by Benjamin J. Kirby
Towards the end of September, support for Mitt Romney was tanking among older voters. Romney chose Congressman Paul Ryan -- he of the Medicare voucherization scheme -- as his running mate a few weeks earlier, and the lead he had among folks over the age of 65 on the issue of Medicare and Medicaid "evaporated." On the 25th of September, Obama enjoyed a 49-46 lead over Romney in Florida. On October 1, Obama had a four point lead over Romney. The first disastrous presidential debate was October 3.
Now, Mitt Romney has been in this box for some time. He is never going to win over younger voters, so he needs massive turnout from older voters in order to swing states like Florida and Ohio to his column on Election Day.
But since that first debate, he has also swung his political pendulum -- which does a lot of swinging, by the way -- back towards the more liberal, populist side. "47 percent? Why, what on earth do you mean?"
Which makes his choice of calling up billionaire investor Charles Schwab to campaign on his behalf a questionable call, at best.
Charles R. Schwab, a septuagenarian whose name has become synonymous with investing for the future, has a simple piece of election advice for seniors worried about their portfolios: Vote Romney.
Seniors have unable to grow their savings in traditional vehicles like CDs and savings accounts while interest rates have stayed near zero percent during Obama's first term, he said.
Indeed, a white Republican septuagenarian billionaire investment banker supporting Mitt Romney is hardly news. But in reality, this is about turning out those voting seniors.
This story -- and Mr. Schwab's attacks -- aren't about economic growth, of course. They're about accusing the Obama Administration of engaging in "class warfare" (whatever that is) while themselves waging a, well, class war.
With Mr. Schwab at a Romney-supporting event in Tampa was Mr. Alan Wiessner. He is the president and CEO of Integra Business Systems, located in Safety Harbor here in Pinellas County. Mr. Wiessner...
...told the gathering his Safety Harbor firm of 38 employees has been growing at 20 percent annually. But "the economy is holding us back quite a bit" and he would hire even more people if not for concerns over tax policies and the health care overhaul.
This had to be an interesting juxtaposition against Mr. Schwab's comments to the crowd, because he'd just said:
"Unless we get growth going, the interest rate will never climb to what it was just four or five years ago… They better vote Romney, otherwise we're not getting out of this pickle."
Mmmm... pickles. Growthy, delicious pickles.
But don't take my word for it. Or Alan Weissner's. Job growth is up. Unemployment is down (below 8% now). Economic growth is up. Median home prices are up, the highest they've been since before 2009. Foreclosures are down. Inflation is low. Gas prices are up, but as President Obama noted at the debate last night, they were only so low before because the economy was contracting. The S&P 500 is way up. Manufacturing is up. Consumer spending is up.
In other words, just what in the hell are Charles Schwab and Alan Weissner really talking about? Mr. Weissner sums it up best:
"The tax situation is very much a concern for me," Wiessner said, noting he files his business returns as ordinary income and pours half his income back into the company.
"I'm not rich and this class warfare has been very disturbing," he added.
Couple of things. I have a very hard time believing the CEO of a company which "provides electronic document management and archival software to the financial services industry" makes less than, say, six figures a year. Hard to say how much he makes, actually, but it is certainly enough to "pour" as much as "half his income back into the company." Put it this way: how much of your salary do you "pour" back into the company you work for?
He goes on to say he's not rich. Fine. He's probably not as rich as Charles Schwab, who is worth around $3.7 billion.
I'll admit it: CEOs decrying class warfare is something of a clever -- disingenuous -- gambit. Get a billionaire investor to scare the old folks by crying "class warfare," and you may just turn out some votes. But juxtaposed against Romney's comments about the 47% of America he doesn't give a crap about, will this strategy work?
I don't know. Why not talk to Chuck?