Zakaria: Romney’s real problem
Republican U.S. presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (Getty Images)
January 11th, 2012
06:52 PM ET

Zakaria: Romney’s real problem

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By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Despite the tea party’s extraordinary energy over the past year, it looks like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win his party’s nomination.  At the end of the day, Republicans are following a familiar pattern: Nominating the mainstream candidate who has waited his turn. This is the party that’s had a Bush or a Dole on its ticket for 20 years. It’s a party that also had Richard Nixon on its presidential ticket for 20 years.

In 2011-2012, we’ve learned that the tea party’s passion was not enough to change the Republican Party. However, something else is changing the party, and you can see it in the attack ads Romney’s opponents are running against him.

Watch: Why we can’t cut our way back to more jobs.

His opponents have gone against Romney on two levels. First, they have called him a “Massachusetts moderate.” After deploying this epithet, Romney’s opponents point to specific positions of his that deviate from party orthodoxy: Romney’s health care plan is strikingly similar to Obama’s; Romney’s positions on abortion and gays used to be a lot more liberal than they are now; etc.

Even though this seems like a fairly coherent line of attack (Romney has described himself as moderate, after all), it’s not having much traction. Perhaps this is because voters think Romney would be more viable in a general election. Perhaps they feel he has genuinely changed his mind. Or perhaps they don’t care that he’s flip-flopped (I’ve often thought that hardcore activists almost like the fact that you are pandering to them; it gives them a sense of power).

Watch: What’s behind America’s jobless recovery?

Instead, a second line of attack has been gaining traction against Romney – that of Romney as job-killer or Romney as the private equity guy, who buys companies, hollows them out and outsources jobs.

Now it is striking that this attack is coming in a Republican presidential primary. After all, what Romney did while at Bain Capital was classic capitalist “creative destruction.” He took over businesses and tried to make them more productive and efficient. To do so, he often had to shed jobs.

Watch: GPS Special – Getting Back to Work.

Republicans should be celebrating Romney’s prior work as an example of how the market functions – driving out inefficiency, generating productivity and creating a lean, mean capitalist machine.

The fact that Romney’s past has turned into a line of attack tells you that something has changed in America. Even in the Republican Party, there is a huge concern about what globalization and technological change are doing to the average, middle-class American. There is a sense that the system is not working for the median American worker. 

Read: Fareed Zakaria on how to create jobs in America

If you look at job creation over the last 20-25 years in America, you’ll notice that we haven't been able to create any jobs in what is called the “tradable sector” of the economy - those jobs that are subject to global competition. The only jobs we’ve really created have been in industries like health care, government, and construction, which are basically local industries shielded from global competition. You can't outsource the building of a New York skyscraper to a Chinese worker.

America hasn’t been able to create jobs in any sector that’s subject to global and technological pressures. As a result, there is a huge sense of disillusionment, disappointment and pessimism among Americans.

Watch: Why Obama should declare a jobs emergency.

None of the Republicans are addressing this problem centrally. They’re simply talking about cutting government spending as if that is going to solve the problem of creating new industries, opportunities and jobs. Simply cutting government strikes me as a very inadequate response to a massive challenge.

Hopefully during the general election, we’ll have a substantive national debate about how to create jobs in America.

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soundoff (641 Responses)
  1. zakariasucks

    The only problem Romney has is re tards like zakaria should just shut their big mouth!

    January 14, 2012 at 5:22 am | Reply
  2. JimfromBirmingham

    You would think that the creative destruction inherent in capitalism would help renew the US economy naturally. One of the problems with unfettered capitalism, however, is when the economy hits a "low", it can go way down below levels that are socially acceptable (and beyond levels that will allow politicians to be re-elected). As a result, we have tinkered with capitalism to the point where we don't know what to adjust, like an auto mechanic who has messed with the carburetor, the fuel line, the spark plugs, etc., to adjust a rattle in the engine. Additionally, everyone of us expects the government to find the "silver bullet" solution to the problem, but if you can truly identify a specific issue that is wrong with the economy, it is multi-causational, not merely a single cause. Finally, we need a government that historically solves major problems through compromise to muddle through this mess. Even if you accept the belief that Congressmen, Senators, the President and the civil servants are smarter than the average citizen (which certainly seems doubtful on many occasions), that's a tall order.

    January 14, 2012 at 8:56 am | Reply
  3. thewind

    Making a living out of high interest has NEVER been a good way of life. This includes hedging business, stock, high interest credit and many of Wall Street approaches. Mr. Romney grows up with this background. A history has recorded, the best leaders are the people persons and down the earth who e.g. knows how to flip the soil and grow seeds to crops. If the occupiers have been parading for greediness of the 1%, after that choose Romney as a leader, it seems pathetic.

    January 14, 2012 at 9:29 am | Reply
  4. Rick McDaniel

    The best thing Obama can do is NOTHING! Every time he does something, he simply makes the situation much worse. He cannot buy his way out of these problems by spending money. He has to solve the core problems.......which continue to go totally unaddressed.

    This country is not going to recover. It isn't going to recover, because business no longer needs America to be successful and to make money. That's the bottom line. There are too many other places where business can operate, and they can do it cheaply, in many ways.

    January 14, 2012 at 9:35 am | Reply
  5. craig

    Romney's real problem is he's a fake, phony, disingenuine person just like a lot of politicians running for office who make big promises. He will say and do anything to get elected and make profit. He is the face/poster child of 1%, wallstreet barons, fat cats and corporations who put profit over people. A example is Bain capital where Romney and his buddies made profit, but jobs were lost. He claims he created jobs at Bain and while he was governor of Massachusetts where is the proof. I want to see ads of workers saying their jobs were saved and created because of Romney. The truth is you don't see the ads. And when he was governor of Massachusetts the state ranked 47th out of 50 in jobs creation. And also his time running for office he has flip flopped on issues like abortion, gun control, gay rights and health care. He been running for office for years and has the same dried up philosophies that have been heard before. Now he is trying to buy his way to the presidency. What makes him think he can change the politics in Washington? He is no different than anyone else in Washington he can't be trusted.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  6. SouthAustin

    Why is Romney running on his record as a businessman in the first place. ? As many pointed out leading in the private sector is nothing like leading in Govt. If he is the jobs guru then what do he do about jobs in MA when he was Governor (a job much more similar in nature to being President) ? He was Governor before the greatest recession since the great depression – and if he is the jobs guru as he says jobs must have being growing on trees in MA during his tenure. The truth is that under Romney MA was 47th out of 50 in jobs growth and Romney left office with a 34% job approval rating with zero chance of being re-elected.. He was a total failure as Governor and would be a total failure as President.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  7. Glenn

    You simply can't compete with countries where the minimum wage is pennies.... without tariffs. We pay more for some goods but benefit in the long term with high employment and a strong middle class.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply
  8. Tim

    The last three years are not the change Obama promised as he campained on. The economy is far worse, the debt has skyrocketed to a frightening new high, unemployment is still higher than when he took office and on and on and on. His vision of a socialist country is against the basic principles on which our country was founded. Obama's inexperience and lack of leadership is ruining our country. He needs to go. Any republican would do a better job than Obama.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Reply
    • strikelightning

      once unemployment benefits exhausted, you're not counted as being unemployed anymore. figure in those unemployed and the unemployment rate is much higher than the government would have you believe.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
  9. jordy

    Romney's problem is he's trying to act like a person he isn't. He is claiming to be an individual who understands the economy better than anyone else just like all these crooked politicians. He is not a fortune teller and prognosticator of the economy. If he was a great creator of jobs someone would have said how many jobs he helped to create at Bain or as governor. I don't hear about it I hear he was ranked 47th out of 50 as governor of Massachusetts in job creation. And at Bain I've heard him say he created 100,000 jobs. How and when did he create these jobs? Where are the testimonials of people benefiting from these mysterious jobs? I don't hear these questions answered. It is outrageous and disingenuous when politicians on both sides make up false claims they can magically make the economy great. No one individual can make the economy great. All of the these slick politicians are guilty of misleading the public. It is the duty of the people to do research on these so called leaders and hold them accountable and making sure the politicians are doing what they say.

    January 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  10. Stan

    It seems everyone is missing the point: you can't compete with someone able to work (and survive, even if in crap conditions that they are used to) for $4-5 per DAY if you are in the USA. I know, I tried, but between the tax fraud and the like, a bunch of guys/gals from overseas came from overseas and destroyed my career. They made $10-11 an hour here, and after 6 years, they went home to enjoy about $900,000.00 (taxes paid!!!) for the rest of their life. They are now in the Phillipines (1994 PerCap: $740 yr VS USA PerCap: $8400.00 yr). Do the MATH!

    January 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  11. rob

    I don't think any of these candidates has ever had to worry about whether they can pay rent, putting food on the table and sleeping in cars. They (the candidates) cannot talk about real issues, because they have never lived them. And out of all these candidates running for office. Romney is the richest and he has stated many people are envious of the rich because they are successful. How could he possibly understand the common person's problems? Simple he can't.

    January 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  12. Bob

    Well thank god Obama has no problems or none that CNN would ever talk about..

    January 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  13. Jumae

    I would love it if some one would be gracious enough to tell me what happen to COMMOM SENSE..It makes one wonder if some of us should be on drugs to see that a duck is a duck if it looks the part quacks and swim in the lake . ...My God... I came accross a couple during the course of my job in the medical field who did not have health insurance and one of them was on social security disability, but did not have medicare. I bring this up just to give those of you ( who are willing to see) just how some of us have been convinced to chop off our own arm. The couple tells me that they do not need Obama's care because it would be just Canada, having to wait to long for a test or procedure. I ask them how do they know this? They said that's what they have been question ? how could anyone know if it has not been implemented yet. Well that didn't go over well, to that they stated that government shouldn't be in health care, but I ask ..What is medicare, the medicare that you want is Goverment..dah... Then the couple states that they did have insurance but could no longer afford the premium and had to let it go. Okay... so you need affordable health insurance right? Yeah, but not government insurance...okay...Them they informed me that the medical insurance companies need to lower their premiums...So I asked them this simple question...have you ever watched the ticker tape of the stock exchange? well the ssinsurance company basically stay in the green not red, which means they are making you really expect the insurance companies to lower their premiums.....I don't think so ..not with the cost of health care. I did not / could not discuss the fact that although they did not have health insurance they were being treated and the government was paying some of that bill even though they did not have governemnt insurance . It would have been fruitless to tell them that they way I understand it is that their premium would be based upon their income and it should be affordable , that they could not be turned down because of their poor health.. that they themselves drives up the cost of healthcare by not having any coverage.
    I think that all those who are so against national healthcare should spend the day at their local hospital ER. Then what say yea, refuse treatment and let the people suffer or even die on the sidewalk...what sa yea....

    January 15, 2012 at 12:23 am | Reply
  14. Juan In El Paso

    So now Zakaria is telling us what Romney's real problem is? Is he the one that gets to decide? Or is the liberal media telling all of the drones what to think agian. I would just once like to see a story with unbais point and then counter point.

    January 15, 2012 at 1:05 am | Reply
  15. Niraj Chandra

    A very perceptive article. Great job, Fareed.
    I think that America's problem is that everyone has an extreme point of view. There is never a balanced approach to problems such as job growth.
    Extreme capitalism, which the Republicans preach, will destroy rather than create jobs. Neither will extreme socialism, because the government cannot take over job creation; it is not sustainable.
    Where is the balance? Both the US and Canada need to find this balance.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:22 am | Reply
  16. Ben

    Farheed, you are an expert on Pakistan, all things middle East, The European debt criss, South American neo-socialist politics and now Romney to name a few. How do you maintain all that knowledge in that little head of yours?

    January 15, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
  17. Bob

    "Now it is striking that this attack is coming in a Republican presidential primary. After all, what Romney did while at Bain Capital was classic capitalist 'creative destruction.' He took over businesses and tried to make them more productive and efficient. To do so, he often had to shed jobs.
    "Republicans should be celebrating Romney’s prior work as an example of how the market functions – driving out inefficiency, generating productivity and creating a lean, mean capitalist machine."

    One suspects that the reality is that most rank-and-file Republicans do not fully appreciate the extent to which "market capitalism" (a new political buzz word) is about layoffs and outsourcing - in addition to reducing salaries, benefits and retirement payments to U.S. workers who are not laid off. It's possible that a lot of them think they're voting about affirmative action and welfare benefits (not realizing that they may need welfare benefits themselves in a decade or so).

    January 15, 2012 at 10:58 am | Reply
  18. Anne G


    In reference to your article “Romney’s Real Problem”, CNN 1/11/12, I agree with you as far as you’ve gone. The Republicans are not addressing the REAL ISSUE: How do we create new industries that are wealth-producing in order for the nation to pay its bills.

    However, you have not acknowledged that the Democrats have also failed to address this issue. Thus, in my opinion, you continue to encourage a great divide in our country – the Left versus the Right. Certainly a polarized political approach to such a root dilemma is not in the best interests of our country.

    Based on past experience, to hope for a “substantive national debate” during the general election is unrealistic. And why should we be looking exclusively to “a political solution”? Maybe we should approach the challenge as an experienced business would: bring together the “Best and Brightest” in a constructive environment that objectively defines the scope of challenge, evaluates the various alternatives, and selects the best approach to address this huge problem.

    Unless this happens we are SUNK!

    January 15, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  19. Rick

    Romney believes in the idea of Austerity Measures, which is what Europe is doing now. Essentially he wants to cut the economy, not the debt. This is meant to help the banks, not the people and doesn't address the fact that the only reason we are afloat at all is because of our economy which pays the interest rates on that massive debt. When the economy shrinks we can't pay either the debt nor the interest on it.

    Romney is a fool.

    January 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  20. Steve

    Very little difference between Obama and Romney, both are puppets of the same special interests. there is little difference between their policies.

    Ron Paul is the only candidate for change.

    January 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  21. Hab Theory

    Why can't the GOP run someone with even half the intellect of Fahreed? He's the only one who can make sense out of the mess we've gotten ourselves in today.

    January 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  22. Nelba

    Zakaria misses the boat about the jobs created in recent years. They are jobs that do not bring in money. He says "The only jobs we’ve really created have been in industries like health care, government, and construction," These consume our money without bringing it in.

    January 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  23. AJ

    What you don't understand Fahreed, is that the private sector is best for creating jobs. If you tax them, they'll move to other countries. When the government runs the economy, it's socialist and just ruins everything to where only the companies that get government money do well. And then they raise the prices on their goods causing inflation.

    January 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
    • Winston

      For example, fed education dept got a huge budget annually, yet spend 40% of those $$$$$$$ on overhead, i.e. adminstration operation at DC. When the rest of money goes to states, another 40% of remaining budget will be spent on state adminstration of education dept plus on the accompliance to fed education policy. How much money really goes to our teachers and children per head? You do the math. This has been going for more than three decades? It is simply legal corruption. That is why there are so many fat cats running around DC area and the real estates are so booming.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  24. Mark B

    Bring any of those clowns on. Obama will beat Romney without blinking. Just take your loss. Republican ideas created this recession, it takes democrats to bring things back.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  25. drew

    Colbert for prez in 2012.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  26. anonymous

    Too bad Zakaria can't run for president - he has infinitely more to offer than any of the GOP candidates, candidates whose lack of compassion and ethics and understanding of the problems America is facing is compounded by their inherent arrogance and willful disregard of the majority of Americans well-being.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
    • arapikos

      I really like his thorough analysis of the issues. But remember, it is quite a feat to sit on the sidelines and take issue with our concerns as well as make projections and forecasts on "How it should be done". However, once in the pot of boiling water, it is and will always be a different "ball of wax".

      January 16, 2012 at 3:00 am | Reply
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