Romney Is No Businessman

Mitt Romney is no businessman, at least not in any sense that Americans should view as politically positive. Conservatives have pushed “private sector experience” as a kind of high office holy grail, much like military service was before Dick Cheney was Vice President. Entrepreneurship and the “need to have made a payroll, or faced a downturn” are seen as positives, even prerequisites for running the country, especially by conservatives. And the idea isn’t far-fetched. The kind of problem-solving, budget-juggling, dream-chasing, and calculated risk-taking that the creators of business must engage in are without question necessities for the President of the United States.

But Mitt Romney hasn’t partaken of those necessary activities. Romney did well in school and was politically connected; he went to work immediately on graduation as a consultant for (perhaps) the most prestigious firm in the business, the Boston Consulting Group (creators of a matrix I use in my own practice). His wealth and his dedication to school should not be disqualifying offenses, but it is telling that Romney’s first business experience was telling older and more seasoned professional managers (who lived in the real world) how to do their jobs better. Since the early days with BCG, Mitt Romney’s entire business experience has centered on two basic activities; advising those who actually take the entrepreneurial challenge, or leveraging the risk and effort of those who actually take the entrepreneurial challenge.

For this, Romney is bestowed the laurels of hero according to the standards of a society driven by false notions of both wealth and wealth creation. Where Wall Street and the capital markets are absolutely vital components of our American success story, they are auxiliary components only. Where the skill with which a financial manager deploys the assets of a firm are critical to the firm’s success, it is the managers and workers who execute the firm’s mission that are the central reasons for its success. But we Americans have, since at least the late 1970’s, accorded to Wall Street and its success stories a level of import far out of scale with reality. And so we Americans are now faced with a Republican candidate for President who is both product and producer of the very Wall Street culture which drove our economy into the proverbial ditch.

Hedge fund managers and the designers of derivatives are no more wealth creators than mosquitoes are the creators of the blood they consume. Whatever list of firms funded by Bain Capital that Romney’s followers draft, it can be certain that, to borrow from President Obama, “he didn’t build that”. The entrepreneurs that recognized, and had the courage and vision to fill the market gap that became Staples created whatever jobs that existed with that firm, not Mitt Romney. The former Governor of Massachusetts simply calculated the odds, and scratched a check. Had Staples failed, as other Bain projects have failed, it would have brought no harm to Mitt. He invested other people’s money, in other people’s dreams, at no potential cost to himself.

Mitt Romney cares about the United States; I believe that. Mitt Romney cares about Americans; I take that as an article of faith. But Mitt Romney has learned, through a lifetime in a very particular form of business, that his success is a product of his willingness to risk the wealth and livelihood of others. Because of his immersion on Wall Street, he has learned that the correct words to the correct audience represent fruitful investment, rather than fruitful invention. He has learned that one very primary and personal goal is worth any and all collateral damage in the future. Do you expect him to unlearn these truths in January of 2013?

Do you want to live with that expectation?


The Rational Middle is listening…