In an article for The New Republic, Geoffrey Kabaservice provocatively argues that George Romney would not have approved of how Mitt Romney made his wealth:
Much of Mitt Romney’s approach at Bain was devoted to overthrowing the business philosophy of men like his father. George Romney made his name as an opponent of Big Business and Big Labor alike. He called for decentralizing economic power and extending capitalism’s benefits to a broad cross-section of society, through profit-sharing for workers and consumer-driven anti-monopoly regulation. Mitt, on the other hand, propagated the view that a company’s sole purpose was to increase shareholder value. His efficiency gospel, reinforced through the threat of leveraged buyouts, preached that the benefits of productivity increases should go not to workers but to upper management. His encouragement of the practice of giving top managers large equity stakes in their companies gave an enormous boost to executive pay packages, so that CEOs now earn more than 300 times the wages of the average worker.
George Romney spurned this kind of self-interested elitism. As AMC’s chief executive he repeatedly refused increases in his salary, bonuses, and stock compensation. He called on Americans to reject self-indulgence and excess, and would have taken a dim view of Mitt and the other principals of Bain Capital posing for a photo with dollar bills bursting out of their suits.
George believed that businesses had social responsibilities to the communities they served. He devoted much of his own time to public service to his city and state. He helped to desegregate Detroit’s public housing in the 1940s, improve the city’s public schools in the 1950s, and reform Michigan’s constitution in the early 1960s. The American Motors Corporation was rooted in Detroit, while financial companies like Bain that scour the globe in search of profit are as rootless as capital itself. In 2010, Detroit authorities tore down Mitt Romney’s childhood home, as part of the city’s desperate efforts to salvage its once-prosperous, now-decaying neighborhoods by knocking down vacant buildings. Asked for comment, Mitt replied that Detroit’s decay was the consequence of liberal social policies; somehow one can’t imagine George Romney scoring political points off his hometown’s decline.
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