Violet: When smart people aren’t

Violet: When smart people aren’t


It’s mystifying sometimes to see perfectly smart people do or say something very stupid. Here are some recent examples:

Gov. Lincoln Chafee — Former governor Don Carcieri proved last week that he wasn’t in witness protection when he emerged on WPRI’s “Newsmakers” program. Among his suggestions was that the present governor should think about defaulting on the “moral obligation” bonds which backed 38 Studios. His argument was that these bonds were paying 6 percent interest and that’s why purchasers take a risk that they may not be paid off. Usually, state bonds pay more like 2 to 3 percent maximum. Virtually immediately, the governor retorted that he wouldn’t even give that a thought. In one foul swoop he took away any negotiation with the bondholders.

Had the governor at least opined that he’d consider it, he could have approached the bondholders with a proposition that they had to agree to 3 percent or else risk having no payment whatsoever. In reality the guarantee payment of 3 percent is precisely at the top of the interest range they would have gotten had the state backed them with its full faith and credit initially. Instead, Gov. Chafee is creating a hybrid where folks get higher interest anyway with the state’s paying them off in full.

What is the ramification in the future for people even to buy bonds with the full faith and credit of the state pledged? They might as well wait for the higher interest ones and reap a bonanza since the state will pay as though they were guaranteed. Hopefully, somebody in the legislature will create a “doubt” about full payment so the governor can negotiate lower interest.

The governor’s attitude bespeaks the usual politician’s attitude that he can spend other people’s money with abandon. Were this the governor’s own money at stake, he’d squeeze a nickel until the buffalo bellowed.

Gov. Mitt Romney — In an unscripted moment, Mr. Romney opined that 47 percent of Obama supporters are all on the dole and won’t take personal responsibility for their lives. He noted that they don’t pay taxes.

Talking about what other people pay Uncle Sam is a dangerous proposition for this multimillionaire, whose own tax payments are suspect. With one return made public (the other is a “draft”), he paid 14 percent of his income which is less than the average middle class tax return. For somebody who is hiding his money in off-shore accounts, it’s pretty cheeky of him to talk about people not chipping in. After all, what they are doing to avoid taxes is just as legal as his loopholes, except they don’t want to be president.

Nor do they want to reduce taxes to save multi-millionaires millions more. Mr. Romney’s supporter, Sheldon Adelson, has pledged to spend $100 million to get his man elected. His investment will pay off for him since according to a report referenced in the Huffington Post, Mr. Adelson will get a $2 billion tax cut if Mitt Romney is elected. This would include a tax windfall of $1.2 billion on untaxed casino profits from his Asian casinos. Mr. Romney wants to eliminate the estate tax for his five sons and such an action would also result in an $8.9 billion windfall to Adelson’s heirs. Query just who most egregiously is on public welfare.

Mr. Romney’s condescending attitude was on full display. Candidates should know that nothing said in private may stay that way. Such comments at a $35,000 per head fund-raiser smacks of elitism.