I watched all of Mitt Romney’s videos. Most of them did not really shock me, they were the same, right-wing talking points we’ve heard for years just stated a lot more bluntly. If there was any surprise, it was hearing Romney speak like a human being, GOP honesty.
One video, though, stood out to me. It hasn’t gotten as much attention as his comment degrading 47% of Americans, or the one where he wishes he were of Mexican heritage. Or even the one where he talks about micro-managing his wife’s appearances.
The Chinese factory one.
Chinese factories have been on my mind recently. I just finished reading Country Driving by Peter Hessler, a phenomenal book, and the last section focused on a new factory town. For anyone interested in learning about how the changes in China are transforming its society, its an amazing read, one that goes well beneath the simple answers about factories, the people inside them, and their motivations.
A few days later, I watched this TED talk (which, I learned, features Hessler’s wife). Take a look.
The disconnect is not between the products and the people making them, but between us, the consumers, and those making the stuff we use everyday. Look at your shirt, your shoes. Where are they made? What do you know of those countries? Have you, like Romney, stepped foot in a factory overseas?
Perhaps that’s why the reactions I’ve seen to this video are focused the political side. Those are the easy connections to make, especially weeks before an election.
But what every voter should remember is that creating those jobs and cutting good American manufacturing jobs is a big part of how Romney made (and continues to make) his hundreds of millions. And he’s pointed to China as a model for the U.S. when it comes to job creation, saying that “They’re moving quickly, in part because the regulators see their job as encouraging private people.”
He complains about jobs going to China when, at Bain Capital, he invested in companies that did just that, according to the Boston Globe. He now blasts the president on trade despite the fact that in his book No Apology, he actually does the opposite and criticizes President Obama for being too tough on China.
I support Obama, but feel that his biggest mistake has been telling us that 90’s style growth is possible, when it isn’t even desirable in my opinion. Our economy and its collapse was built on cheap products from China, Vietnam, and other developing countries. There low costs were as much of a mirage as the real estate bubble or the derivatives that crushed Wall Street. As GDP grows, we hope to return to our old consumerist lifestyle, in the same failed system. The only way we can return to that life is if those factories, the kinds Romney’s Bain bought, still exist. Maybe in China, maybe here, maybe somewhere else.
In Romney’s quote is the fallacy of the modern economy.
The GOP’s ultimate lie is that we can go back to how things were, often portrayed as a fantasy-land that never existed in reality. A world that depends on cheap consumable goods. We need to build an alternate vision of the future – one that acknowledges that the 90’s will never return, but one that portents a more inclusive future.
A sustainable, just, equitable economy in which human rights, the environment, and social justice and considered as important as monthly job numbers, GDP growth and the stock market.
One in which the work of those in factories – whether in Detroit or Vietnam – is respected and properly compensated.
One where the costs of consumerism – to human health, well-being, and the environment – are factored into the prices we pay.
If we had built that vision these past four years, then the quote about Mitt Romney’s Chinese Factory would be the most damning of them all. Let’s change the debate, and chance the meaning of economic recovery. Then, they can never win.