Cain, Bain, and Ludicrous Politics
Dr. Walter Greason
17 July 2012
When Herman Cain became a serious contender for the Republican nomination last year, observers should have suspected a farcical campaign season in 2012. Cain achieved his prominence through his leadership of the Godfather’s Pizza chain. He embodies the major failure of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements since 1970 – there has not been sufficient effort to increase the financial and ownership stakes African Americans hold in the global economy. Indeed, fewer Americans of all backgrounds had the opportunity to rise to the top of the world economy in the last two generations.
This same situation has yielded President Obama’s most potent weapon against presumptive Republican nominee, Governor Mitt Romney. Governor Romney’s background with Bain Capital reveals the ways he has benefited from outsourcing jobs from the United States to China, India, and other developing economies. President Obama criticizes these tactics as the short-term, investor-oriented strategies of the past, while recommending that the nation needs consumer-oriented, long-term solutions to the speculative boom-and-bust cycles of the last 25 years.
A group of researchers working at Barnard College and Columbia University this summer have taken the recent findings of Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University from a recent United Nations report and expanded them to understand the evolution of the world economy from 3500bce to 1900ce. Their results are deep, varied, and profound as the stability of the different world economies emphasizes the need to balance natural, physical, and human capital – contradicting many current proposals to reduce human capital in favor of natural and physical investment. Even the most recent American debates over the problem of national debt occurs in a new light when one observes that U.S. national debt is approximately $16 trillion versus national assets valued at $118 trillion.
Outsourcing physical capital (factories, offices, and other major corporate investments) does not provide the long-term economic advantages necessary to pull the world into a faster growth cycle. Bain Capital’s strategy not only compels a current public interest in Governor Romney’s tax returns over the last twenty years, but it cripples any attempt at global recovery. Herman Cain’s approach to franchising fails the test of racial uplift in the African American tradition, but a larger initiative to educate working and middle class people about capital gains and business ownership would move the world closer to Thomas Jefferson’s declaration about the fundamental equality of all people.
One clear example of the power in democratic economics is hip hop music. Started among the chronically unemployed in the early 1970s, this art form opened new doors for short- and long-term economic success among the urban poor around the world. Young people with little education, often homeless, could become celebrities and leaders of public opinion through their poetry or instrumental skills. The only limit on their achievement was the resonance of their imagination with a global public. Consider artists (and songs) as varied as Eric B and Rakim (Follow the Leader), KRS-One (Sound of da Police), Public Enemy (By the Time I Get to Arizona), Nas (Heaven), Lauryn Hill (Zion), BlackStar (Thieves in the Night), Jean Grae (My Story), Immortal Technique (Harlem Renaissance), Pharoahe Monch (Trilogy) and Reef the Lost Cauze (Nat Turner). Their skill, often unappreciated by radio and television broadcasters, still reaches tens of millions of people worldwide. They live lives that demonstrate the promise of freedom that institutions like governments, banks, law firms, and real estate agencies restrict.
Hip hop is perhaps the first cultural expression to unleash the individual power of human capital in world history. This month, the research team in New York City estimated that the world holds $400 trillion in assets. The capacity to reorganize institutional relationships for a healthier, more inclusive global society is within our reach. We must reject the ludicrous politics of our elected officials and economic powerbrokers to establish a brighter future for ourselves and our children.
Dr. Walter Greason is the author of “The Path to Freedom: Black Families in New Jersey.” Follow him on Twitter (@worldprofessor1).