Monday, January 9, 2012

"I Like Being Able to Fire People"

Romney really stepped in it on the eve of what is supposed to be his big win tomorrow in the New Hampshire primary.

“I like being able to fire people” is a line that is sure to haunt him. He’s not talking about his Bain Capital days - during which he surely did fire a lot of people. But the comment reveals him to be someone deeply out of touch with our times and the modern climate. Nobody with any experience with unemployment or a shred of compassion for those who have actually lost their jobs would think to say those words.

What Mitt is actually talking about is health insurance. He likes being able to “fire” his health insurer. This too is deeply misguided. The services a health insurer provides is paying your medical bills. When you’re staring at huge medical bills, that your insurer has refused to pay for, being able to “fire” your insurance company isn’t going to be much comfort.

If you do “fire” your insurance company, well, then you and your family won’t have health insurance. And if Mitt Romney has his way, then nobody will be obligated to sell you a new insurance policy on account of the “pre-existing condition” that caused the trouble in the first place.

Mitt Romney might “like being able to fire people.” That won’t get people to like him.


  1. I hope these out-of-context words don't become important in the race. In many ways, I agree with the sentiment. I wish I could easily choose my health insurance provider like I do my auto insurance. It's a historical artifact that health insurance is tied to the employer, who also often pays a large part of the premiums. Step back and this system looks ridiculous.

    If this was going to be the beginning of a different approach to health insurance, I would welcome it. There probably won't be a discussion, but Romney's opponents will instead try to use these words to wound him. Why talk or negotiate when you can be out trying to score points? I hate politics so often.

  2. I do consider this a significant, and telling, error beyond the usual "gaffe".

    Regarding the actual context...

    Under Obama's ACA we will start to move away from an employer-based system. We will be able shop among different insurers (as opposed to now where the insurers can shop around for healthy subscribers and "fire people" that aren't profitable). And if we fire our insurer we'll actually be able go sign up with a new one.

    Of course, Romney helped design the new system. And of course he has pledged to get rid of it.

  3. Hey Ben. You post and your comment seem at cross purposes. Is Mitt Romney wrong to want to fire his insurer in certain circumstances, or is ObamaCare wonderful because it allows him to do this?

    (By the way, Obama Care certainly doesn't advertise itself as a "move away from the employer based system". You are right of course, but that is something that the President went out of his way to hide.)

    In any case, suggesting that Romney really said he likes to fire workers is sort of akin to suggesting that Obama thinks American's are "lazy". Both are out-of-context literalism.

  4. Romney is not wrong to want to be able to fire his insurer. It’s a feature of both Romney’s and Obama’s health care plans that consumers have more health care options. That’s a good thing. If that’s what Romney was trying to say, I would still fault the tone-deaf phrasing, but not the underlying argument.

    But that is NOT what Romney was arguing. Romney says he wants to repeal the ACA! He’s lying about both impact of the ACA (by claiming it’ll reduce consumer choice) and he’s lying about the implications of his own policies (which will lock in people who are fortunate enough to have insurance into what they have -- because switching insurers is currently a nightmare).

    As to whether we’ll move away from employer-based-health care under the ACA- that remains to be seen. In some ways the employer-based system will be strengthened. Unlike now, employers that offer benefits will get tax breaks and those that don’t will have penalties.

    But there is a lot of speculation that the employer-based system is sooo bad, so stupid that once there is an alternative, any alternative, employers will ditch their plans. So long as employees are fairly compensated, and have affordable plans to choose from, I’m all for it.


    Yeah, “I like being able to fire people” is an out-of-context literalism. Like “Corporations are people too”, “I voted for it before I voted against it”, and “I invented the internet” -- fair or not, the phrase illuminates a weakness and legitimate concern about the candidate.

    That’s why they transcend “gaff” and live on.