"From Canal Boy to President" is the title of the biography of James Garfield, twentieth President of the United States, written by Horatio Alger. Known for his tales of regular folks that climbed from rags to riches, Alger was clearly moved by a president commonly known to be down to earth, and expressed such in this book. President Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau and died two weeks later from infection. This passage from the book sums up the humility of Garfield.
"Coming on the train from Washington, after his nomination, he said: 'Only think of this! I am yet a young man; if elected and I serve my term I shall still be a young man. Then what am I going to do? There seems to be no place in America for an ex-President.' "And then came in what I thought the extreme simplicity and real nobility of the man. 'Why,' said he, 'I had no thought of being nominated. I had bought me some new books, and was getting ready for the Senate."
James Garfield was one of eleven U.S Presidents whose net worth peaked at under $1,000,000 (in 2010 dollars). The other 32 U.S. Presidents have been rich to very rich and have been on the receiving end of the current campaign to humble the top 1% into giving up their fortunes so less wealthy people can feel better about themselves and the government can exert greater control over society. There is something to be said about ordinary men and women that work day to day to make ends meet. There is also something to be said about self-made people or the Horatio Alger stories. But should we preclude people from leadership positions because they have high net worth?
Having a lot of money, more often than not, means a person succeeded using their own devices in this land of opportunity. They have long coattails and bring a lot of people with them including employees and investors. Ironically, the best presidents the nation has ever been blessed with were rich, some of them very rich.
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Moreover, not only were the vast majority of past presidents super rich, but also many made the money in ways that could be frowned upon today. This brings us to the weird twist in the GOP race where chest-thumping conservatives are pounding free markets, capitalism, and creative destruction. New Hampshire is done, and it looks like Mitt Romney is on his way to the nomination. But he has a lot of baggage including the yoke of politics of envy leveled not by President Obama (yet) but by his fellow Republicans. I guess this form of attack was inevitable and might help Romney now, as he doesn't seem to like getting hit in the mouth.
He better get ready for brass knuckles.
Class warfare will play a role in deciding the outcome of the race and maybe the fate of America. I mention this because the next President of the United States will be a millionaire, although there will continue to be a free ride for those nice millionaires that espouse taking the earnings of their brethren and giving it all to people that didn't earn it. I liked Ron Paul's speech last night, and he seems to have carved out a way of lifting the bottom without a direct war on the top. It might be something Mitt would like to take a peek at, as it's going to come at him like haymakers over and over again.
In the end, our nation should be focused on a giant tide that lifts all ships, not a tsunami that selectively destroys the top.
Something Big Is Brewing
Now it's the head of Fannie Mae that's out the day after the latest White House Chief of Staff called it a day. Mike Williams joins Bill Daley, making room for a populist scorched earth campaign that presses the attack on business, at the same time coming through with some kind of housing deal that could be greeted with jubilee on Main Street. I interviewed Larry McDonald on Payne Nation yesterday, and we discussed what he sees as the three possible moves on housing and mortgages from the administration.
1) States resolve their lawsuits against banks, bringing in a large settlement but in the process removing a big question mark. There are 30 states involved, but this will not lend much political capital to the White House and might actually help banks.
2) Socialistic action via FHFA that would provide major relief via massive refinancing that would force investors to take big financial hits.
3) Fixing the system to restore trust much the way the Trust Act of 1946 established a system that allowed investors to believe in corporate bonds.
There is no doubt it's going to be something that reduces principle and/or refinances homes at current values. There will be howls of slippery slopes and morality and comparisons to dealing with the mafia, but it seems clear something is going to go down, which spells out that a lot of money will be redistributed.
Speaking of Tony Soprano
According to an Italian employers association, Confesereni, which represents more than 270,000 businesses, Italy is now the "number one bank." The annual turnover for organized crime is said to be $204.0 billion, placing it in a tie with Chevron for 12th most in the world. The various clans have roots throughout Italy and combined have $83.0 billion in liquidity. The big news out of Greece after the close is the ham-fisted deal being foisted on bondholders who will take a 50% haircut - call it an offer they can't refuse. Of course, a haircut is a nice option when cement boots is the alternative.
According to police estimates, loan sharking caused the closure of 1,800 businesses, destroying thousands of jobs in the process. Long ago, Italy destroyed a true free market system and descended into a nation where people hide money, baby sitters have guilds, and taxes have scared funds to the hinterlands.
Italian Mafia is Kid Stuff
While the mafia is in the catbird seat in Italy, it has a long way to go to match the racket pulled off at the Federal Reserve. The Fed reported yesterday it paid the U.S. Treasury $76.9 billion in funds made primarily from the interest it earned from holding instruments issued by ... the U.S. Treasury. So what's really going on is that taxpayers are slowly being drained for the money-printing efforts by the Fed done thus far to prop up banks.