The Dread Pirate Romney

The New Hampshire primary is tomorrow and Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman are stepping up their attacks on Mitt Romney in the dumbest possible way.

One of Romney’s talking points is that he has knowledge of what it’s like to be in the real world. As the CEO of Bain Capital, he was in charge of a venture capitalist group that invested money into businesses and helped those businesses achieve success. This being the real world, it didn’t always work. Some of the companies Bain attempted to help went bankrupt. Many others went through what corporations euphemistically called “restructuring.” What this means is that a lot of people were laid off from their jobs as the companies, under Bain’s guidance, refocused their energies, eliminated divisions, and concentrated on core strengths. Sometimes this restructuring led to more success, which enabled the companies to hire new people in new jobs. This is the way of capitalism.

As someone who has watched the company he works for lay off more than 50% of its workers over the past six years, and whose own job is perpetually on the chopping block, I’m well aware of how this looks. Companies that lay people off are cast as villains, but this is nonsense. Being laid off hurts (believe me, I know) but, while it may feel otherwise, getting laid off is not personal. While I have no doubt that companies use mass layoffs to also get rid of undesirable employees, for the majority of people the layoff is about the job, not the worker. It is the job that is being eliminated, and this is not a judgment on the worker.

The cold hard reality is that companies don’t care about you. They don’t care that you just took out a new mortgage. They don’t care you’ve just had a fifth child, with two in college. They don’t care that your commute is two hours each way and costs you thousands of dollars a year. When you sign on with a company you are agreeing to do a job in exchange for money. You have the right to leave that job at any time, and the company has the right to eliminate or restructure that job.

For this reason, it’s disheartening to see Gingrich, Perry, and Huntsman ganging up on Romney for engaging in standard capitalist practices. These attacks on Romney are not just coming from Romney’s Left, they’re coming straight out of the entitled, unwashed vermin at Occupy Wherever. I expect Obama to make these attacks because he’s a far Left ideologue and is planning on running a class warfare-based race this year. But to see supposedly principled conservatives who claim they believe in a free market issue statements as stupid as Newt’s “I think that’s plundering. I don’t think that’s capitalism” or Perry’s quip that Romney’s only worry about pink slips was that “he was going to have enough of them to hand out” is downright revolting. I get it, Newt. I hear ya, Rick. Layoffs suck. But this is, in fact, capitalism. This is the free market. Companies like Bain invest money and offer guidance to improve the bottom line (profits, you see) of different companies. Sometimes improving profits comes at the cost of cutting expenses, and sometimes those “expenses” are people. But again…it ain’t personal.

Mitt Romney has enormous issues as a candidate. In 2012, every one of the candidates has enormous issues whether it’s Newt’s personal baggage and ideological inconstancy, Santorum’s devotion to the dreaded “compassionate conservatism” I despise, Perry’s unserious promises and inarticulate babble during debates, Paul’s Chomskyite foreign policy views, or Huntsman’s eyebrows. It is fair game to attack Romney for Romneycare, or for his flip-flopping, or for his moderate stance in the face of approaching economic Armageddon. But the attacks on his tenure at Bain, designed to portray him as a rapacious pirate taking glee in handing out pink slips, are cartoonish and wrong. The attacks land blows not just on the frontrunner, but on the entire system that conservatives should be championing. The GOP candidates are making Obama’s case for him. They are using the same flawed reasoning, and Obama will be using the words of “conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry” to bolster his argument that Romney is a robber baron who doesn’t care about people.

Economic growth does not come without some temporary pain. It’s horrible for those who face unemployment, but a booming economy and rapid economic growth—virtually impossible under the anti-business regulatory nightmare of the Obama presidency—will make that pain easier to deal with, and a booming economy is only possible with a free market where groups like Bain Capital are willing to invest money in businesses that might not otherwise succeed.

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