August 30, 2012

Libya & Artie Take It To Mittens.

I haven't been particularly eager to write about the election. Still not, in fact. But I saw this picture and felt impelled to learn some more about it. A friend in the know filled me in a bit

Mitt Romney is hardly the first rich man to run for President, but he's almost novel in the way he represents the very top of what we've all learned to call "The 1%."

Though you wouldn't know it from the media coverage, there are some other voices being heard in Tampa this week. The photo comes, it turns out, by way of One Pittsburgh, a vigorous community activist group that has been fighting to tax the rich to fund public services, and -- most recently -- to raise the minimum wage. (If you are a Facebook type you are strongly encouraged to go "Like" One Pittsburgh.)

Here, on the right, among several activists from around the country, are Libya Wilson and Artie Rawls. Both from Pittsburgh, .

Libya works for Dunkin' Donuts, and Artie (who is a Navy veteran) works for Burlington Coat Factory. They were part of a crowd that was blocked from trying to greet Pennsylvania Republican delegates Tuesday. Libya -- whose fiancee also works at Dunkin' Donuts, while they try to raise a family on less than $8 an hour -- said of the Republicans:
They don't know where I'm coming from. I want them to know.
Bain Capital, along with two other "private equity" buyout firms (the Carlyle Group and Thomas Lee Partners) bought Dunkin Brands -- which franchises both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins stores -- in 2006. The company itself ended up with a huge debt load, but the buyout firms did just fine for themselves: In November of 2010, they had Dunkin' Donuts borrow $500 million to pay themselves a dividend, before taking the company back to the stock market in an initial public offering (IPO) in July 2011.

Bain is still a major shareholder in Dunkin' Brands, and they handsomely reward top management at the company. The Dunkin Brands CEO, Nigel Travis, was paid nearly $1.96 million last year, and that wasn't even his best year. At 40 hours a week, that's $941 an hour for Mr. Travis, compared to less than $8 for people like Libya Wilson. (The One Pittsburgh Facebook page, linked above, has a "McJob Creators" file with some more fun graphics like the one of Mr. Travis.)

At first, Mitt Romney thought that his record at Bain Capital was going to be an asset for his political campaign, because it showed he had "business experience" and was a "problem-fixer." Happily -- and in no small part thanks to diligent community activists like Libya Wilson and Artie Rawls -- there are fewer and fewer people in this country who believe mystifications like that anymore.

In economic hard times like these, it's actually kind of a liability -- in most people's minds -- if you're the kind of person who goes around ripping other people off to make yourself a multi-millionaire with multiple houses, a car elevator, and a dressage horse. So Romney has not only been downplaying his record at Bain -- or at least belatedly trying to rehabilitate himself -- but he's been loudly proclaiming that he's no longer associated with the company and its current predatory business decisions.

But that, too, is untrue. Romney still makes millions of dollars a year from at least 22 funds at Bain, His vast personal fortune is augmented by a "retirement fund" that could single-handedly relieve the pension funding problems of your average financially-troubled medium-size city.

We all know that the US government governs on behalf of of the super-rich, but Mitt Romney seems to think that his class ought to take over directly, and that he's the man to head the hostile takeover. The contrast with the vast majority of the people of the United States could not be more plain.

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