One Word Can Win the Next Debate

Almost four years after it was published, his New York Times Op-Ed "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" is still the clearest statement of a sociopathic economic ideology that will be unleashed on the American public if Mitt Romney wins the election. President Obama would be wise to hold it up to the viewing audience multiple times in tomorrow's presidential debate.

Published just after President Obama took office, Romney's article takes the cavalier position that the U.S. government should not step in and help the auto industry that was at the time teetering on the brink of decline. As GM, Chrysler and Ford each fell to their knees clutching their chest, Romney was saying do not call the EMS unit, do not let anybody near them. Just let them fall to the floor, dead.

Why does Romney insist that GM, Chrysler, and Ford -- three of the largest manufacturing firms in the history of the United States -- be refused first aid at the very moment they fall to the floor clutching their chests? The answer lies in this Orwellian, bone-chilling phrase:

"Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself."

"Restructure," economically speaking, is word that comes from bankruptcy law. When corporations go into default on their debts, companies have the option of submitting a newly organized business structure to the bankruptcy courts for approval. Airlines, for example, are infamous for reaching the point where they cannot pay their obligations, entering bankruptcy and emerging restructured. Along the way, while consumers rarely even notice that restructuring has happened, several large and significant stake holders are often cast to the side of the road by the process of restructuring: labor and retirees.

For Romney, however, "restructure" is calculated political doublespeak, used to hide a frightening agenda he plans to force on the economy. It means: sudden, forced shock, pain and uncertainty to working people in every sector of the economy.

In other words, as Romney sees it, painful collapse is the only true path to corporate resurrection. Painful, that is, not for those captains of vulture financing who have positioned themselves perfectly to be on the receiving end of all the benefits that come from restructuring, but for the workers, families and communities caught in the maelstrom.

Mitt Romney's promise of a lightning fast recovery carries with it the guaranteed pain of forced restructuring to middle class families and communities.

For those workers whose jobs are lost when factories close, whose wages are slashed when contracts are renegotiated, whose healthcare is eliminated, whose retirement accounts are wiped out -- these folks to Romney are not people with dreams that have been crushed, but just a "disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands" that had to be eliminated.

Romney's use of "restructure" opens a window on a sadistic view of Social Darwinism brought forth by a man who amassed an obscene fortune by buying up weak firms, forcing them into decline, and positioning himself to profit from the collapse.

In that vision of the American economy, working families always lose and the big financial poker players always win.

And what happens when massive vertical industries with millions of employees across every state in the union experience the coronary shock of collapse and restructuring? That is the exact question Mitt Romney does not want a single voter in America to think about from now until the election in November.

When huge industries collapse the way Romney dictates that they must, the result is an explosion of uncertainty, fear and suffering in the working communities built on the shoulders of employees who depend on those jobs, those health benefits and those retirement accounts suddenly ripped out from under them.

This brings up a key distinction within the concept of "restructuring" that should help every voter in America make the choice to stand with the Republican ticket or with the Democratic ticket.

Romney does not just believe in restructuring, he aggressively advocates forced restructuring -- rapidly putting in place conditions that will force all corporations in every sector of the economy to sink or swim.

Now, if we can imagine the collective pain and suffering that would have resulted if just one sector of the economy -- the auto industry -- had been forced to restructure rapidly as Romney had advocated, can we even contemplate what it would be like if every sector of the economy was to be rapidly forced through this same process? Healthcare, banking, oil and gas, education, agriculture, airlines, technology, service industries -- what if all were forced into restructuring?

Job losses would be so great it would stagger the nation for decades. The retirement plans and healthcare benefits for an entire generation would be lost. Millions more foreclosures would flood the market. Divorce would skyrocket. Thriving communities would drop off the tradition economy and step into the crystal meth and crack economy. Soup kitchens would multiply. Homelessness and hunger rates would increase to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

All of this, of course, would not be experienced by men like Mitt Romney -- men who were born into industrial and political royalty and have lived their lives hopping from one bubble of privilege to another.

Men with countless millions hidden in Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Grand Caymans and Bermuda do not experience pain or fear when a sector of the American economy is forced into restructuring. Their families do not succumb to the stigma and shame of middle-age unemployment or the crippling psychology of losing both health insurance coverage and retirement savings in rapid succession. When the nation is forced to restructure, men like Mitt Romney close the gates of their mansions, redouble their private security and reassure each other that the suffering of decimated communities is the product of the poor character of the poor.

Who will suffer -- who will feel it the most if and when Mitt Romney is given the opportunity as president to force this country over the cliff of widespread forced restructuring? The very people whose votes he needs to win this election, that's who.

With the second debate as his most important stage to date, President Obama needs to explain a key difference between himself and Mitt Romney.

In contrast to Mitt Romney's world of forced restructuring, the president bases his economic vision on what we already know about the destructive effects of standing back and letting the sectors of the economy on which a middle class depends go into a stratosphere free-fall.

To present this contrast with Mitt Romney's sadistic world of forced restructuring, the president needs to do more than say he saved the auto industry or that he believes investing in the middle class is the key to economic recovery.

He needs to say that Mitt Romney looks at past suffering of working people and insists, "We need to repeat this right away" whereas Barack Obama looks at it and asks, "What can we do to make sure this never happens again?"

And in that moment, with the eyes of the country upon him, President Obama should explain that Mitt Romney can talk so easily about forcing restructuring on the economy because Mitt Romney has not and will never feel the pain of its effects -- at which point, the president could say,"But you have felt it -- you have felt it. And if Mitt Romney is elected president, you will feel it again at levels never before witnessed by this country."

The president has his own team of writers -- they get paid much more than I to figure out the best way to phrase it.

Reminding -- warning -- the public about Mitt Romney obsession with forced restructuring is a crucial point not to be missed by the president.