I am willing to admit that Mitt Romney’s comment yesterday about liking the ability to fire people who provide services to him was not what the Romney campaign needed. Team Obama–and even Romney’s Republican opponents–are busy trying to portray him as the boss no one likes, the one you worry will ensure that you and yours are living on the street in short order. Romney didn’t need to give his opponents ammunition to reinforce their claims that he is a heartless CEO type who doesn’t understand the needs and concerns of working people, and his campaign is going to have to work hard to repair the damage done by the soundbite featuring his remarks.
Of course, it deserves to be noted that Team Romney doesn’t deserve to go through the political pain it is going through right now.
First off, as many have mentioned, Romney’s comments were about people having the ability to choose their health insurance providers, and make perfect sense when viewed in context:
I want people to be able to own insurance if they wish to, and to buy it for themselves and perhaps keep it for the rest of their life and to choose among different policies offered from companies across the nation. I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep people healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I’m going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me.
So, Romney’s comments are about insurance purchasers being able to fire their insurance providers, if the providers are doing a bad job. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Romney as a Daddy Warbucks type figure firing hapless workers who are hundreds of millions of dollars–at least–less wealthy than he is.
Additionally, of course, it ought to be utterly non-controversial that if a service provider is giving you bad service, you ought to be able to fire them. It’s called “accountability,” and without accountability, any chance that consumers will get good service from service providers will fly out the window.
And finally, it is more than a little appalling that so many of Romney’s Republican opponents have decided to go to the left of many Democrats, and embrace Occupy Movement language in seeking to tear Romney down. I understand why they are doing it; Romney remains in a tremendously enviable political position, and his opponents are desperate enough to try anything to stop, or at least slow down his momentum towards the Republican nomination. But it would be nice if we left the anti-business, anti-capitalist, anti-free market agitprop to the port side. Alas, as Jay Nordlinger points out, we have a number of putative conservatives willing to bash capitalism if it means taking Mitt Romney down a peg. Quoth Nordlinger:
Over and over, Romney defends and explains capitalism. And he’s supposed to be the RINO and squish in the race? That’s what I read in the conservative blogosphere, every day. What do you have to do to be a “real conservative”? Speak bad English and belch?
In the Saturday debate, Santorum knocked Romney for being just a “manager,” just a “CEO,” not fit to be president and commander-in-chief. This was odd for a couple of reasons: First, Romney did have a term as governor of Massachusetts (meaning he has executive political experience, unlike Santorum). And second: Since when do conservative Republicans denigrate private-sector experience?
About 800 times, Newt Gingrich told us to read a particular newspaper, to see what a capitalist meanie Romney was. What was the newspaper? The New York Times, of course. There’s a great slogan for our conservative visionary: “Read the New York Times!”
Now Romney has said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, ‘You know, I’m going to get someone else to provide that service to me.’” Simple, elementary competition. Capitalism 101. And conservatives go, “Eek, a mouse!”
I could go on: the $10,000 bet, the pink slips, conservatives wetting their pants, over and over. They have no appetite to defend capitalism, to persuade people, to encourage them not to fall for the old socialist and populist crap. I fled the Democratic party many years ago. And one of the reasons was, I couldn’t stand the class resentment, the envy, the hostility to wealth, the cries of “Richie Rich!” And I hear them from conservatives, at least when Romney is running.
If this is the best that some of Romney’s competitors can do, then perhaps it’s best that they not become president. Here’s hoping that the voters fire them.
IMMEDIATE UPDATE: When will Newt Gingrich make up his mind? Is Romney a good businessman? Isn’t he? Does it just depend on whether Gingrich is doing well in the polls?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Good grief, how bad is it that Ron Paul has to appear on the scene to actually be on the side of the angels?