Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In Mitt’s 47%

I’m back in England for a few days before heading on to the Netherlands.  The 15th MedTech Investment Europe conference is going on at the King’s Fund in Cavandish Square.  It’s a networking affair for high-net-worth angels and startup companies looking for money, leavened with expert discussions of markets, exits, and risks.  I was asked to lead a panel discussing Healthcare Innovation, then was asked to chair the entire conference, so it was a nice chance to frame some ideas for audience discussion. 

Aside: The organizers put my academic credentials ahead of my business ones, which resulted in several participants asking if I could help get their child into Cambridge.  I wish…

The American election was thrumming in the background, with Mitt Romney’s video capturing the news cycle:47percent “47% of the people are dependent on government, believe they are victims…and pay no income tax”.  I’m amused to find that, as an expat who pays no US taxes and takes government help to start my business, I’m among the 47% that Mitt writes off.  I commented on Facebook about this and got a good peppering of replies from friends on the right and left, thoughtful and probing.  The FT also had a good takedown of the Governor’s comments.

In some ways, I should be in Mitt’s natural constituency.  I’m a small business owner, earning enough to self-fund an expatriate lifestyle, avoiding high 35% US corporate taxes, believing in the returns to both the individual and society of hard work, individual creativity, and financial initiative.

And there’s no question that I’m disillusioned with President Obama.  He’s compromised on principle, caved to pressure, utterly failed to make the case for causes that he eloquently and passionately spoke about during the campaign.

OVFI’ve registered as an Overseas Voter (if you haven’t, the OVF can help) and have received my ballot by email from my home county (still amazing that I can Internet-vote by absentee.  My Dutch friends say that if they can’t vote in person, they must give their proxy to someone else to vote for them, an even more curious arrangement!).

But I just can’t vote for Mitt.

One reason is the sad social state of the Republican party.  As much as it’s pro-business policies might appeal, it’s cultural intolerance, parochial viewpoints, and and loopy slogans are both embarrassing and anachronistic. 

The other is that I believe in practicing civic virtues of compassion, conservation, and investment, establishing infrastructure and promoting cooperation that drives progress and ensures opportunity and fairness.

Having both something to be against and something to before tips the balance left, perhaps against my own self-interest, and into the 47%.  I won’t vote for the President no matter what, but I haven’t heard anything yet that changes my mind. 

But, Mitt, I’m still listening.


CK said...

I think your general absence from the US must be affecting your ability to make judgments about the necessity of casting a meaningful vote. I'm disappointed in many things about President Obama, but I'm not disappointed that the war in Iraq is largely wound down for us, the surge troops have left Afghanistan, Obamacare means that states can no longer permit insurers to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and Don't Ask Don't Tell is a thing of the past. I'm gladly casting a second vote for Obama. I hope a second term with a more favorable Congress will let him finish some business. Living here full time in the US I am scared by only one thing, and that is the way the Republicans choose to (not) govern. I have to vote against that.

Jules: said...

IDK, there's sticking to your guns, and then there's trying to get something done. The behavior of the obstructionists this past year has been absolutely appalling. Maybe I've gone native a bit too long, but compromise isn't a four-letter word, and if Republicans had had the wherewithal to want to accomplish something rather than merely trying to make Obama look bad, I think a lot more could have been done.

David Hampton said...

Hi CK, I appreciate your comments and have been thinking about them for a few days.

While you're right that Obama wound down the wars (not enough, though: my son's still involved) and passed much-needed health care legislation, he also continued a lot of Bush-era economic, anti-privacy, and pork-barrel policies that I'd hoped would end. His campaign rhetoric on race and religion was wonderful, but vanished with at his inaugural address. Where is the reasoned, grounded, insightful leadership, now drowned out by ranting know-nothings? He has utterly failed to make a case for social fairness, government's role, or environmental conservation.

The temptation is to give Democrats a kick in the pants by voting the alternative. Of course, I wouldn't actually want to end up with the alternative. So, yes, I will cast a vote for Obama.

But not enthusiastically.

David Hampton said...

Hi, Jules, and thanks,

On the surface I agree with you. But I also remember the Bush years when I yearned for Democratic legislators to show some spine and obstruct some of the excesses.

I do agree that Republican obstructionism is of a wholly different sort, strictly mean spirited rather than principled. Hopefully voters will see how that's worked out for them and make a few changes.