Welcome to the Archive of The Carrboro Citizen Logo Image

Mrs. Romney and I

By Vicky Dickson

After I read about Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican convention, it struck me that she and I have a lot in common. We both married in our very early twenties, and each of those marriages has lasted for decades. Neither of us has “worked” (in the sense of earning money for our contributions to family and community) since our children were born. And we’re both way more acquainted with disease than we’d like to be. (Though I’ve never been diagnosed with breast cancer, that disease killed my mother and afflicted both my sisters and my cousin. And that cousin’s brother suffered and died from multiple sclerosis.)

Mrs. Romney and I are alike too in that we understand the long hours and the sacrifice that goes along with being married to men who’ve started and sustained businesses. We understand, better than most people, the toll it can take on a person to have a business’s success or failure rest squarely on his or her shoulders. So we’re both very proud of our husbands, and of what they’ve accomplished.

Where we differ though (aside from a very obvious difference in wealth) is perhaps in the source of our pride. My husband co-owns two very small businesses that together employ no more than ten or eleven people. One of those is The Carrboro Citizen, which he co-founded and has self-funded for more than five years, with the help of a loan from the town of Carrboro. The other is a weekly newspaper owned by his family that has been in operation for over a hundred years.

Throughout his stewardship of both of those businesses, my husband has consistently focused on the needs of the people working for him, and very often to his own disadvantage. When the family newspaper lost a contract that amounted to half its business – a contract it had held for 35 years – my husband, his brother-in-law and his cousin all cut their own salaries by two-thirds before asking any of their employees to sacrifice. And when it became clear that layoffs were the only way to ensure the company’s survival, my husband endured a great many sleepless nights.

He couldn’t sleep because he knew those people, some of whom had been hired by his father years before my husband ever came into the business. He knew them, and so he worried about how they’d survive a layoff. He knew the importance of those employees’ jobs to their families and their community.

At Bain Capital though, Mitt Romney was in the business of firing people. His goal, whenever Bain acquired a company, was to make that company more efficient. And efficiency apparently often entailed layoffs. Even the jobs Romney claims to have helped create – at Staples and the Sports Authority, for example – undoubtedly came at the cost of other jobs at mom-and-pop office-supply and sports-equipment stores in communities all across the country.

My husband’s newspapers are mom-and-pop operations. He knows what it’s like to have a bigger company take his business away: the family newspaper’s lost contract was awarded to a company with almost 500 employees. And the companies that now threaten the survival of his business model – Internet advertising companies like Facebook and Google – have employees all over the world and billions of dollars.

So I hate hearing Mr. Romney say he loves small business and that his policies of tax cuts and deregulation will help us grow. We’ll never be in a position to profit by his proposed tax cut for people making more than $250,000 a year (less than 2 percent of small-business owners are) and our newspapers spend very little money complying with regulations.

What we need instead is a leader who will talk about the jobs that are lost to business efficiencies, whether such efficiencies involve the Internet, offshoring or mechanization. We need a leader who will search out creative ways to ameliorate such losses, and not be afraid to enlist government in that process. We need a leader who prioritizes creating jobs, and thus helping families and communities, over buying and selling businesses to create maximum profit.

Mr. Romney is not that kind of leader.

Vicky Dickson is co-owner of The Carrboro Citizen.

Comments are closed.