Fast And Loose With Facts – The Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney Convention Edition

Now that the Republican convention in Tampa has concluded, it’s a good time to assess the speeches of the nominees, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney.

While I am not cherry picking from the speeches, I will focus on what are shaping up to be the bigger themes of Republican campaign strategy.

And as always, just the facts.

 

Paul Ryan

  • Mr. Ryan accused President Obama’s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare at the expense of the elderly.

Fact: Medicare’s chief actuary says the law “substantially improves” the system’s finances. Mr. Ryan himself proposed keeping most of these same spending cuts in his most recent “Path to Prosperity” budget. Yes, that budget. The one that would end up privatizing most of the program.

  • Mr. Ryan accused Obama of doing “exactly nothing” about recommendations from a bipartisan Presidential Commission to reduce the deficit.

Fact: Mr. Ryan himself was among a minority of commission members whose opposition scuttled the plan and prevented it from being sent automatically to Congress for action.

  • Mr. Ryan claimed the American people were “cut out” of stimulus spending.

Fact: more than 25 percent of stimulus dollars went to provide tax relief for workers. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that about $230 billion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided tax relief. Much of that money, about $116 billion, funded the Making Work Pay tax credit for workers. (more on that in Romney’s speech below)

  • Mr. Ryan said the closing of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin was evidence of Mr. Obama’s failing to deliver on promises made in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Fact: Here’s what Mr. Obama said on the campaign trail: “And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years”

However, the plant closed before Obama even took office. The government of the day apparently did not support them – in time.

  • Mr. Ryan blamed Mr. Obama for the loss of the US AAA credit rating by Standard & Poors.

Fact: Standard and Poors were nonpartisan in their criticism saying: “The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.”

However, anyone who followed this at the time, should easily remember that it was House Republicans, led by Mr. Ryan, who flirted openly with default and refused to endorse any “new revenues” from tax increases. I note this not to be partisan, but to highlight the absurdity of including this in Mr. Ryan’s speech.

  • Mr. Ryan said that while governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney balanced the budget without raising taxes.

Fact: Mr. Romney did balance the budget as was required by the state constitution. He did not raise personal income taxes, but did increase government fees by hundreds of millions of dollars, and he closed loopholes on some corporate taxes.

Finally, this remark caught my attention:

“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life”

A lot of people have commented that this was a cheap shot at President Obama.  I disagree.

This was a cheap, condescending shot at voters who support the Democrats, who would be the only ones with Obama posters in their rooms.  Couple this with speaker after speaker at the convention who talked about how they “built their success from nothing” and with “no government help” and you can see how Mr. Ryan was painting a picture of lazy young Democrats lying around at home waiting for a government handout.

Instead of this cheap shot at voters, I was hoping he was going to talk about the penalizing and unfair student loan system in the US that makes it impossible for a lot of those young Americans in their twenties to make a go of it.

I thought he might acknowledge the burden that is placed on middle class students and their families, and even more so on students with less financial support from which to draw – students who are all burdened by the crushing debt of student loans. How, if in default, these same students are saddled with that debt until death – unlike virtually any other debt in the country and unlike any other country in the western world.

I thought instead of a cheap shot, he might offer them a solution.

But, he did not.

 

Mitt Romney

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Romney was able to avoid as many of the outright “factual inaccuracies” displayed by Paul Ryan. He was however, prone to the usual unconstructive puffery I have mentioned here before and certainly was no stranger to some “misleading” statements.

Mr. Romney said President Obama has crushed the middle class. Here is each assertion he made to support this claim:

  • Mr. Romney said that under President Obama, family income has fallen by $4,000

Fact: A study by Sentier Research, measured a drop in family income starting in December 2007, when the recession officially started, and ending in June 2012. The study notes that income has fallen more since the economic recovery officially began in June 2009 than during the recession itself, but no $4000 figure is noted. And whatever the actual amount, they stress that it did not all happen in the last 4 years.

  • Mr. Romney said that health insurance premiums are higher

Fact: Premiums have risen, but they always do. For example, between 2001 and 2011, family premiums for employer-sponsored plans went up 113 percent. From 2010 to 2011, the average cost of an employer-sponsored family insurance plan went up 9 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey, with rising medical costs the main culprit. President Obama’s health care law was responsible for between 1 and 3 percent of the 9 percent increase.

  • Mr. Romney said that under President Obama, food prices are higher

Fact: Food prices are higher by 6.2 percent.

  • Mr. Romney noted that gasoline prices have doubled

Fact: True. However, it is fair to note that gasoline prices were unusually depressed when President Obama took office due to the recession and financial crisis. It should also be noted that the average price exceeded $4 a gallon for eight weeks during the summer of 2008. It has not yet reached $4 during Mr. Obama’s term.

  • Mr. Romney declared that President Obama has raised taxes on the middle class

Fact: President Obama has not raised taxes on the middle class. In fact, many of his tax incentives targeted the middle class.

These incentives include the “Making Work Pay Tax Credit”, part of the stimulus plan Paul Ryan mentioned above. When it expired President Obama convinced Congress to replace it with a payroll tax cut. (an annual maximum savings of $2200) And also part of that stimulus package Mr. Ryan mentioned, the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” for college tuition, offering a tax credit of up to $2500 for families earning less than $150,000.

 

Lessons learned

With Mr. Romney, his assertions are at once partially correct, and partially incorrect. And when they are correct, they are very difficult to blame the current occupant of the Oval Office with any facts-based evidence.

With Mr. Ryan’s speech, it is much clearer that his statements are factually inaccurate and deliberately misleading.

And in these actions, both Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney are treating voters with a lack of respect, and also as if those voters were young children who don’t know any better.

Unfortunately for both men, even young children know that what adults may call “factually inaccurate” or “misleading” is really something else. Something quite simple to recognize.

Lying

 

UPDATE:

Republicans are becoming very uncomfortable with articles like this.

Romney pollster Neil Newhouse told an ABC News-Yahoo forum in Tampa on Tuesday: “Fact-checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs and you know what? We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Dear Neil – facts are non-partisan. Facts are facts.  Period.

 

Note: Following the Democratic Convention I will assess Mr. Obama and Mr.Biden the same way.

Following that, I will take a look at the platforms offered by the parties.

Voting For or Against Is The Decision Facing Quebec Voters

I have already written at length about the implications of Quebec elections, the sovereignty movement and the future shape of Canada’s union. (links below)

So, as another Quebec election approaches, let’s take a look at the facts Quebec voters will need to assess when choosing a government.

Nothing you are about to read is in any way an endorsement of any party, candidate or preferred outcome. And I think I need to say, unequivocally, that I don’t blame Quebecers for wanting change. Change is often necessary and often good.

And with so many specific issues to consider, let me just touch on the overriding themes that have developed.

 

The Liberals

  • As the only true federalist party in Quebec, they have historically enjoyed the support of Quebec’s english speaking minority.
  • On the job since 2003, this center-right party, led by Jean Charest is suffering from voter fatigue, multiple scandals and various charges of corruption.

I wish there was something unusual about this, but the sad fact is that nearly every government that has been in power this long, has experienced similar, troubling breakdowns in ethics and governance.

See: The Federal Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney, The Federal Liberals under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, the Federal Conservatives under Stephen Harper. In these first two cases, the incumbent parties were voted against by voters wanting to punish them. (When using this strategy, it is important to point out that occasionally, voters end up punishing themselves)

In the case of the federal Liberal Party, after years in power and some very serious scandals, voters ultimately decided that a change was necessary.

For those voters, the only real choice at the time was the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper. And, as Canadians now know, this is not your father’s Progressive Conservative Party. Far from it.

Surprisingly, the same can also be said for the Parti Québécois: this is not your father’s PQ.

 

The Parti Québécois

  • With plenty of history in Quebec the PQ has experience forming a government.
  • They often have an unhelpful polarizing effect in the rest of Canada.
  • What was once a center-left party who’s raison-d’être is to secede from Canada, the PQ has lurched quickly to the right with some rather head-scratching policy ideas.

Do agree with the PQ’s stance on banning religious symbols other than a crucifix, limits on running for office based on language, or banning students from attending english language post-secondary schools? Do you agree that new immigrants should be chosen primarily by their ability to speak french? Would you like to reopen the sovereignty conversation?

If so, it appears the PQ may be your choice.

If not, then you are left with the Coalition Avenir Québec, or with Québec solidaire.

 

The Coalition Avenir Québec

  • Founded by François Legault and private equity guru Charles Sirois the CAQ is a very new party with no record of governance to assess.
  • Despite Sirois’ business expertise, they offer nearly three times more budgetary spending than any of the other parties.
  • It is led by Legault, a former PQ Cabinet Minster who, after explaining he is not a federalist, not a separatist, but a nationalist – has just announced he’s Canadian. He has committed to no referendums on sovereignty for ten years.

Read that paragraph again and please offer me an explanation on how to reconcile all five of those points. I can’t seem to do it.

It is hard to offer any honest assessment without being able to understand all of the above.

 

Québec solidaire

  • Québec solidaire describes themselves as “social democratic and sovereigntist”, meaning they wish to secede from Canada and provide Quebec with some admirable social programs.

If you wish to secede from Canada and want a younger, idealistic version of the PQ, they are worth a look.

However, with only one member ever elected, this coalition is unlikely to form a government at this time.

 

Final thoughts and suggestions

I will admit, I don’t envy Quebec voters, who must try to prioritize the various issues – some as noted above. But I can offer this:

It is far more productive to vote for something than to vote against it. I loathe “one issue voting”, so try to pick two things to vote for. Or, at the very least, vote for one thing and against another.

Vote for whom you think best suits your personal priorities, but also consider the priorities of your family, your community, your province and if you are a federalist, perhaps even your country.

Federally, Stephen Harper first came to power because enough Canadians voted against the Liberals, to allow him to form a minority government. He was then able to move on to a majority government with just over 1/3 of votes cast and about 25% support from all eligible voters. Let those numbers sink in for a minute.

Whether or not you support Mr. Harper is not my point. This is:

With so many mind boggling things to assess, resist the temptation to simply stay home.

I guarantee you that if you do stay home, you most definitely will not get the government you want.

You’ll get the government someone else wants.

America’s Tea Party Republicans, Canada’s Reform Party, Quebec’s Parti Québécois – Herding You To The Right?

It is a very interesting time to be a Wary Lemming.

In the US, the Presidential election campaign is hitting full stride, beginning with the nomination conventions. I will be taking some time in the coming weeks to point out what each party has revealed about themselves during these conventions – focusing on what they said, and just as importantly, what they did not. As always, I will let the facts speak for themselves.

The Republican Party is sending out Mitt Romney, a somewhat centrist former Governor of Massachusetts, while at the same time undergoing a transformation from a party of classical liberalism, to one beholden to the extreme right. The micromanager Mitt will need all of his skills to hold this gang together until November.

Meanwhile, Republican Governors in many US States have taken the measure of implementing new voter ID laws. These laws, in swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, will make it far more difficult for voters who traditionally trend democrat to take part this November.

While it is reasonable to expect a voter to be eligible, it is highly doubtful that this was the primary concern of the legislators. With no proof of any kind that voter fraud is rampant, why the need to rush these laws to the books?

I think Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s own words offer a likely explanation. This is what he said while listing off his party’s accomplishments: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done”

Oops. Yes Mike, you said that out loud

In Canada, a member of the former Reform Party, a party that could be explained simplistically as Tea Party North, is now the Prime Minister. A regional party of rather extreme right wing thinkers managed to create the conditions necessary to win a federal election. The US Tea Party ought to take note of this.

Due to the vagaries of Canada’s first past the post parliamentary system, they formed a majority government, giving them at least 4 years in power, with just over 1/3 of votes cast and just over 25% support of all eligible voters.

As a result of that election, Canada is in the middle of an ongoing investigation of fraudulent phone calls. Nearly every one of Canada’s 308 electoral districts reported suspicious phone calls on election day. These robocalls told voters, among other things, that their polling station had changed. When the voters showed up, there was no polling station to be found. It has been widely reported that these calls went mainly to voters who had been contacted by the Conservative Party and had also indicated they would not be voting Conservative.

In Canada’s Province of Quebec, voters appear to be veering back to a provincial government whose main goal is to declare sovereignty and secede. This party also hopes to ban religious symbols from the workplace, unless of course, that symbol is a crucifix. What once was described as a left-centre party is now heading so far to the right, that they are unrecognizable.

What makes it even more surprising is that this electoral development comes on the heels of these same voters electing a far more socially conscious, left leaning federalist group of NDP candidates in the last national election.

Knowing this, do Quebecers really want to separate from Canada now? Do they agree with the PQ’s stance on religious symbols, limits on running for office based on language, or banning students from attending english language post-secondary schools?

All over North America, it appears that governance is moving to the right. In some cases, to the extreme right.

Are we witnessing a shift of ideals in the general population? Have these two countries, their states and provinces, decided to embrace this more extreme brand of conservative ideology?

If not, then what in the world is going on? More importantly, is it a risk to the majority? Should we all follow the herd?

In the days and weeks ahead, this Wary Lemming will try to find out.

 

UPDATE:

On the heels of a Pennsylvania court upholding that state’s voter ID law, a US federal appeals court in Washington struck down the Texas voter ID law requiring photos for voters at the polls, calling it racially discriminatory.

Former Republican Crist’s Endorsement Exposes The UnFair And UnBalanced

As Republican Convention week got underway in Tampa, not only was it overshadowed by tropical system Isaac chrruning in the Gulf of Mexico, but also by former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

In his Op-Ed piece in the Tampa Bay Times, Governor Crist wasted no time in getting to the point in the second paragraph:

“I’m confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation”

This is a good time to point out that Crist was a Republican Governor. And,that Florida is historically rather important in the Electoral college.

His reasoning? Among other things, this:

“an element of [the Republican Party] has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people. Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims.

The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.”

Sound familiar? Yes, I wrote something very similar last week:

“The Tea Party has been taken over by these radicals and the Republican Party has been taken over by the Tea Party.

To win this fight, moderate Republicans will have to cast aside the overreaching influence of extremists and the temptation to court any group for any reason to get their vote. They must revisit their long held commitment to Classical Liberalism and offer Americans an honest, fair and sensible path forward.

It will require an honest reassessment of their entire platform carried out by men and women of vision, long term strategic thinkers who are willing to put their country above a few votes or a few dollars, who are willing to work with everyone and anyone, who are willing to take risks and who are willing to lead.”

Unfortunately for Republicans, it appears nobody is listening to our advice. Nor is our advice being reported.

That’s correct, the right wing media outlets have ignored it. A quick look online shows:

Drudge Report? Nothing to report.

Fox News? No news.

Breitbart? Nothing whatsoever.

Had a former Democratic Governor endorsed Mitt Romney, do you think they might have reported it? You can bet it would be their lead story.

By not reporting such a notable story to their right wing audiences, they have abandoned their responsibility to those readers and viewers. They are intentionally misleading their readers, simply by omitting what is considered news elsewhere. All to further their own political agenda. And all at the expense of an informed electorate.

We know some people choose to read only news they can agree with. But do those same people choose to be misled?

I don’t think so.

 

UPDATE:

Ninety minutes after my article posted above, The Drudge Report decided to acknowledge the story with a post. Amazingly, Matt linked to this New York Times story, oddly liberal for him.

Still nothing from FOX or Breitbart, but it’s nice to know Matt Drudge reads The Wary Lemming.

Canada’s National Post, Journalism, Quebec And Division

Another day another misleading headline at Canada’s National Post newspaper.

The headline “Pauline Marois’ assaults on democratic values” should have read “Why is nobody picking on Quebec like they did Alberta?”

Or perhaps more aptly, “Jonathan Kay’s assaults on impartial journalism”

Where to begin…

In the actual article, Kay rightly highlights many of the absurd comments, xenophobic policy ideas and religious bigotry making its way out of PQ headquarters during this election cycle.  Canadians have every right to be outraged by such extremist views, just as they were by the Todd Akin’s of Tea Party North – Alberta’s Wildrose Party.

But, what is the actual source of Mr. Kay’s outrage?

“Given the close scrutiny that surrounded the recent Alberta election, it is somewhat surprising that more attention is not being paid to the genuinely alarming things coming out of the mouth of Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.

During the Alberta campaign, every gaffe committed by a member of the right-wing Wildrose Party became a national news item. The Toronto media, in particular, lapped it up — because it played to our outdated stereotype of Alberta as a land of rural hicks.

So why has there been comparatively little uproar over Ms. Marois?”

Yes, you read that correctly.

A high profile columnist at one of Canada’s two national newspapers, this one being the flagship outlet for an entire news organization, has just complained that not enough Canadians are up in arms, and those media elites in Toronto aren’t piling on. He is saying that Quebec is being treated differently than Alberta somehow. (In a schoolyard this would be expressed as “Canada likes Quebec more than Alberta! Na Na Na Na Na Na…”)

Sadly, this is what has become of the National Post.

I am trying to refrain from piling on Mr. Kay and his employers after my own series of rather scathing articles about this organization. (Read them here and here)

So, let me start by pointing out the obvious.

The Alberta provincial election in question was held in April. In case Mr. Kay has not noticed, it is a beautiful summer in North America.  Perhaps those Toronto media elites he opines about are up in Muskoka, marveling at Tony Clement’s wonderful new sidewalks and gazebos.

But that’s assuming he is correct about the lack of coverage.  And he most definitely is not correct.

A very quick look at the other national newspaper, The Globe And Mail, shows no fewer than 28 articles covering the Quebec election in the past week.

The Toronto Star (used here because he mentions Toronto) shows no fewer than 20 similar stories in the past week.

That’s a total of 48 stories, minimum, in just TWO newspapers, in ONE WEEK!  

Forty-eight stories in two newspapers about a provincial election in the middle of the summer.  The majority of those stories highly critical of the exact same issues Mr. Kay mentions.

So why is Jonathan Kay misleading his readers?  Why would Kay and the National Post be stirring this pot right now, when clearly the facts do not support their claim?

Could it be careful pandering to their base of conservatives? That base being centered squarely in Alberta?  Yes.

Could it be Mr. Kay trying to regain his conservative “credibility” after some of his more recent posts as I noted above?  Perhaps.

Coud it be a petty shot by Mr. Kay at his fellow media elite in Toronto? Of course.

Is there an editorial agenda at work? Absolutely.

Anything else?  I sure hope not… But there may be one more thing at play.

If you read my article “Quebec, Stephen Harper And The Decentralization Of Canada” then you already know that the current Prime Minster, Stephen Harper is a well known proponent of a weaker federal government. As I outlined, a PQ win and inevitable future sovereignty debate would help him realize these goals, likely with the full support of the rest of the provinces.

We also know that the National Post is pro-Conservative Party, pro-Harper, as Kay himself has admitted. They have consistently helped stoke the fire of national division with stories just like this that pit region against region and often, Canadian against Canadian. And that is exactly what Kay is doing now. All to bolster the right wing agenda.

And there’s the connection.

By goading the rest of Canada’s news organizations to pile on in their criticism of the PQ, you may just help the PQ within Quebec. Why?

Because by giving the impression that the rest of Canada is critical of Quebec, by suggesting that the rest of Canada is telling Quebecers for whom they should not vote, it has been the traditional response of Quebec’s voters to flock to a nationalist party.

And if the PQ wins, so does Mr. Harper, his dreams of decentralization and in turn, currently wealthy provinces like Alberta.

There are, unfortunately, many Canadians who read the National Post and take what is written there as news and as fact.  Canadians who look to this organization for insight, assessment and yes, honest opinion.

And because that is sorely lacking within that organization now, let’s hope very few of them live in Quebec.

Todd Akin, Tea Party Republicans, And The Chance to Reclaim the GOP

Todd Akin of Missouri maintains that he will stay in the Senate race despite calls for him to withdraw over those now infamous comments on rape and pregnancy.

Akin cited what he called a “grassroots conservative movement” in the country that needs a voice in government, for his decision to stay. Translation: I’m going to make abortion an issue in my election fight.

He’ll have to draw on those 100 pastors who endorsed him, the Mike Huckabees and the evangelicals across the country for the necessary financial support, as the GOP is planning to cut him off financially.  (If Akin wins however, I doubt the GOP will not want his vote in the Senate)

“I’m in this race for the long haul and we’re going to win it” he said, adding “By taking this stand, this is going to strengthen our country, it will strengthen the Republican Party”

Whether he eventually withdraws or wins, Todd Akin has indeed given Republicans an opportunity to strengthen their party. He has given the GOP a chance to define themselves.

But first, Republicans will have to answer the question: who are we? Because the historic Republican Party is in the middle of an identity crisis.

The first step in the process will be to recognize that the United States is a Republic, not a Theocracy and there is a separation of church and state for a reason.

While it would be impossible for your beliefs not to influence who you are and how you approach your life and your duties, those seeking public office should be able to pass the litmus test of being able to check those beliefs at the door.

Because elected officials represent everyone, not just those who supported them.

Unfortunately, buried deep inside the current Tea Party movement are many more like Todd Akin – many others with radical, extreme views on a wide variety of important issues, who now have a home and a soapbox on which to stand and yell.

The Tea Party has been taken over by these radicals and the Republican Party has been taken over by the Tea Party. Witness how they’ve managed to place their man, Paul Ryan on the ticket, one heartbeat or 8 years away from the Presidency. This fact alone makes it near impossible for Mitt Romney to move away from this group entirely. And even if he did, having lost the center, what would he have left to work with?

Exposed as inept by the mortgage crisis, Iraq and extreme partisanship, no longer able to hide their favoritism of the rich and powerful at the expense of those less successful, their 30 year old playbook written by Newt Gingrich is out of plays.

Their ideas, values, policies and message are being questioned in real-time thanks to Twitter and Facebook and other forums of discussion. In these public and wholly democratic forums, people are coming to their own conclusions, forming communities of thought that are almost immune to the daily barrage of spin spewed by politicians and special interests and reported as news by the mainstream media. And while that lack of control is a serious problem for all political parties, it especially hurts the GOP. And they know it.

Witness the daily negative headline from Matt Drudge about Facebook and you will see a concerted effort to marginalize and minimize social media – to paint it as unsuccessful and questionable. All in an effort to diminish its effectiveness. Free thought, as a movement, has historically been an issue for governments, but it is especially difficult for conservatives.

So, unable to control the message and void of serious, substantive and plausible ideas, the GOP has embraced these men and women of the far right, who bring with them a reliable, albeit vocal, voting block. They also bring along with them expectations of action, and as a result the GOP has veered wildly to the right and has left behind any hope of capturing the center of American politics.

And when political movements veer to the extreme, they need to paint the other side as extremist as well, using words like socialist, marxist, communist and irresponsible, all while using language and tone laced with negativity and vitriol. Or, when attempting a more positive message, they offer only lofty platitudes, wrapping themselves in the flag and freedom, while revealing little about their short term or long term plans for governing. When any political entity resorts to those types of strategies, they are desperate and out of ideas. They’ve spun out of control.

This is not to infer that there are not extreme views on both ends of the political spectrum.  There are. But just as you can’t let the will of the majority infringe upon the rights of a minority, you must not allow a vociferous minority to set policy for the majority.

Yes, this is indeed a fight for the heart of the Republican Party.

To win this fight, moderate Republicans will have to cast aside the overreaching influence of extremists and the temptation to court any group for any reason to get their vote. They must revisit their long held commitment to Classical Liberalism and offer Americans an honest, fair and sensible path forward.

It will require an honest reassessment of their entire platform carried out by men and women of vision, long term strategic thinkers who are willing to put their country above a few votes or a few dollars, who are willing to work with everyone and anyone, who are willing to take risks and who are willing to lead.

A cynical person will view the temporary abandoning of Todd Akin as a calculated political decision made by a machine who want complete control in November.

An optimist would hope, just for a moment, that perhaps the tolerance of intolerance within the GOP is out of steam.

And a Wary Lemming will tell his Republican readers:

It’s time to take your party back.

But if you wait, it may well be too late.

Valuing Stakeholders Not Stockholders, Apple Becomes Most Valuable Company Ever

In case you missed it, Apple’s stock price closed yesterday at $665.16, giving it a market cap of $623.51 billion dollars. (All figures USD)

Earlier in the day, when it passed $664, Apple became the most valuable company in history, when measured this way (and, pretty much any other way as well…)

I will admit, given my past comments here, and here,  that there is a certain irony in using Apple’s market capitalization to make a point.

However, since this is the language spoken by those who worship this particular god, I hope you’ll allow this indulgence.

So why, you ask, is this on The Wary Lemming?

Because there are lessons to be learned here.

It underscores that point I was making about Papa John Schnatter, who’s main concern, when wrestling with the inevitable “Obamacare”, was the continued maximizing of shareholder value – while ignoring the stakeholders.

And when you care primarily about shareholder value, your business philosophy reflects this. You put making a profit as your top priority, above good products and good services. You squeeze and cut at the expense of quality and on the backs of your emplyees to keep your share price up and to pad your own wallet. You feed the beast and starve the baby.

This has been Business 101 since we gave up the “retain and reinvest” practice of business, moved on to “downsize and distribute” and finally ended up with Papa John’s example of “our share price is job 1″.

Apple proves, definitively that not only is this wrong headed – it is wholly unnecessary. From 1995, Apple under Steve Jobs adhered to most of the principles of retain and reinvest, including no dividends, no stock buybacks and no leveraging. *

Build insanely great products, and everything else will follow.

It is a well reported fact, that under Jobs, Apple did not care about shareholder value. Jobs, while admittedly a master salesman, really did focus on making great products.  He cared about the stakeholders – the customers and the employees. He cared about bettering society.

Jobs flaunted his lack of concern about the stock market regularly, as was well reported, with quotes like “the press and the stock price will take care of themselves”, and it irked many on Wall Street.

But they bought the stock anyway.

There are many who downplayed Apple’s statements about creating great products for their customers as disingenous spin, spun by a master weaver of sales. But one only had to look at the products themselves and then to Apple’s actions as a company, to realize that they were wrong.

Apple makes best-of-class products at a great profit. They provide best-of-class customer service, their products are best-of-class in reliability. They have a loyal customer base that is second to none and while there are undoubtedly some disgruntled employees within such a  large company, there are very few running off to greener pastures.  They reward hard work appropriately.

Apple has done more to advance working conditions in their suppliers’ Chinese factories than any other US company.  They were doing this long before the New York Times tried to paint them with the same brush as everyone else. And, they have continued this focus, quietly, without overt PR, because it is the right thing to do. It is in their DNA.

An American success story from top to bottom, like Edison and Ford, and a template for corporate philosophy. All without worrying about shareholders and instead – focusing on the stakeholders.

Wikipedia defines stakeholder value as:

“the intrinsic or extrinsic worth of a business measured by a combination of financial success, usefulness to society, and satisfaction of employees, the priorities determined by the makeup of the individuals and entities that together own the shares and direct the company.”

Add loyal, happy customers and it sure sounds like Apple to me.

Ask yourself this:

If more companies focused on pleasing their customers as Apple has, what kind of economy would you have?

If more elected officials followed the same premise and focused on providing you the best product possible, their representation, what kind of country would you have?

That’s one experiment I’d like to see carried out on a large scale.  And we have Apple to thank for proving it works.

It’s time to “Think Different”

 

* (Yes, Tim Cook has instituted a small dividend now, but not at the expense of the core business philosophy at Apple.  And, I would argue that this milestone in Apple’s history was achieved due to years of direction by Steve Jobs.)