Mitt Romney has had his fair share of gaffes during his presidential campaign. He’s claimed corporations are people, which employed the same twisted logic Southern politicians used to try to have slaves counted as people for representation purposes while still treating them like construction equipment. He’s also said he knows what it’s like to be unemployed: He is a millionaire many times over. He’s not “unemployed,” he’s comfortably retired — unlike many people in their early 60s who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and have to struggle to survive or who had their pensions and retirement savings destroyed through Vegas-style investments.
Just in time for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday comes Romney’s latest politically tone-death hit, in which he expresses his pleasure in firing people.
Romney’s previous gaffes received more of a pass because he was still running against the human-sized gaffes that are Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. Now, fresh off his nail-biter, Karl Rove-approved victory in Iowa last week, Romney is receiving true front-runner treatment, which involves his opponents rushing toward any perceived blood in the water. So, he quickly sought to clarify his statement:
“I don’t want to live in a world where we have Obamacare telling us which insurance we have to have, which doctor we can have, which hospital we go to,” Romney said Monday at his news conference, according to The New York Times.
“I believe in the setting as I described this morning where people are able to choose their own doctor, choose their own insurance company. If they don’t like their insurance company or their provider, they can get rid of it,” Romney said.
Let’s look at Romney’s statement more closely, as there are two critical problems with it:
It also means that 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 want to say, you know, I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.
Unlike Romney, whose bank accounts have bank accounts, most people in the U.S. realize that health care in this country is expensive and only growing more so each year. When Romney extols the virtue of “choice” in health care, he might as well tell a minimum-wage worker at Wal-Mart who relies on a car to get to work that she has her choice of $100,000 BMWs. The only question now is whether to go for the one with the “luxurious interior” or the “smooth ride.” At this point, she might as well pick her preferred Enterprise model (1701 — original series, baby!, 1701-A, “Star Trek 4 – 6,” or 1701-D, Pimped-out Picard action) because it’s all just a fantasy.
I’d rather work toward getting her into a reasonably economical mid-size sedan, but even Archie Andrews’ jalopy is more practical than what Romney has to offer her, which are sore feet from walking. People with money tend to distract themselves with limitless options. A thousand brands of toothpaste is one of America’s original sins. If you don’t have money, though, the only toothpaste option that matters is the one you can afford.
The other problem with Romney’s statement is the cavalier manner in which he discusses firing people who don’t perform for him as he’d like. Here he definitely demonstrates his big-business background: “Humans” are interchangeable “resources.” If they miss a beat while tap dancing for your entertainment, then bring in someone else. I worked someplace that referred to and promoted this practice as “churn and burn.”
Any idiot can just fire people who screw up. Look at Donald Trump’s TV career. What takes vision, what takes leadership, is to help people succeed. Once upon a time, employee termination was viewed as a mutual failure. I once worked with an executive who combined the worst traits of all the GOP candidates — the insanity of Bachmann and Ron Paul, the cluelessness of Rick Perry, the Snidely Whiplash villainy of Newt Gingrich, the serpentine quality of Rick Santorum, and a conscience about as pronounced as Jon Huntsman’s visibility. I suspected she was assembled in Dr. Mindbender’s laboratory like the Cobra Emperor from “G.I. Joe.”
If staff performance wasn’t what she deemed it should be, she assumed it was due to incompetence, laziness, or meth addiction. Any recommendation for employee development that wasn’t punitive was rejected as “making excuses” or “being soft.” There was little interest in examining expectations and seriously considering if they were realistic. No, better to keep employees on a rotating hamster wheel of wage freezes and staff reductions while blaming them if performance suffered as a result. You can fire everyone who collapses on their way to a finish line that is constantly moved forward but eventually all you have left is management. Unfortunately, we’ve moved past the point where managers are paid to take a bullet. They are now paid to aim and fire.
In fairness, Romney was most likely referring to firing vendors or companies who provide a service, but as he himself said, these companies are comprised of people. What happens to the people who lose their jobs because of mismanagement they can’t control? I used to think the old lady who wrote an angry letter to a company informing them of why she would no longer buy their products was being churlish, but upon reflection, she is giving them the feedback that is necessary to allow them to improve. That’s more than you’d get from the Romneys of the world. For them, it’s all “churn and burn.”