Swarms of any kind are good indications that something is going on, even if that something is not readily visible. Ants congregating on a counter are a sign that there is a bit of sweet there. A thicket of flies gathering over a spot in the distance is a sign that rotting material is likely present. And so, with this model of attraction, can we examine the current election cycle.
Groups of people swarm around candidates they find impressive. If we look at the composition of these swarms, we can learn a lot about the candidates at their center.
The super-rich, for example, congregate around Mitt Romney. Although some super-wealthy individuals do support Barack Obama, these are so few in number that they seem like stragglers rather than a swarm.
The lure of Romney for the super-rich is not hard to understand. His presidency–if it follows the policy pronouncements he has made–would serve the interests of the very rich. He promises to reduce their taxes and to give them a free hand in going after profit. So, much like ants seeking sugar, or flies organizing around decaying matter, the super-rich are endorsing the candidate they believe will benefit them.
However reasonable this rationale for Romney support seems, several of his super-rich backers have demonstrated behaviors which look less like the calm militancy of a swarming ant colony and more like the charged fury of a school of frenzied sharks.
Typically, sharks are cool characters. They set about ensuring their survival with calculated efficiency. From time to time, however, sharks lose their cool. They become frantic as they compete with other sharks in close quarters for food. Sharks, in this circumstance, not only can turn on their own, but in a heightened state of excitement have been known to continue feeding even after having been disemboweled by others in their midst.
And so I look to the shark and the way it responds to a changing environment as I try to comprehend the recent behavior of some super-rich Romney supporters. Several of these seem so beset by an aversion to a second-term Obama, that they have literally lost their cool.
Jack Welch, for example, last week shot off a tweet which astonished the commentariat. Mr. Welch challenged the legitimacy of the BLS September jobs numbers. He’s not alone in questioning the underlying metrics of these numbers–which many believe never accurately reflect the employment picture in the U. S. Nor is he alone is suspecting that the metrics are susceptible to manipulation. Where he stands apart is in his unrestrained characterization of his suspicions. Mr. Welch seems unable to temper his visceral animosity to an Obama presidency. Even when asked to reconsider his charge–which is essentially that the administration is guilty of fraud and collusion in coming up with the job numbers–Mr. Welch refused to do so.
Interestingly, Jack Welch’s display of pique is not unique in this campaign season. Another accomplished and well-regarded member of the corporatariat has displayed a strong animus toward the Obama presidency. Leon Cooperman, billionaire hedge fund CEO, wrote a public letter to President Obama in which are spelled out the billionaire’s grievances. Mr. Cooperman is offended by Obama’s tone, and he is put off by the suggestion that the super-rich should pay a higher tax rate than they have paid for the past several years. Mr. Cooperman’s letter was received with a level of surprise that almost matched the consternation surrounding Jack Welch’s tweet.
It has been said, by some people I highly respect, that a Romney presidency would be no different from an Obama presidency. If this is true, what are all those super-rich people worked up about? Why are they so dedicated to a Romney victory and so aggrieved by the prospect of a second-term Obama?
These accomplished, powerful people did not get where they are, they like to remind us, without considerable personal talent: intelligence, drive, creativity. If they believe that a Romney presidency is crucial to their interests, how can we, those of us who have not managed to rise to the top of the economic food chain, disagree?
As I stated at the beginning of this post, a swarm indicates something; there is a powerful attractant present. The question all of us who are not super-rich have to ask, is this: if a Romney presidency promises to be so good for the powerful clique that already holds so much of the nation’s wealth, can this presidency be in the best interest of everyone else?