Oh noes, Mitt Romney likes to fire people!

(Note: my response, as recaptured from a thread at Scalzi’s blog)

I am sympathetic to those who’ve lost work. No, really.

I’ve been fired 4 or 5 times in my 21 years in the work force, and I’ve been laid off exactly once. My wife has also been fired and/or laid of several times in the same span. Each time for both of us it was an event of no small magnitude in our humble house, and if it happened again today it would still be an event of no small magnitude. I “get” the life storm that a firing or a layoff can bring. Been there, done that. May do it again. In 2009 I was very, very close to getting axed — by a (now former) boss who was on the hot seat himself, and trying to take others down with him. It made for a very stressful year.

My point is that the era of eternal job security — if it ever existed at all, which I doubt — has long since passed. The modern vocational or professional person must expect transition. There are ways to stay ahead of the curve. To see the layoffs and the firings before they happen. To store up a sufficient reserve for the transition points, so that when they come, they don’t wreck everything down to the ground. I think many people have learned this the way my wife and I did: the hard way.

And there are tons of people with their heads in the sand. Who persist in believing that the job they have now is the job they should have forever, and that if ever they are fired or layed off, it is an act of the utmost and supreme evil, curse those devil bosses in their shiny top hats, twirling their finely-waxed handlebar mustaches, saying, “Nyah nyah nyah!”

Many of these same Americans happily plunder their credit cards and run up fantastic amounts of consumer debt on “things” while putting not a cent aside for a potential rainy day. My wife and I used to be among these people. We learned better as we got older, and after enough life storms taught us the hard trick of living more sensibly, and taking action to jump to new jobs when the clouds of the tempest are still far on the horizon. Not on your doorstep.

Romney must sound like a horrible man, if you’re a head-in-the-sand type. ZOMG he said he likes to fire people, oh noes!

For those who are in touch with the new reality — which seems not so new, and in fact appears to have been the norm for at least the last 25 years, or more — Romney does not sound evil. He sounds like a realist. Companies need to compete, and to compete you occasionally have to cut staff and/or prune the unproductive. Sucks. Sure thing. I’ve been on the shit end of that stick many times. It’s a real gut punch. But expecting companies to take on and keep staff forever…. unreal. Literally.

Now, we might argue about golden parachutes, and corporate millionaires skating across the gulfs while the poor working class take it in the shorts over and over and over… but I don’t think Romney was defending golden parachutes or corporate graft of the sort that’s been highlighted in the last few years among the “bankster” set. Trying to spin it as if Romney was defending golden parachutes and corporate graft, or that he likes firing poor innocent working people, you know, because he’s a dirty rotten bastard deep down in his rich little black heart of hearts… it’s just silly. Populist, for sure. But still silly. And I don’t think it will fly in November. Not with the 51% necessary to win.

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21 thoughts on “Oh noes, Mitt Romney likes to fire people!

  1. Very, very well said. I am bored to tears over the attacks on Romney. Tired of hearing it, since they can’t drag any immoral dirt on him……. hoping for Mitt in 2012 and God help us if we end up with another term of Obama

  2. Hey, I got fired from US Cellular over a year and a half ago and it was the best damn thing that ever happened to me. I’m not in a much better job, with better pay, and I’m happier. I’m gaining tons of experience that will benefit me if I ever get laid off/fire again. It’s not always ideal, but it happens. Sometimes, people need to leave a company, for one reason or another, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

    What hacks me off is when companies get huge, billion dollar bail outs and then lay off several thousand workers. Or get huge tax cuts to “save their business” and do the same. Really? What was all that for, then?

  3. Excellent post, Brad. I agree with your main points, but will add that Romney does suffer an Achilles heel in this area. He’s receiving his golden parachute from Bain as we write. He’s profited time and again from laying off workers in order to make a company profitable or at least sellable. That’s not silly in the context of the current wealth gap in America. It’s a part of the problem (middle class jobs sacrificed for efficiency, while upper class siphons up more and more wealth). The comment itself is indeed a silly sound byte, but I don’t agree the issue is. I believe he’s correct in asserting that it’s not a good argument to get into for the Republican party, but it will be a legitimate issue in the main campaign. I don’t see Romney winning, even against Obama. Huntsman could, I think. (see, now you have a public statement to rub my nose in after the election 🙂

  4. Looking at things from another perspective: A certain person I know works for a certain company that really does refuse to fire people. They will transfer the person from department to department, etc, but they will not fire them (they hope instead that the person will quit). How annoying, how unproductive is it, to have this guy work for you?! You have to retrain him all the time, you have to keep your temper around him when he messes things up royally, you have to clean up after him. You can complain, and they just send him to another department where he does the same thing. I’m sorry, but if you can’t do the job properly, even after a few chances, they you should be fired.

    My husband was laid off just after we were married, right when we found out we were going to have a baby. And yes, we were young and stupid and made mistakes so it was NOT a fun time. But we figured things out, and learned from our past. People get fired and laid off. It’s just a part of living in a capitalistic society, the same society which allows us free choice in so many other things that everyone takes advantage of.

    It’s about that time in the election year (heh, and it’s only January!!) where I just want to shut the news off. I get so disgusted at all the misinformation and twisted stories. It doesn’t matter what side or party you are with.

  5. I agree 100% with mCat. Go Romney.

    People love to blame anyone but themselves. Case and point: the occupy movement. It’s really pathetic.

    I’ve never been fired before, thank goodness, but my husband and I have a little in savings and food storage in case anything happens. Hopefully it will be a booster for when we have kids and bigger responsibilities, and a layoff will really be a slap in the face.

  6. Huh. That was a short stint on the high road.

    What your re-post here ignores, Brad, is that just about everyone (except maybe Greg, but seriously, who cares) completely agreed that Romney was not saying “I like to fire people” and that the line was taken out of context and spun. The issue is not ‘Romney likes to fire people’. The issue is that the reason for the spin was there’s a pre-existing “Romney is a clueless rich guy” narrative that Romney has bolstered by saying things that, well, a clueless rich guy would say. The ten thousand dollar bet at the debate. “Corporations are people”. And in a very bad economy, where people are afraid of losing their income and health insurance and homes, being the clueless rich elite dude is a liability.

    Now, the counter to this is to point out, for example, where Romney’s policies have helped and will help people financially (and where Obama’s have had the opposite effect); things Romney has said that do reflect his awareness of how people are hurting; and pointing out if something was flatly taken out of context. That not only dissipates the worries about Romney, it shows that you get it.

    Instead, you went fanboy and lowered yourself to the same level as the “OMG REPUBLICANS EAT BABIES” commenters. That may make you feel righteous, but it does not address more moderate people who might give Romney another look if you actually say to them “I get why you’re worried about X, and here is why Romney is a better candidate than Obama to handle X.” (Saying ‘because I like him’ or ‘he’s a conservative’ as the why is preaching to the choir.) And as people pointed out, yo, you’re not actually responding to this rich guy image problem stuff, your answers rapidly moved around the goalposts and got nastier.

    Let me put it this way. In the Presidential debates, Obama is going to get some hard questions about his handling of the economy and the unemployment rate. Imagine that Obama responded to those questions with “You know, some of us understand that getting fired is just part of the business cycle, and we learn to ride it out. I am confident that those of the American people who followed their parents’ example and were fiscally prudent weathered this storm just fine.”

    Would you nod vigorously and say, yeah, he gets it? Me neither.

  7. It does seem like, because they can’t derail Romney in the same manner as Herman Cain, that the astoundingly odd attacks-from-the-left by his supposedly right-wing rivals are all that’s left. I don’t get it, I think it’s not just not working, I think it actually illustrates Romney’s real-world cred much more than even Romney himself has been able to illustrate it.

  8. Amanda, that’s what really bothers me too. When a company rakes in a public treasury windfall, lays off workers, then gives its top tier million-dollar bonuses, you know there is something rotten in Denmark. BTW, the one time I got laid off, I had a better job doing the same work — within two days — and got to keep my month’s severence on top of it. So the layoff actually worked very well for me. I know this is not true for all, but I can’t say layoffs are terrible in all cases as seems to be the meme.

  9. Steve, I know Huntsman excites a lot of moderates and even some liberals who wish the Republican party were more like Hunstman, but the Republican party as a whole seems more or less convinced that Huntsman is even more of a RINO than Romney. Neither of them enjoy the somewhat fanatical loyalty of Ron Paul. And you could be right, of course — the corporate rich dude meme could win out, and Obama could still win. I don’t see this being the case, but it is possible just the same. Certainly Romney’s going to have his work cut out for him. Because Obama will attack him as a corporate “vulture capitalist” with full gusto. I am just not convinced a majority will buy it, despite layoffs and a lousy economy. Because Obama’s record shows him more in bed with the enemy than even Mitt.

  10. Melanie, I’ve also seen what happens when a company can’t get rid of unproductive or otherwise problematic staff. It’s the same thing that happens when teachers can’t get rid of or expell their most troublesome and undisciplined students. The unproductive drag down everyone else, make everyone else work harder to pick up the slack, etc. There is something to having humane HR standards and procedures. But when a humane standard becomes an excuse to do nothing about a real problem… well, that defeats the whole point, I think?

    And yes, I agree with your other points too. Especially about wanting to turn things off. I am at once rapt, and repelled, come election season. The blood sport makes me cringe, but I can’t stop watching. (g)

  11. If my responses at Whatever were less than judicious, it may be because I’m too used to comments like the one from the chap who declared all Republicans to be domestic terrorists. Whatever (the blog) may be open to conservatives, but the regular denizens of Whatever are overwhelmingly liberal: socially, economically, and so forth. Small wonder. John is a liberal and he attracts liberals to him with his wit and his gift for cutting commentary — especially on issues liberals consider to be hot-button.

    So, when I decide to take up an issue there, I do so with helmet and pads on. I know I am going to get pummeled from several directions at once, by people convinced that I am not just wrong, I am literally benighted. Or stupid. Pedantry is alive and well at Whatever, much as it is at Making Light.

    But I digress. Your main issue seems to be that I “fanboyed” and lost an opportunity to soberly discuss Romney’s failings and merits among skeptics. You are probably 100% correct. I have been paying attention to Romney since 2002 and am delighted to see a religious fellow traveler defying the odds — and the prejudice. This may be a form of identity politics and as a rule I dislike identity politics, but having lived my life seeing Latter-Day Saints relegated to being the butt of jokes — often by people who’d blanch at similar mockery of Jews or Muslims — I hope you will forgive me for having simplistic enthusiasm over the fact that a) one of “my people” is within striking distance of the White House, and that b) he’s actually someone I can generally agree with on many issues. (As opposed to, say, Harry Reid.)

    You say Romney has a rich-SOB image problem, and that this is largely self-manufactured by Mitt — that me dismissing criticisms along these lines shows that I don’t grasp the skeptics’ view. You may be entirely right, and if Mitt is the nominee and goes on to lose to Obama in November, I will courteously offer up mea culpas for being too much of a fanboy.

    But I’m tapping a somewhat different sensibility from the left-of-center skeptics. I don’t think the swing votes will be swayed by rich-SOB rhetoric. Mainly because Obama is also a rich-SOB politician, and if he wants to attack Mitt on the Bain thing, or weild Mitt’s own verbage against him — firing people — then I believe Mitt can hit back stronger and with more potency on runaway debt and charges of cronyist behavior on Obama’s part. Mitt’s got a hard sell, yes, but it’s only half as hard as Obama’s because Obama has a “bankster” problem.

    Mitt can run strongly as an anti-bankster “clean up” or “fix it” man, and he will be able to point to things like the Olympics as proof. With the economy down and charges of Beltway corruption being very loud this year, it’s an environment which I believe to be friendly to Mitt’s businessman image and his businessman pedigree. Charges of “vulture capitalist” may stick, for a bit. But when people are standing in those ballot booths — even if they have misgivings about Mitt the corporate rich dude — I am not altogether sure they’ll say to themselves that the non-Mitt option is preferable. Or that Mitt’s so thoroughly rich-SOB that it’s worth allowing Obama four more years.

    We’ll just have to see. For now, I’ve let the issue drop at Whatever, because I still desire to keep myself out of protracted entanglements there. Past a certain point, we’re all just talking past each other anyway. A fruitless exercise. I used to flog threads until it was beyond hopeless. I’m trying to do less of that, and trying to be less ad hominem too — even when someone like Greg is very ad hominem with me. So I think I’m not entirely missing the high road, yes?

  12. What everyone (?) seems to be missing here is the Romney and Bain were #1 in the business of making as much money as possible for themselves. If that meant creating a profitable company like Staples, fine. But it also meant analyzing a company and determining if BAIN would get more money in THEIR pockets by liquidating the company, selling the company or moving company jobs outside the US vs. retaining jobs here in the US. That may be great for a business but is that how a country should be run? Romney wrote an editorial piece in the WSJ saying it was NOT a good idea for the US government to bail out GM & Chrysler. If we did not do so the ripple effects in the economy would have been huge – tens if not hundreds of thousands of factory jobs lost, dealerships folded, and the American consumer left with fewer choices. Be careful of what you wish for.

  13. Good grief, Brad, it’s not a meme. It’s the fact that people lose their jobs, which is the source of their income, and, in the US where health insurance is tied to employment, their ability to obtain health care. It’s also the fact that right now we are in a down economy with a high unemployment rate. I would think that y’all would be trumpeting those facts, which hurt Obama, rather than trying to turn that frown upside down.

    As for ‘it was the best thing that could have happened’ – well, my first marriage ended because my ex couldn’t keep his pants zipped, and in the long run the fact that we divorced worked out very well for me, since we would have been miserable and divorced at some point anyway and I shortly thereafter met the father of my children to whom I’ve been married for over fifteen years. Would it be reasonable, then, for me to have defended Clinton or John Edwards by saying, dude, WTF is your beef with adultery, it worked out great for me personally?

  14. You say Romney has a rich-SOB image problem, and that this is largely self-manufactured by Mitt

    No. Please do not put words in my mouth. I said that Romney has a rich-SOB image problem, and that he is not only doing nothing to counter this problem, but he is feeding it. I said nothing about who ‘manufactured’ it. Dude is rich, which does not in any way make him unique among presidential contender, but he is really rich even by those standards. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but his job is to show that this does not make him clueless or out of touch, and he frankly couldn’t be doing a worse job of it if he went on CNN and said “Look, if I read a news story about a big corporation firing a single mom with cancer, I look up the CEO’s phone number in my BlackBerry and text him a high-five.” Whereas Obama has the image of the guy who has a beer after work and goes out for lunch to get a burger.

    There’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about Romney or being glad that he’s doing well despite the bigotry of evangelical Christians. (And the flip side of all those lib’ruls at Whatever is that screeching about how he isn’t really Christian and/or is in league with Satan is a party foul.) The problem, again, is when the message is “Romney has good economic policies because I like him” and your response to people who are concerned about his policies is HOW DAR U. You’re not gonna convince the Gregs of the world, but Scalzi has plenty of lurkers who aren’t in the tank for Obama.

  15. People indeed love to blame others. It’s called defensive attribution. Because if a bad thing happens to Brad (god forbid), and I can say “Brad deserved to have that bad thing happen because he didn’t plan enough/did something stupid/was profligate”, then I reassure myself I am safe from the bad thing. After all, since I am careful and smart and thrifty, it won’t happen to me, right?

    Having savings and emergency supplies is a fine thing. But as you say, you’ve never had a job yanked out from under you and you don’t have major responsibilities like a child. It’s easy to point fingers and say “well *I* would have handled that *lots* better” when you’ve never been there or done that. If you’re a Christian, I would urge you to reconsider Jesus’s teachings about judging others before sneering at people who are struggling to make ends meet.

  16. I want to address this, because I think I’ve figured out where a disconnect may be happening between mythago and myself. And between myself and ‘liberals’ in general.

    Mythago, LDS culture is steeped in remonstration about emergency preparedness and self-sufficiency. We are chastised endlessly by our church leaders — lovingly, not with barbed tongue — about the need for savings, and for packing away stores in case of a rainy day, because inevitably that day will come for all and none may avoid it. Could be a job loss, could be a natural disaster, could be something else. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when. We hear this so often and it’s so embedded in the fabric of our culture, I suppose we sometimes forget that what sounds like plain speaking common sense to us, may sound harsh or unyielding to anyone not in our culture.

    Just the same, we are also remonstrated about taking care of those enduring poor fortune. If scripture teaches the need for preparedness, and multiplying of the talents, it simultaneously admonishes generosity — putting a hand out to those in hard straits. Which is why in 2011 alone my wife and I gave several thousand dollars in cash, clothing, food items, furniture, etc, directly to neighbors — member and non-member alike — and also through the auxiliary support services of the church which help members in need get food, clothing, etc.

    And in my little corner of Utah, there are a lot of people in need. I don’t live in Cottonwood Heights, on the east benches of the Salt Lake valley. I live on the borders of Hill Air Force Base — in a little blue-collar neighborhood where these hard economic times have hit with full force. I see it all around me every day. My wife and I do what we can to make sure our relative well being is shared as far as we’re able — which isn’t very far, because you can’t spread a pat of butter too long before you’ve simply run out.

    So you see, I do have empathy for everyone who has been hurt in these times. And I have also done what I can to ease the burden.

    But… I’ve also seen where pride and stubborn attitudes, as well as sloth and foolish financial decisions, have exacerbated the hardship. It does no good to offer charity if those receiving the charity don’t also delve deeply into their hearts — to consider how and why they’ve arrived at their current place, and how they might be better prepared for the next time. Some people arrive at this “learning point” more easily than others, and a few hard-headed souls never learn it no matter how many times they go through the meat grinder.

    Pointing out that thrift, savings, and preparedness are essential, is not un-Christian. It is part and parcel of Christ’s teaching. Right now the American populace lives far too much on credit, saves far too little, and depends much too much on the government to bail it out in hard times. Sort of like the banksters. For the Republic to be healthy — I believe — we need to get both the banks and the big businesses and the people themselves off dependence as much as possible. And yes, I see the hard times. I see how they hurt people every day. But hard times are where the best lessons can be learned. So that next time there’s a calamity, we can be better ready to face it. We in the LDS faith are taught this from the cradle. I am not sure the same is taught elsewhere, with as much vigor or regularity.

  17. Al, if all the feds had done was give GM a loan — to be paid back in full — I am not sure even hard-core fiscal conservatives would have much of a problem with it. But my understanding is that the feds gave GM a true bailout, of which only a small portion — $6.7B out of an entire $49.5B — is to be paid back. The rest is treated as ‘equity’ such that GM is essentially an owned manufacturing bureau of the United States. Much like the old Soviet manufacturing bureaus of the Cold War. I understand that many, many jobs are at stake when a huge company like GM is going broke. I guess I am just philosophically opposed to the United States owning and/or propping up big businesses like this, simply as a kindness to the employees. I think this insulates businesses from having to correct non-competetive or even destructive practices, and puts the tax-payers on the hook for supporting for-profit corporations which are in reality semi-profit or even non-profit ventures. Down that particular rabbit hole, wish to go, I do not. (said Yoda style.)

  18. Brad, I apologize for jumping to the end but your stylesheet gave up on nested replies.

    Preparedness, community support and charity are all things that I (and I think rather a lot of people) admire about the LDS community. And I don’t hear anybody arguing that it’s bad to be prepared, have a nest egg, etc. The problem is that “It’s a good idea to be prepared, and you will be able to ride things out better if you are” is not the same as “Well if you’re suffering it’s because you screwed up and didn’t prepare.” That is not a loving statement; it’s defensive attribution, which is the fancy technical term for victim-blaming. Nor is it fair to say that people who are fearful of a job loss or illness or disaster wouldn’t be if only they were prepared enough. Preparedness certainly helps in bad times; it doesn’t magically make them go away or prevent anything awful from happening.

    As a corollary to your point about preparedness, let me give this analogy: I like to cook and always have. When I make challah, or cheesecake, or I throw together a dinner for ten out of a little of this and that, I am genuinely baffled when people say “wow, it’s so amazing that you can do that!” To me, these are simple things that anyone could do if they read a recipe. As my husband constantly reminds me, what is easy for me because I have had a lifetime of practice, of using specialized equipment, of familiarizing myself with how bread rises or how beef gravy should smell when it’s cooking. It’s not easy for everyone and it’s not fair to assume it should be, or, god forbid, assume that anyone who can’t do what I do is simply too lazy or dumb to learn. Similarly, people who have not been taught how to can preserves or store water in times of need, or who don’t have a like-minded, well-intentioned community to fall back on when things are bad, are simply not going to be as adept as you are at bouncing back, and that is not a moral or intellectual failing on their part.

    Regarding charity, I’m unfamiliar with Jesus specifically telling people to be thrifty and stay off the credit cards, nor any admonitions to give charity only to the deserving and not the prideful or hard-headed. Charity is not supposed to be a stick or a carrot.

    BTW, I admit I had a chuckle at your argument-by-nostalgia about people learning lessons from parents and grandparents. If I remember right, you’re around my age, which makes the Baby Boomers our parents. I’m not sure you wanna be pointing to that as models of fiscal uprightness.

  19. :shrug: I’ll copy my comment at Whatever, too:
    I was going to complain about Romney being misquoted, but never mind. Obviously a distinction too subtle for the crowd.

    I’ve been fired and laid off and outsourced and defunded and … oh, a dozen times over the last fifty years. “You’re fired!”, the actual words, I remember twice. Both times bosses were very angry with me, because I’d been publicly shown to be correct. I’ve laid people off, fired people, and quit rather than do so when I was told my group “had to lose a head”. (A head hunter had been sniffing about, I called him back; my team didn’t need me to finish the project, and they were going to be sent to different places when the project was done. They finished on-time, exceeded specs, and under budget.) Win-win-win-win except for that yahoo several layers higher who refused to understand the idea of “team”. He was let go in the next round of cuts, my team members were not.

    There was a time when there were “careers”; for the vast majority that’s gone. I can’t find the numbers now; it used to be that the average non-farm employment was four or five employers in a lifetime; now it’s four or five in a decade. There still are careers, but they are not single-employer type careers, they’re single-task multiple employer careers, and you move from employer to employer very rapidly. New hires are cheaper, loyalty is pretty much non-existant. ‘Tis sad.

    There were a number of candidates the D could have nominated instead of “Reporting for Duty!” Kerry; that choice was yours, not mine. You were warned by the vets in the Democratic party that his reputation would be a drag on his ballot appeal, and it was. Doubtless the Republicans will make the same kind of mistake this time around.

    Brad, they’re not able to hear you. Save your breath.

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