Carroll Daily Times Herald co-owner and editorial writer Douglas Burns speaks with President Barack Obama about western Iowa economic development and other issues in the Oval Office on June 21. (Official White House photograph by Pete Souza.)
Carroll Daily Times Herald co-owner and editorial writer Douglas Burns speaks with President Barack Obama about western Iowa economic development and other issues in the Oval Office on June 21. (Official White House photograph by Pete Souza.)
Thursday, October 25, 2012

OK, fair enough, Mitt Romney is really good at making money. But think about it. How many people have you met in life who are masterful with building their own wealth who want to help other people get rich, too?

Capitalism, the way Romney plays it, is a zero-sum game — with 47 percent of us, from seniors to veterans to the working poor, not even considered suited up and on the field in Romney World.

Romney’s campaign commercials, if all yarn-balled, represent the political equivalent of an Iowa Lottery pitch: buy my plan and you, too, can be rich. What are the odds, though, really?

Dancing horses as tax write-offs.

A car elevator in the mansion.

Spontaneous $10,000 nationally televised bets that out-Texan that most Texan of Texans, Rick Perry.

How does Mitt Romney expect us to keep straight faces?

Name an issue for which Romney would take a political hit, a cause he’d deem worthy of absorbing a policy punch — or even a position he wouldn’t massage to skirt the spit-screaming of a conservative radio host in a red county one day, only to reverse words on the next after spotting a gaping gender gap in a swing state.

It’s almost as if a political junkie-techie constructed an online avatar of a presidential candidate on Second Life or The Sims and released it into the real world as a product known as The Magically Morphing Mitt Romney.

We covered the Republican caucuses and primary season intently. The Mitt Romney we followed as he faced other Republicans, most of them with more credible credentials as true conservatives, criticized President Obama on several foreign policy fronts.

Flash forward to the final presidential debate Monday night: Romney sounded like he’d been an Oval Office parrot the past four years as he did little more than endorse Obama’s foreign policy to the point where, if you didn’t know better, you may have guessed Romney was Obama’s secretary of state. Romney clearly unilaterally disarmed on foreign-policy rhetoric in the debate so any conflicts rolling around in the minds of undecided voters would remain trained on the economy.

This is dangerous business. If you make the wrong calls on foreign policy, people die.

For Romney to cynically game the debate by just agreeing with the president so as to avoid a fight and the attendant coverage is not the stuff of a commander-in-chief.

In the primaries, Romney is George W. Bush. In the general election, he’s Howard Dean.

Whereas Richard Nixon had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, Romney offers us half a secret plan for the economy. He tells us about $5 trillion in tax cuts with a knife bladed to the advantage of the prosperous. But what about the other side of the equation? This business of paying for the promise? Nope. Can’t reveal my hand on that before negotiating with Congress, Romney says. He’ll tell Congress and the American people after the election.

Trust me, Romney says.

The pro-life movement did. And look where they are now.

Does the anti-abortion voter really have an option in the presidential race? We know President Barack Obama is pro-choice. He’s not equivocated.

But the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket’s positioning on abortion results in what can fairly be described as honest confusion.

Most fair-minded people will accept one conversion from a politician on abortion. After all, that is a major part of the mission of the pro-life cause, to change views. But when the movement scores a high-profile convert, a la Mitt Romney, they just won’t buy it.

It’s easy to see why.

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney said this month in an interview with The Des Moines Register.

Fair enough. Take it to the courts.


Watch the vice presidential debate and you get this from Paul Ryan: “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision, (but) that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination,” Ryan said.

Just how do Romney and Ryan plan to outlaw abortion without legislation or the courts? Sounds effectively like the Obama administration’s policy of seeking to make abortion “safe, legal and rare” — the prevailing Democratic position since the Clinton years.

Now let’s look at the other choice. On a raft of issues President Obama told us exactly what he would do if elected.

He delivered on the lion’s share of it. Reform health care. Immigration-policy change. Detroit is back as more than 1.1 million jobs were saved through the auto rescue. Stimulus. Killing Osama bin Laden.

Over the last 31 months, the U.S. economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has added more than 5.2 million jobs. And remember, when the president entered the Oval Office, the United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 7,949 at the end of the day Jan. 20, 2009, Obama’s first day in office. As of mid-morning Wednesday the Dow was at 13,122 — a 65 percent increase under the president. It makes the red-baiting notion of Obama as socialist a blue-light special of a joke.

The president told a reporters’ roundtable in Boone this August that his administration deserved some (but certainly not all) credit for the generally favorable farm economy over the past four years. His farm policy, ably shepherded by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, has worked to open export markets and support biofuels.

“It’s no secret that a lot of times farmers vote Republican,” Obama said in response to a question The Daily Times Herald asked him during that roundtable. “I understand that. I guess some of it is just the sense that Democrats are from cities and don’t understand the farm economy. But if you look at our policies, the fact of the matter is that working with Secretary Vilsack and others I’ve been awfully good to farmers and ranchers, and I’ve kept my promises, and I hope folks remember that when they go to the polls.”

Carroll County farmland values hit an all-time high in 2011 of $7,921 per acre, a 33 percent increase over the previous year, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Land Value Survey.

Following a statewide trend — a 32.5 percent increase over the same period — Carroll-area counties posted record land values for 2011 with Calhoun County and Sac County showing the most expensive ground in the region at $8,617 and $8,427 per-acre averages, respectively.

Carroll County’s unemployment rate stood at 3 percent in September. Few counties in the nation can boast such a low rate.

Quoting USDA figures, The reports that exports of U.S. food and agricultural products are expected to reach $143.5 billion in fiscal 2013, well above the record set in 2011. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have made gains of 50 percent, reports the

Specifically, there are 7,000 wind-energy jobs in Iowa, and a growing number of wind turbines in the Carroll area, which benefit not only farmers but local government through significant property taxes. Romney opposes tax credits for wind energy.

Since President Barack Obama took office the USDA has provided more than $175 million in loans and grants to more than 20 rural health-care facilities — including those in Jefferson, Manning and Denison, some of our largest area employers. A $21 million, low-interest, U.S. Department of Agriculture loan will finance much of what is expected to be about a $23 million Manning Regional Healthcare Center slated to open in 2014.

“Without  USDA, this isn’t happening,” hospital CEO John O’Brien said of the  3.375 percent, 40-year federal loan.

The Manning hospital development is without question one of the more significant stories in terms of long-term economic and social impact for Carroll County we’ll report in decades.

It’s fair to question whether such money would have been available under a Romney/Ryan administration as their Republican allies appear intent on slashing rural development dollars from the agricultural department.

Finally, let’s examine Mitt Romney’s most significant public decision — the choice of Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee, as his running mate.

Ryan is a self-described devotee of Ayn Rand, the Russian-born atheist who died in 1982 after peddling a philosophy known as objectivism through works like “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” She believed we all live in a state of nature, that we are but vessels of competing desires and needs, bouncing off each other like so many bumper cars. To do anything outside of one’s own self-interest is to upset the apple cart of life, Rand reasoned.

It takes little time to see the influence of Rand in Ryan’s politics.

What would Ayn Rand do?

Turn Medicare into a voucher system where 85-year-olds are buying health insurance in an open marketplace, functioning as little more than lab rats in Ryan’s experiments. Rip away the cords of the social safety net and free Americans to face each other, bare-knuckled, fists full of dollars for the few, dirt-scuffed hands for most.

Undecided older voters really should ask themselves: Who do they trust with Social Security and Medicare?

On that score, Romney has alternately embraced Ryan and distanced himself from the Boy Wonder.

It must be terrifically frustrating to watch television with Mitt Romney if he holds the remote control. Flip. Flip. Flip.

He’s running a presidential campaign the same way.

Whereas Reagan and Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, and yes, even George W. Bush, gave us a world vision to consider, Romney comes to us as a Mormon version of  “Mad Men’s” Don Draper, prowling for a pitch.

Team Romney figures out what we want to buy in the moment and sells it to us.

New words for old products. Old words for new products.

Really, what’s the difference, because night falls, tomorrow comes and it’s on to the next product.

Trouble is, presidential terms last four years. The Oval Office demands spine not scheme.

We think the choice is clear.

President Barack Obama deserves a second term.