Mitt Romney is clearly not President Obama’s kind of businessman. Romney’s wealth, as Obama sees it, was built on cutting jobs and liquidating companies. As he said on Monday:
And there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries, but understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that’s not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers. … When you’re President, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who got laid off and how are we paying for their retraining.
But what if a different sort of CEO were the Republican nominee? Imagine if Steve Jobs a) were alive and b) somehow nabbed the 2012 Republican nomination. What would the Democrats be saying about this beloved American entrepreneur and success story? When he passed, President Obama had this to say:
Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. The world has lost a visionary.
Indeed, liberal pundit Paul Begala has made the Jobs-Romney comparison:
Yes, we Americans admire financial success; we don’t hate the rich. But we resent folks who got rich by rigging the system. Romney made millions in part by loading companies with debt, driving them into bankruptcy, and laying off their workers. The workers who lost their jobs had their health benefits canceled as well—but Romney and his partners made millions. That’s not how Steve Jobs got rich.
But if Jobs, or some other similar tech CEO, were the 2012 GOP standard bearer, I imagine we would be hearing this sort of thing:
1. Jobs is out of touch. Jobs, with a fortune of around $7 billion, was way richer than Romney.
2. Jobs is anti-U.S. worker. All those iPads aren’t being made in America, after all. (Of course, they would cost more than twice as much if they were.) And you certainly can’t compare the “App Economy” with an economy based on manufacturing, right?
3. Jobs uses slave labor. See point #2.
4. Jobs is a tax dodger. As a recent NYTimes story describes Apple’s tax strategy:
Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich,” which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations — some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies.
Without such tactics, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent.
5. Jobs is a ruthless capitalist. As he told biographer Walter Isaacson, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
6. Jobs is anti-consumer. Imagine the field day the DNC would have with the antitrust suit accusing Jobs and top executives at five major book publishers with illegally conspiring to raise the prices of e-books, costing consumers tens of millions of dollars.
You get the picture. The Left is uncomfortable, to say the least, with the innovation and creative destruction generated by market capitalism and how it upsets the best-laid plans of government. Recall the president’s comments about job-killing ATMs. A tech CEO would be treated no better by liberals than a private-equity CEO. And Jobs would quickly go from entrepreneurial saint to capitalist sinner.