I know I have already posted once this weekend, but I have some time on my hands because after 10 days in Williams College housing (I'm back here for another year as a visitor) I have no phone and no cable television, and something has been sticking in my craw for a long time. So, here it is.
Mitt Romney and his campaign argue that his business career as a "job creator" qualifies him to handle today's economy from the White House. I would like to suggest that that argument is, to say the least, dubious.
It is now Republican dogma that billionaires create jobs--dogma that has not, to my knowledge, been demonstrated by sophisticated analysis. But even assuming that it is true--why would that qualify a billionaire (or half-billionaire) like Mitt Romney to be President? If he's so great at creating jobs in the private sector (which, to repeat goes under the heading of "not proven," all the more so since his private sector success occurred in the roaring 90s), why shouldn't we keep him there, where he can do the most good?
It is possible, of course, to imagine a government that does what Bain Capital did--buying troubled corporations, helping to restructure them, and then re-selling them. Indeed, the Obama Administration did exactly that with General Motors and Chrysler. But--surprise surprise--Mitt Romney opposed those moves, and it is most unlikely that he would undertake anything similar as President. Indeed, his opposition to the bailout will very likely cost him Michigan, Ohio--and the Presidency.
So essentially, what Mitt Romney seems to be saying is that the best thing for the country is to make it easier for super-rich firms to do what he did in the 1990s. But the question is--and it's a question the Obama campaign obviously needs to confront head on--did that kind of corporate raiding, downsizing and restructuring actually benefit the American people as a whole, or was it one of the factors that led to the crash and the destruction of much of our high-wage economy? The answer, I suspect, is much closer to the latter than the former.
In 1884, Grover Cleveland appeared to be on the way to victory over James G. Blaine--a Republican who had been caught taking money from a corporation--when it turned out that years earlier, he had taken responsibility for the paternity of an illegitimate child. A Democrat saved his candidacy by suggesting that Blaine, whose private life was irreproachable, should be kept in private life, while Cleveland, whose public life was exemplary, should enter the White House. A similar argument would apply to Romney. If in fact he's so good at creating jobs, he should go back to the private sector and create some. He was, actually, a pretty good governor of Massachusetts, but he has made it quite clear that he has no intention of governing the US according to the principles he observed then.