Rick Perry vs. Romney: Ringtone Edition!

Rick Perry made a ringtone of Mitt Romney. It’s great.

The problem is, I’ve actually been most impressed by Romney over the things for which he’s been most criticized: I’m thinking “corporations are people,” firing workers at Bain, “I like being able to fire people,” etc. All of those are actually things he did right.

First, “corporations are people:” Incredibly dumb sound byte? Yes. But he was also correct: he wasn’t arguing that corporate entities should have equivalent speech rights to people, or even anything close to that. Instead he was arguing that when corporations make money, that money goes to actual people. (This does not apply if the company is Apple.) That means corporate profits are good for people. They may not be good for all people equally, and you may not like the people who benefit from them, but corporations do not take worker’s hard-earned money and feed it to an evil dragon. Profits go to people.

Firing people at Bain: There’s this thing called “creative destruction.” Sometimes, people’s skills get overtaken by technology, or there are people who will do the same work for cheaper, or people stop wanting horse-drawn carriages. Those people usually lose their jobs, since nobody is willing to pay for what they make anymore. Bain bought some companies in that stage of their lives, and they sold off the bits that still had value. Bain is not legally or ethically responsible to the workers, and they probably made the world as a whole better off by re-allocating resources where they were useful. End of story. (Yes, folks, I haven’t got a populist bone in my body.)

“I like being able to fire people:” Again, dumb sound byte. But, importantly, he didn’t say “I like firing people,” and again, he’s right: being able to get rid of an unsatisfactory service provider is a useful tool that, in most cases, will lead people to get better service even if they never actually fire anyone. If a service provider knows you have no other options, they can do a shitty job with relatively little risk–after all, whatever service they’re providing has to be worse than nothing for you to leave. Certainly, most people wouldn’t want a system where they couldn’t get rid of (fire) their health insurer–it would lead to really lousy service. (None of that changes the fact that Romney’s health care plan is stupid, and there is exactly zero evidence that better private competition will lower health care spending, but that’s not what he’s being criticized for.)

So, while I have essentially no regard for Mitt Romney, let’s all be a little more careful how we criticize him. He has lots of dumb ideas–target them, not his rare moments of honesty.


About Joe Colucci

From Michigan, now in Boston via DC and NYC. BA in Economics from NYU. A geek and a nerd, of the type that thinks there's a meaningful difference between the two. Avid fan of good TV, good argument, good beer, good food. I work at the Lown Institute on reforming the health care delivery system, and I blog on anything else that strikes my fancy at wonkinakilt.wordpress.com. Obviously, anything that I post on Twitter or Wordpress is my own rambling, and is not endorsed by any employee, colleague, or acquaintance, past, present, or future. View all posts by Joe Colucci

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