good advice, all right. No more Mr. Smiths going to Washington; they should just stay home and pay a mortgage… even if the mortgage may be snatched away from them illegally. Heed Mitt’s advice: if you have to ask how rich you have to be, you’re not rich enough to run for high office.

I’ve been reading more in Schlesinger’s The Coming of the New Deal (no link because it’s on dead trees, but new editions are still available), and ran across a rather unsavory fellow named Richard Whitney. He was a financier in the crazy days of the late 1920s and 1930s, and when the original legislation regulating securities was proposed, Whitney was one of those howling loudest in rage at the prospect of any sort of regulation. Whitney dressed the part of the perfect businessman of his day: his portly body clothed in a perfectly tailored suit and topped with a perfect hat, a perfect gold watch with chain dangling perfectly from his pocket when he appeared on business occasions. The stock market was “perfect,” Whitney said… his word; I’m not paraphrasing… and must not be tampered with. Despite his best efforts, regulatory legislation eventually became law, and it was (I presume) far more difficult to fleece the public than it had been. And Whitney? Well, here’s Wikipedia:

Having retired as president of the NYSE in 1935, Whitney remained on the board of governors, but in early March 1938, his past began to catch up with him when the comptroller for the NYSE reported to his superiors that he had established absolute proof that Richard Whitney was an embezzler and that his company was insolvent. Within days, events snowballed, and Whitney and his company would both declare bankruptcy. An astonished public learned of his misdeeds on March 10 when he was officially charged with embezzlement by New York County District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey. Following his indictment by a Grand Jury, Richard Whitney was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to a term of five to ten years in Sing Sing prison. On April 12, 1938, six thousand people turned up at Grand Central Station to watch as a scion of the Wall Street Establishment was escorted in handcuffs by armed guards onto a train that delivered him to prison.

Mitt Romney has done a lot of morally deplorable things in his wealth-lined life; it comes with the territory of corporate raiding. Were any of those things illegal, and will any of them eventually catch up with him? Will his presidential run lead, not to the White House, but to the Big House? Stay tuned!


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  • LiberalTalkingPoints  On Monday January 9, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Wow, I love this colorful tidbit from history. I’m imagining something like the character from the monopoly game come to life.

    Lucky for the banksters, after deregulation, stuff that should be criminal is legitimate business practice.

    Will embezzlement become legal someday? Stay tuned!

    • Steve  On Monday January 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

      Joe, for some reason, the pic on Wikipedia is of Mrs. Whitney, not Richard. Schlesinger’s book was published in 1957 and Whitney lived to 1974; it’s possible that Schlesinger was describing Whitney from life as he saw him in person. Yes, the Monopoly man does come to mind!

      I confess I am unhappy with Obama’s reluctance to prosecute. It gives the appearance that sufficiently wealthy people are above the law, and can get away with anything… torture, murder, etc. In 2008, I was still a Democrat, but Obama’s subsequent willingness to ignore felony behavior in people wealthy enough to be potential campaign contributors has induced me to leave the party after more than 30 years as a member. “Will embezzlement become legal someday?” If Obama is re-elected, that day may be soon, and if Romney is elected, it may be sooner still. Down we gooooo…

  • L'Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Monday January 9, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Pity the quarter-billionaire:

    • Steve  On Monday January 9, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Enfant, Thomas Frank is always worth reading, but I’ve rarely seen him so full of irony and sarcasm… well done!

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