Mitt Olympus: Romney For Prime Minister
Reports of Mitt’s demise may be as premature as Rick’s most favored constituents, but if he does continue his fade, it might not only be good for America, but good for the world. Mitt touts his managerial experience at Bain Capital and the Salt Lake City Olympics as a guy who could cut the waste and turn organizations around. He may never occupy the White House, but a challenge that perfectly suits the Massachusetts mannequin awaits him across the Atlantic.
Mitt Romney should be the next Prime Minister of Greece.
The bumbling government of Greece needs Mitt’s technocratic savvy and fiscal discipline, and Mitt needs to leave America for a little bit to get his favorability up. It’s a win-win.
Greece may once have been the most prosperous civilization on Earth, but at this point it is basically sleeping on Germany’s couch and eating all the currywurst. Angela Merkel has been really cool about it, but even she is losing patience and becoming more willing to enforce tough love, taking her time in bailing Greece out again and making Greece sweat the possibility of its (in my opinion: eventual) defaulting on its €14.5 billion bond payment due March 20.
The Greek economy is failing for the same reasons many businesses do. It struggles to take in revenue (Greece has one of the highest rates of tax evasion and consequently one of the lowest effective tax rates in Europe) and as a (and I mean this in a non-pejorative way) European social welfare state, it spends a lot of money. From the (conservative) Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index entry for Greece: “The overall tax burden amounts to about 30 percent of GDP, and government spending has reached a level exceeding 50 percent of GDP.” Considering that 30 percent number is measured by official rates and not actual receipts, the revenue to spending imbalance is even worse than it looks.
Tax inefficiency is hardly the only revenue problem; Greece’s economy is shrinking and largely uncompetitive. Do you own any Greek products? Would you want to own a Greek product? Would you think it would be well-made? These may seem like stupid questions, but in economics and particularly the financial markets, perception is reality.
Mitt Romney helped build Staples and The Sports Authority into top-class brands in their respective industries. He took over a Salt Lake City Olympics that was teetering on the brink and made a real impact in turning it into a successful event. He may lack the ability to communicate like a normal person, but he’s a highly competent executive and problem solver.
Greece has to accomplish three major things to turn its economy around. In order of urgency, they are, restructuring the debt (by March 20!), cutting spending (to be able to pay the debt) and raising revenues (ditto). Mitt is the perfect guy to carry out this mission.
Mitt Romney was a private equity CEO. What sets the best private equity CEOs (measured from the perspective of their investors, of course) apart is their savvy and creativity in financially structuring deals. Set up a good structure with manageable debt and lucrative performance triggers, and a good investment becomes even better. Based on his buckets of money, we can assume Mitt Romney is very good at structuring and restructuring debt and equity. I may prefer Barack Obama over Mitt Romney as POTUS, but if I was buying a used car, I’d much rather take Mitt with me than Barack.
Mitt Romney likes to fire people. Greece has a large government workforce, some of whom have already rioted after the Greek government imposed a round of austerity measures. Greece’s recovery will leave some people, as all economic transitions do, and among these casualties will be many government workers. Most businesspeople feel uncomfortable firing people and try to pass that on to an underling. Not only will Mitt Romney have no trouble passing legislation that would fire thousands of people, he could fire some of the middle managers, or would-be “firers”, and fire people himself to save even more money.
One does not amass a net worth estimated at some $200 million without knowing something about revenues. One also does not amass that kind of net worth letting people get away with not paying what they owe. Mitt Romney does not believe in high taxes, but I’d wager to say he believes that collection of the (low) taxes assessed should be strongly enforced. Like Jay-Z, Mitt Romney strikes me as the type who if owed 10 dollars, would not be satisfied with nine. I have a feeling he’d do what he could to get the effective tax rate at a respectable level.
Collections aside, Mitt Romney did actively contribute to the creation and growth of several businesses. I think he could be of help in the revenue department of a country that depends economically on shipping and tourism, just as it did 2,000 years ago.
American voters have not embraced Mitt Romney because he has been unable to cast himself as a truly human figure. The President of the United States cannot just be a plastic CEO, but he has to lead, inspire and connect. I’m sure Greeks like all of those traits in their leader as well, but with the state of their economy, they really do need some of that corporate tough love. We have just the guy.
Reach Staff Columnist Matt Pressberg here.