The following originally appeared in Politico on August 23, 2012
Calvin Coolidge didn’t say much, but he did impart some enduring wisdom in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1925. He said that “the chief business of the American people is business.” Too often these days, it seems as though our leaders in Washington have forgotten this fact. The class warfare we’ve seen throughout this presidential campaign is the latest example.
And its target is another former governor of Massachusetts: my good friend Mitt Romney. The Obama campaign and its surrogates have launched a series of attacks on him, attempting to tarnish his sterling record in business and turn it against him. Given how successful Romney was as both a businessman and a job creator, that’s a hard case to sell.
During his time at Bain Capital, Romney helped to build or save many different businesses. In the process, he saw what can create jobs, what can boost productivity, and what can help our economy. Of course, he also saw the sort of government policies that kill jobs, discourage investment, and stifle economic growth. And it’s those things that we have seen in abundance with the current administration.
In his policies of more regulations and higher taxes, President Barack Obama has promoted nothing but greater uncertainty for both business owners and the middle class alike. In running up unsustainable trillion dollar deficits, Obama has set our nation on a course toward bankruptcy instead of solvency. In presiding over the longest period of unemployment over eight percent since the Great Depression, Obama has inspired not hope, but hopelessness amongst the 23 million Americans who cannot find jobs. And instead of proposing new ideas to reinvigorate our economy, the president merely doubles down on the same policies which haven’t worked.
That’s hardly a high ground from which to tear down an opponent. The Obama campaign dismisses Romney’s private sector experience as if it is devoid of vision, seeking to reduce his accomplishments to something sinister, or worse. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. Having spent my life in private sector, I know a thing or two about the skills and effort it takes to build a new enterprise, let alone save a struggling one. Companies like Staples, Bright Horizons, and Sports Authority – companies in which Bain Capital played a critical role – were triumphs of creativity and hard work to which tens of thousands of Americans owe their jobs.
Mitt Romney’s private sector credentials make him uniquely qualified to lead this country at a moment when we’re in desperate need of a turnaround. His experience delivering the Salt Lake City Olympics from scandal, as well as turning the tide on the economy as governor of Massachusetts, demonstrates that what he learned in business is transferable. It highlights his ability to identify and implement solutions to tackle even the most daunting challenges
Indeed, contrary to the contention of President Obama’s allies, leadership in business is not all that different from leadership in politics. In both cases, leadership is about choices. And it’s not simply about what a leader decides, but also who they empower to make choices. The president seeks to empower bureaucrats with taxpayer dollars, framing government as a neutral arbitrator of fairness. But for all of his criticisms of a “top-down” approach to our economy, his strengthening of the heavy hand of government is precisely that. Mitt Romney has a very different approach. His vision is one that empowers people to make their own decisions and keep more of their hard-earned dollars.
If Obama agrees that it is the government’s “responsibility to create a nurturing environment for companies to grow and thrive in,” as Delaware Gov. Jack Markell recently asserted, our anemic economy suggests he has a funny way of showing it.