Now that the Colorado shootings are behind us and the presidential candidates are starting to think it's okay to go back to being dicks again …
So much imbecilic talk surrounds Mitt Romney's candidacy at the moment that it obscures the emptiness at the center.
The salient question isn't whether or not Romney is an "outsourcer," or what year he officially resigned as CEO of Bain Capital, or how well his accountants have used the Byzantine tax code to protected Romney's hundreds of millions.
The question to ask a fellow who is saying he knows how to "create jobs" because he is a business person is: What is a "business person"?
Is a business person an entrepreneur, who built a company from whole cloth? Gosh, I hope not. Usually those people are monomaniacs, so singularly focused on their own singular corporate creation and their hated competitors that they don't know their own children's names. Are these the folks you'd trust to create tolerable jobs across infinite industries in the context of a global economy?
Or is a business person a big-company CEO? Well, a CEO of what kind of big company? A big bank wouldn't hire a retailer's CEO, and an oil company wouldn't hire the boss of a Silicon Valley company. In the rare cases when companies have found a leader outside their industry, the results have usually been disastrous. (See Bob Nardelli.) That's because CEOs worth having aren't just experts in some amorphous thing called "business"; they're experts on the economics of specific industries, with well-developed instincts about a particular marketplace. But nobody understands the economics of every industry, or of most industries, in a way that allows them to "create jobs" across an unfathomably large economy.
I've admired lots of people in business: hard-charging publishers, cool-headed CEOs, analytical types and gut-feel guys. In fact, I've admired most of the business people I've known—some for their intelligence, others for their courage and all for the energy it takes to stand in the middle of an often treacherous triangle of customers and investors and employees. One thing about people who deal with all that every day: They don't spout a lot of bullshit that they can't back up.
And let me tell you one thing for damn sure: Nobody I've ever known in business, Republican or Democrat, ever would say that their status as a "business person" meant that a nation of 311,000,000 people should trust them to turn their economy around.
People who run companies have built-in biases, against regulation and for low corporate tax rates. They also have a lot of faith in themselves—if you give me more freedom to operate, I'll make my company bigger and better.
But a person who wants you to have that kind of faith in his ability to build a whole economy based on his necessarily limited business experience—well, that's somebody who hopes to take advantage of your ignorance or your wishful thinking or both.