It was 50 years ago today. Click on links below for great stories and photos … – R. Tirella
Published: October 21, 2012, The New York Times
IMAGINE a presidential candidate who spoke with blunt honesty about American problems, dwelling on measures by which the United States lags its economic peers.
What might this mythical candidate talk about on the stump? He might vow to turn around the dismal statistics on child poverty, declaring it an outrage that of the 35 most economically advanced countries, the United States ranks 34th, edging out only Romania. He might take on educational achievement, noting that this country comes in only 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, and at the other end of the scale, 14th in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a higher education. He might hammer on infant mortality, where the United States ranks worse than 48 other countries and territories, or point out that, contrary to fervent popular belief, the United States trails most of Europe, Australia and Canada in social mobility.
The candidate might try to stir up his audience by flipping a familiar campaign trope: America is indeed No. 1, he might declare – in locking its citizens up, with an incarceration rate far higher than that of the likes of Russia, Cuba, Iran or China; in obesity, easily outweighing second-place Mexico and with nearly 10 times the rate of Japan; in energy use per person, with double the consumption of prosperous Germany.
How far would this truth-telling candidate get? Nowhere fast. Such a candidate is, in fact, all but unimaginable in our political culture. Of their serious presidential candidates, and even of their presidents, Americans demand constant reassurance that their country, their achievements and their values are extraordinary.
Candidates and presidents generally oblige them, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney included. It is permissible, in the political major leagues, for candidates to talk about big national problems – but only if they promise solutions in the next sentence: Unemployment is too high, so I will create millions of jobs. It is impermissible to dwell on chronic, painful problems, or on statistics that challenge the notion that the United States leads the world – a point made memorably in a tirade by the dyspeptic anchorman played by Jeff Daniels in the HBO drama “The Newsroom.”
“People in this country want the president to be a cheerleader, an optimist, the herald of better times ahead,” says Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. “It’s almost built into our DNA.”
This national characteristic, often labeled American exceptionalism, may inspire some people and politicians to perform heroically, rising to the level of our self-image. But during a presidential campaign, it can be deeply dysfunctional, ensuring that many major issues are barely discussed. Problems that cannot be candidly described and vigorously debated are unlikely to be addressed seriously. In a country where citizens think of themselves as practical problem-solvers and realists, this aversion to bad news is a surprising feature of the democratic process.
“I think there’s more of a tendency now than in the past to avoid discussion of serious problems,” says Allan J. Lichtman, a political historian at American University. “It has a pernicious effect on our politics and on governing, because to govern, you need a mandate. And you don’t get a mandate if you don’t say what you’re going to do.”
American exceptionalism has recently been championed by conservatives, who accuse President Obama of paying the notion insufficient respect. But the self-censorship it produces in politicians is bipartisan, even if it is more pronounced on the left for some issues and the right for others.
FOR instance, Democrats are more loath than Republicans to look squarely at the government debt crisis indisputably looming with the aging of baby boomers and the ballooning cost of Medicare. Republicans are more reluctant than Democrats to acknowledge the rise of global temperatures and its causes and consequences. But both parties, it is fair to say, prefer not to consider either trend too deeply. …
Mitt Romney’s trusts invested in Japanese automakers, European alternative energy companies, foreign pharmaceuticals, several French companies, and took a tax write off of $1.4 million for donating to his own charitable foundation. And much of Romney’s funds were invested through Goldman Sachs, the controversial Wall Street firm that received $10 billion in federal TARP money and hundreds of billions of dollars in federal loans. One thing’s for certain – Mitt Romney did not invest as an American economic nationalist. He put his money where got the most bang for his buck, often in overseas bank accounts investments.
By Steven R. Maher
Mitt Romney had good reasons to hide his tax returns. It provides a fascinating look at a man who would be an American President, but often put his money to work in foreign companies that directly compete with American manufacturers. While the American automobile industry was struggling to survive, Mitt was investing in Toyota and Mitsubishi. While campaigning for the country to free itself from the dependency of foreign oil, Romney, acting through trusts, was buying stock in foreign manufacturers of alternative energy sources. And in something remarkable, Romney gave $1.4 million to his own “charitable” foundation and reported it as a deduction on his tax return.
Romney’s tax returns, released Tuesday January 24, 2012, show heavy reliance on the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs, which received $10 billion in federal TARP money and hundreds of billions of dollars in federal loans. The TARP money and loans, later repaid by Goldman Sachs, took place around the same time Romney invested with the firm.
Well structured finances
First, a brief explanation about how Romney structured his finances to minimize his tax liabilities and provide for the lowest possible tax on his estate when it passes to his heirs. Not surprisingly, Romney appears to have greatly benefited from sophisticated legal and accounting advice.
Romney set up three trusts to house his property: the “Ann and Mitt Romney 1995 Family Trust” (the most fascinating of the group); the “W. Mitt Romney Blind Trust”); the “Ann B. Romney Blind Trust”; and the “Tyler Charitable Foundation” a “Nonexempt Charitable Foundation Treated as a Private Foundation.”
Theoretically a “blind trust” functions much like a super Pac – the owner of the assets, like the Presidential beneficiary of a super Pac, has plausible denial ability for knowledge of the Trustees’ investment decisions, which are supposedly made only by the trustees. Hence the description as a “blind” trust.
It is unknown if the “Ann and Mitt Romney 1995 Family Trust” is a blind trust. It does not state that on the front of the trust tax return filing. If it was established in 1995, the tax law at that time may not have required it. This trust is the most interesting of the four entities Romney published on his campaign, because many of the foreign investments reviewed in this article were made through that trust.
We sent two emails to Romney’s press office asking if the “Ann and Mitt Romney 1995 Family Trust” was a blind trust, and if it was, for documentation proving that. No response was received from the Romney campaign.
Romney defended his investments in the January 26, 2012 Presidential debate by saying that all the purchases were done by a Trustee, that he did not know about them, and that his trusts purchased stocks through mutual funds rather than directly from the companies. But Romney did sign the tax returns, and he at least knew about where his money went at that point. It is hard to believe that Romney, who has campaigned on his abilities at as a CEO, did not know what was being done in his name with his money.
The sole Trustee of all four Romney entities is R. Bradford Malt of the prestigious Boston law firm Ropes & Gray. All four entities’ tax reports were done by the same accountant, Daniel P. Feheley of the equally prestigious accounting firm Price, Waterhouse & Coopers. All four entities had their cash parked at Goldman Sachs and several purchased stock in the same companies, often selling stock on or within a few days or weeks of each other. Two of the trusts may have been “blind” and one a charitable foundation, but they seemed to make the same investment decisions at the same time.
Romney funneled his income into these trusts, and through the trusts, back into the private tax return of his wife and himself. Why the trusts?
All three of Romney’s trusts were “grantor trusts”, which Black’s Law Dictionary describes as follows: “A trust in which the grantor transfers or conveys property in trust for his own benefit alone or for himself or another.” Depending on the nature of the trust, Romney could have done this to transfer his property to his heirs or act as a tax shelter.
His own charity
Romney’s tax return listed his income as follows:
· Total income listed was $21,646,507. Of this, $3.295,727 was interest income, and $4,923,348 was dividends ($1.5 million from the “Ann and Mitt Romney 1995 Trust” and $3 million from the “Ann D. Romney Blind Trust”).
· Romney filed two self-employment Schedule Cs. The first was for $113,881 as a member of the Marriott International’s Board of Directors. Not bad for a part time job.
· The second self-employment form filed was for author and speakers’ fees. Romney had income of $528,871 gross income for “author/speaking fees”. According to published press reports, $370,000 of this was for speaking fees, an amount Romney described as “inconsequential.”
· Romney paid a total tax of slightly over $3 million on adjusted gross income of $21,646,507, an effective tax rate of 13.9%.
· Romney received a tax refund of $1.6 million. You or I would probably grab such a refund, but Romney instead applied it to his 2011 taxes.
Romney’s supporters make much of the fact that he gave more to charity than what he paid in taxes. They ignore the fact that a good part of Romney’s charity began at home. Of the money donated, $1,458,807 was from the “Ann Romney Blind Trust” to the “Tyler Charitable Foundation”, a non-cash transfer of “donated securities”. What Romney’s trustee or representative did was take money out of one Romney trust, put it into another Romney legal entity, take a $1.4 million deduction on his taxes, and maintained legal control of the transferred assets.
This transaction probably took place only on paper, with the stroke of his accountant’s or trustee’s pen. Some paperwork was probably done to transfer the securities, but no cash left Romney’s control in making this donation.
In terms of donating $1.4 million to himself, what did Romney know and when did he know it? At the time someone made the decision, or when he filed his tax returns? We asked that question of Romney’s press office twice by email and received no reply.
If Romney made the biggest – and only donation – to the Tyler foundation, the foundation itself made $647,500 donations to various causes. The two largest donations were $145,000 to the Mormon Church and $100,000 to the George W. Bush presidential library. The Tyler foundation made several smaller donations to the medical institutions that treated his wife for cancer. Romney thought so well of Bush’s presidency that he prioritized his charitable donations to the 43rd President’s library over the medical institutions which saved his wife’s life.
The mainstream media has concentrated on Romney’s bank accounts in the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Grand Cayman Islands. Why did Romney put his money there? Probably because the interest rates were higher and the tax rates lower than your typical American bank. If Romney had been an American economic nationalist, he would have put all his money into the U.S. banking system, where it would have been loaned back to his fellow Americans to buy homes, cars, or expand their private enterprises. But it wouldn’t have been as profitable.
Romney did invest a lot of money in America. But at a time when the country is struggling with a critical balance of trade deficit, he put considerable portions of his investments into overseas banks and companies.
The real story is in the trusts through which Romney sheltered his wealth. Among his investments (many of which were done by the Ann and Mitt Romney 1995 Family Trust):
· Toyota and Mitsubishi. While American car companies were dying, Romney’s trust was putting his money into Japanese carmakers.
· While saying America needs to develop green energy sources, Romney’s trusts invested in foreign alternate energy providers such as the Dutch wind power company Vestas Wind Systems and the Austrian Verbund AS, which gets 90% of its power from hydro-electricity.
· Romney’s trusts have invested in numerous foreign pharmaceuticals and medical suppliers: the Dutch CSL Limited, the Dutch pharmaceutical Novo-Doris; and Fresno’s Medical Care, a German manufacturer of medical supplies.
· Among the foreign high-tech companies Romney’s trusts bought and sold stock in were Turkcel Ietisim, a Turkish cell phone service provider and the British based Sky Broadcasting Group, a tele-communications provider.
· The Romney trusts invested in numerous foreign banks: The Greek National Bank; the Brazilian banking groups Itau Unibanco and Intesta Sanpaolo; and several other large “emerging market” banking groups.
· Your average Republican during the Bush era may have wanted to rename French fries “freedom fries” but that didn’t stop Romney’s trustee from investing in several French companies: LVMH Moet, which is a Paris based clothier; Schlumbegrer LTD, a French company that provides oil field services.
· Romney has said he would crack down on Chinese trading practices, which have cost so many Americans their jobs. His 2010 tax returns show investments in several Chinese companies including the New Oriental Ed & Tech, and the China Life Insurance Company, formerly a state owned enterprise insuring 45% of the Red Chinese public. According to Wikipedia, New Oriental is a system of 40 private schools teaching English, set up originally to train graduate students – presumably so they could come here, attend the best graduate schools in the world, and take their education and technological skills back home from America to create jobs in China.
· Romney’s accountant adroitly played all the legal strategies available to maximize his client’s gains from his foreign investments. Romney got a tax credit of $129,697 for the payment of foreign taxes.
No economic nationalist
Most of Romney’s money was invested through Goldman Sachs, a company that received $10 billion in funds from the “Troubled Asset Relief Program” (TARP). The Federal “Primary Dealer Credit Facility” loaned Goldman Sachs $589 billion in 2009, when Goldman Sachs was purchasing Romney some of the same stocks he sold for a profit in 2010.
What does the tax return say about Mitt Romney’s vision and foresight?
Romney must have known in 2009 that he would be running for President in 2012. He could have reasonably foreseen that at some point he would be pressured into releasing his tax returns. Romney would have been well advised in 2009 to Americanize his portfolio. He should have withdrawn his money from foreign banks and ordered his trustees to only invest in American companies. Romney then could have run as an economic nationalist who put the country’s welfare above his own financial well-being. Short term, it would have led to a reduction in income that would not affect Romney’s life style. Long term, it would have generated enormous political capital and averted the many questions raised by his 2010 tax return.
Great Presidents – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan come to mind – tended to be visionaries who could foresee and proactively resolve problems facing the country. Obviously, Romney three years ago didn’t have the foresight to see the problems to be caused by how he handled his great wealth. The conclusion to be drawn from this is left for the reader to make.
See the link below – a blast from the past. Today, if elected President, Romney says he will throw Roe v Wade out the window. Women can forget about having the right to choose. Romney says (for now – to get elected by conservative Repubs. during the primaries, no doubt) that he will fight to overturn Roe V. Wade and let the state’s make their own laws.
Will that be Romney’s mantra during the general election when he has to attract Independents – often fiscally conservative but socially liberal/libertarian voters?
Romney is a liar … so your guess is as good as mine …
– R. Tirella
A friend sent us this informaton ….
Salary of retired US Presidents ………….$450,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of House/Senate members ……….$174,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of Speaker of the House ………….$223,500 FOR LIFE
Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders ……$193,400 FOR LIFE
Average salary of a soldier DEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN – $38,000
Average income for seniors on SOCIAL SECURITY – $12,000
I think we found where the cuts should be made! If you agree … Pass this on!
The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs
By Jim Rasenberger
Reviewed by Steven R. Maher
The Bay of Pigs means very little to anyone under the age of 50. It was a four day affair in which 1,200 American backed Cuban exiles suffered an ignominious defeat trying to overthrow Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in April 1961. For the United States, it was a humiliating setback that left new President John F. Kennedy being perceived as weak and indecisive by the Soviet Union. For Fidel Castro, it was “the first defeat of imperialism in the Americas”, a triumph that consolidated his regime and made him a hero to Cuban nationalists.
Rasenberger has written the best book yet on the subject. It is cogent, well documented, and very readable.
Between 1956 and 1958 Castro waged a successful guerilla war against old style tyrant Fulgencio Batista, taking power when Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on New Year’s Day 1959. Rasenberger picks up the story shortly after that, when Castro visited the United States in April 1959.
Rasenberger spends much time on the historical debate on whether Castro was a Communist when he took power on January 1, 1959, or became a Communist as a nationalist response to American pressure against his regime. This is an unfortunate digression. Most historians considered this matter resolved by Castro’s revelation to biographer Tad Szulc, that he contacted the Cuban Communist Party for assistance in Communizing Cuba shortly after he entered Havana in January 1959.
The April 1959 Castro visit was important from another perspective. Castro met with Vice President Richard M. Nixon, who concluded “Castro was either incredibly naïve about Communism or under Communist discipline and that we would have to treat him and deal with him accordingly..” Nixon continued his agitation against Castro, culminating in President Dwight D. Eisenhower ‘s March 17, 1960 “Program of Covert Action Against The Castro Regime.”
Now entering Rasenberger’s account is the central figure in the Bay of Pig saga – Richard M. Bissell. The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) deputy director for plans, Bissell has been portrayed by most historians, particularly Kennedy partisans, as the villain of the Bay of Pigs story. He is almost universally regarded as the person responsible for the disaster. “When Bissell’s name comes up in discussion of the Bay of Pigs, an unpleasant adjective usually lurks somewhere nearby ,” writes Rasenberger, “Certainly he was the scapegoat.”
“It was clear in retrospect that Kennedy was seduced by Dick Bissell’s smoothly persuasive estimation,” said Kennedy aide and later historian Arthur J. Schlesinger.”All of us – Kennedy and Bundy and the rest – were hypnotized by Dick Bissell to some degree.”
Bissell drew up the original Bay of Pigs plan. It called for Cuban exiles, “Brigade 2506” to launch two sets of air strikes using black market warplanes to destroy Castro’s air force. A group of exiles would make an amphibious landing near the city of Trinidad, and seize a slice of territory into which could be flown a provisional government from exile. This would supposedly set off uprisings across Cuba and mass defections from Castro’s forces. If it did not, the invasion force could retreat to the nearby Escambray mountains and fight on as guerillas. The whole endeavor was to be presented to the world as strictly a Cuban exile operation, with no U.S. government involvement.
Incoming President John F. Kennedy didn’t think the U.S’s involvement in so elaborate an undertaking could be concealed. He ordered the plan scaled back. The Bay of Pigs was picked because it was easy to defend, but it was 80 miles away from the Escambray Mountains. There was no place to retreat if the invasion failed to set off a rebellion.
After the invasion began, Kennedy cancelled the second set of air strikes against Castro’s air force. Three or four Castro jets survived the initial air raid. After the exile forces landed, these jets sank or drove off the brigade’s supply ships. Trapped in an area from which there was no escape, quickly running out of food and ammunition, the exiles were driven into the sea. Over 100 were killed and 1,000 captured.
There has long been a conspiracy theory that Bissell and other invasion organizers knew the planned was doomed to fail, and expected Kennedy to order the U.S. military to invade to avoid a complete debacle. Writes Rasenberger: “[E]vidence that the CIA planned the operation in advance with the expectation that the President would have to bail it out is scant.”
Kennedy does not come across too well in these pages. He appears in the first three months of his presidency as weak and indecisive. Kennedy harbored deep misgivings about the plan, but allowed himself to be swayed by the fact it was endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the intelligence agencies, and experts of every hue. After the Bay of Pigs Kennedy took a jaundiced view of the experts and relied more on his gut instincts, which served the country well during the Cuban missile crisis.
Indeed, political partisans of all stripes can find something to criticize this book for. Rasenberger states flatly that Eisenhower and Kennedy both knew of, and supported plans to, assassinate Castro. President Lyndon B. Johnson so feared being accused of “another Bay of Pigs” that he promoted and prolonged the agony of Vietnam. And the obstruction of justice which cost Nixon the Presidency was to have the CIA ask the FBI not to investigate the Watergate break in because it would “open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again.”
This is an excellent book. This writer was unable to put it down, finishing it in one weekend. Rasenberger has crafted a masterpiece, well written, fast moving, and easy to read.
November 16, 2010
Dear City Councilors,
On behalf of the entire Holy Cross Community of faculty, staff, and students, I thank you for recognizing the progress made over the past year in improving communication and addressing neighborhood concerns about the off-campus behavior of some Holy Cross students.
I want to assure you that concerns have been heard and the College takes them very seriously. There have been some setbacks, but we are addressing them with both immediate actions and sustainable change.
In cooperation with Worcester Police, the College has already taken steps to control student behavior in the neighborhood and we have begun work on a more comprehensive plan to advance relationships of consistent and mutual respect in the College Hill neighborhood. We remain committed to following up on every incident of off-campus misbehavior and applying appropriate sanctions.
Our goal is to implement additional practical and enforceable changes to how we respond to behavior that disrupts the College Hill neighborhood.
While these changes will take some time to develop and implement, we look forward to sharing the results of our collective efforts with you.
As President of the College of the Holy Cross, I take responsibility for and will lead these efforts; but the enforceablility and good working relationships required for real progress is dependent on the continued involvement of the reliable and accountable expertise of leaders throughout the College. To that end, I am joined by Timothy R. Austin, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean; Michael Lochhead, Vice President for Administration and Finance; Jacqueline D. Peterson, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students; Paul Irish, Assistant to the Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Student Conduct; Robert Hart, Director of Public Safety; Ketherine Robertson, Special Assistant for Community Relations; and others throughout my administration.
The success of this effort relies on the College, City officials, Worcester Police, neighbors and students working together in mutually respectful and collaborative ways. We have indeed made progress in addresssing quality-of-life issues for our closest neighbors, and we look forward to building on what has been accomplished.
Very truly yours,
Michael C. McFarland, S.J.
President [College of the Holy Cross]