[Note: I spotted the Atlantic article in my Twitter feed with the note, “Thursday’s Buzz?”. If it is it’ll be as much of a nothingburger as Big Bird and “Binderz!!1!!!1!1!”]
Okay, I’ll bite. Fr. Z-style.
The Atlantic has a semi-breathless article about a conference call Mitt Romney held with folks from the “über-conservative” (which, of course, means “practically oven-stoking Nazis”) National Federation of Independent Businesses. The NFIB is the largest advocacy group for the small businesses that form this nation’s economic backbone and employ the vast majority of its citizens. The article is full of suggestion of wrongdoing and innuendo, but it’s a bunch of hooey. It’s scaremongering by a base desperate to protect the Precious.
It can’t be selectively quoted. My inline comments are in red and a longer comment between a couple paragraphs.
Mitt Romney wants your vote. And if you’re a small business owner, he wants your employees’ votes as well [the nerve!] and insists that there’s nothing wrong with giving them a little guidance this election cycle. [“a little guidance”… only lacking the scare quotes.] On June 6, Romney led a conference call with support from the über-conservative [!] National Federation of Independent Business and — to cut to the chase [please do]— urged the bosses on the call to persuade their employees to vote for him in the upcoming election. [This is the substance of charge of wrongdoing, or at least wrongseeming, that they’re trying to scare people with. Let’s see how they do it.]
“I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections,” said Romney in a recording obtained by In These Times. “Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.”
Let’s pause and look at what Mitt is quoted as having said there, because this is the evidence they bring against him to support their charge.
Businesses hire people to do jobs. The success of the company depends on the owners making good decisions and employees doing their jobs well, yes, but also on a constellation of other factors beyond the control of anyone in or around the enterprise. The price of energy, the regulatory regime that inspects and oversees the industry, payroll taxes that the employer has to pay, health insurance (most of which is usually paid by the employer), trade policies, inflation and the value of the dollar, so many other factors.
On many of these scores the record of the Obama years is not good. Energy prices are way up. Many industries—including energy production—have endured stifling regulation increases. Payroll taxes are set to soar pending some sort of unlikely deal between Congress and the President. Health care costs are way up, are going higher, and Obamacare will push a whole new set of headaches on small businesses and taxes on middle class Americans. Trade is only looking respectable because *everyone’s* economies are in the tank. Inflation is rising with the dollar being devalued by the printing of money in another round of quantitative easing.
All of these factors ought to scare small business owners and make them fear for the future of their company. Indeed, the 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed can attest that the bad situation we faced in late 2008 has not gotten better these last four years, entrepreneurs are taking fewer risks, small businesses are not hiring as much.
If the owner of a business is concerned that he might have to reduce the size of his company or even shut down if a particular governmental policy continues his employees have a right to know. He, and they, have a vested interest in seeing to it that policies which unduly burden the company are avoided. That means voting accordingly. So sharing that information with employees is eminently reasonable.
They can, and will, vote in the solitude of the voting booth and in that space they can fill in whichever oval they choose; but they ought to be informed about the potential personal consequences of their vote. The business owner is in a position to inform them.
The implication of the first two paragraphs here is that what Mitt said amounts to inappropriate electioneering, which is hooey. Let’s resume…
Okay, Mitt. You’re right. It’s not technically illegal for employers to tell their employees how to vote. [See, told you it was hooey. The only law I know of that prohibits workplace electioneering is the Hatch Act, which prohibits workplace electioneering in the public sector—something Obama’s team has had trouble observing.] That doesn’t mean that it’s ethical or understandable [?] or even acceptable to connect people’s livelihoods with their political beliefs. [Huh? People do this on their own everyday. Making voters make this connection is the bread and butter of challengers in electoral politics. “It’s the economy, stupid” got Bill Clinton elected. Mitt advocating for real-world, voter-to-voter education seems no worse than “get in their face,” and a damn site more rational.] There’s a fine line between an employer telling an employee, “Vote Romney!” and a boss telling a subordinate, “Vote Romney, or else!” At least, in the eyes of the inevitably subordinate employees there’s not. [“or else” can certainly mean “or else I’ll fire you explicitly because you did not vote for Romney,” which is what they seem to imply. However, it could also mean “or else this joker’s policies are going to force me to reduce the size of this business, jeopardizing your job, and I’d really rather not face that; I imagine you’d rather not as well.” Considering the employer really has no way of knowing which way the voter actually voted I’m inclined to think the latter interpretation is at least as plausible as the former.]
This hierarchical method of political persuasion is turning into a bit of a trend for Republicans this year [Just this year? The Dems, through their union subsidiaries, have made it an artform through the decades]. Just a couple of days ago, we learned that the Koch Brothers sent their employees a list of people to vote for, or else they could “suffer the consequences.” [True, but the full sentence was, “[if Obama is reelected] then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.” Not a single mention of employment or the size of the company to be found. Hardly the ominous “you’ll be fired” line implied by their editing.] That was just a few days after the chief executive of a software company told his employees that he didn’t “want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come” if they voted Obama back into office. [Again, interestingly edited, but easily interpreted on its face as non-ominous.] And a few days before that the CEO of Westgate Resorts and the owner of the largest house in America similarly said that he would “have no choice but to reduce the size of this company” if Obama won. “Whose policies will endanger your job?” he asked his employees. [Straightforward, not a threat, a matter-of-fact statement. Since that CEO won’t be in the voting booth with any of his employees each employee’s vote is still his to do with as he sees fit.]
Mitt Romney’s campaign wouldn’t respond to questions about his proposition from that June conference call. [You don’t say…] We don’t blame them, either. After all, this is the guy that very publicly said he likes being able to fire people [An unfortunate phrasing, to be sure, but not a bad thing. It means you are able to improve the enterprise if someone is persistently underperforming and dragging productivity down. (More can be said here about firing and the reasons for it but I’ll leave it at that for now.) If you are incapable of firing anyone you end up with something as inefficient, bloated, and calcified as the U.S. government.] Combined with the let-me-tell-you-whom-to-vote for proposition, this has to scare the crap out of your everyday middle class American wage earner. [I’m one. And nope.] Especially the women. [A hoped-for conclusion, considering this.] The binders full of women. [ZING!]
But I’ll say this to their credit: they did correctly use “whom” in the headline.