An interesting video has surfaced on Youtube of a speech purportedly by US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made — we’re told — during a fundraiser. The video appears to have been taken secretly, so you can’t really see Romney on the clip, but it sure sounds heck of a lot like him. In the speech, Romney shares with the audience what he saw on a visit to a Chinese factory “back in my private equity days” with a Bain partner.
The video, originally posted by a person who called herself “Rachel Maddow”, with no info other than that it was taken “in a private mansion…at a $50,000 per plate fundraiser,” has been removed from Youtube after the real Rachel Maddow said she had nothing to do with the video. Fortunately, it’s been saved by other internet users and re-uploaded to the video-sharing site.
Here’s a transcript of what Romney said in his speech:
“95% of life is set up for you if you were born in this country. And, I remember going to ah, uh, sorry just to bore you with stories.
When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there. It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married.
And they work in these huge factories, they made various uh, small appliances. And uh, as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours theyworked per day, the pitance they earned, living in dormitories with uh, with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10, 10 room, rooms. And the rooms they have 12 girls per room.
Three bunk beds on top of each other. You’ve seen, you’ve seen them? (Oh…yeah, yeah!) And, and, and around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire andguard towers. And, and, we said gosh! I can’t believe that you, you know, keep these girls in! They said, no, no, no. This is to keep other people from coming in.
Because people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out. Or they will just come in here and start working and, and try and get compensated. So we, this is to keep people out. And they said, actually Chinese New Year as the girls go home, sometimes they decide they’ve saved enough money and they don’t come back to the factory.
And he said, so, on the weekend after Chinese New Year there will be a line of people hundreds long, outside the factory, hoping that some girls haven’t come back. And they can come to the factory. And, and so as we were experiencing this for the first time, going to see a factory like this in China some years ago.
The Bain Partner I was with turned to me and said, you know, 95% of life is settled if you are born in America. This is uh, this is an amazing land and what we have is unique and fortunately it is so special we are sharing it with the world.”
Liberal blog Addicting Info offers a scathing response to Romney’s speech:
Mitt Romney, with his refusal to pay his fair share in taxes, is proving himself to be the most ungrateful, most insidious type of American. If this video is real, he’s admitting that his American birthright accounts for 95% of his success. If he was truly honest with himself and with us, he’d admit that at least another 4% of his success came from the fortune and business acumen handed down to him from his father.
Romney steals America’s resources, makes himself vastly wealthy, and refuses to pay the rent that is due to the American taxpayers. Instead, he shelters his money in places like the Cayman Islands and makes every effort to avoid showing us exactly how much we are being ripped off.
Perhaps even more frightening is that Romney is running to be the leader of our country. I have long felt that anyone running for national office should immediately divest from all private investments and put their fortunes into treasury bills and bonds. If a person wants to be handed the keys to our country, they should have personal investment in our country, not in China or in the Cayman Islands.
If we, as Americans, invest in the success of our wealthiest and most successful, it’s not too much to ask for our president or congressional leaders to personally invest in ours.
If in fact, Bain did buy this factory, and the working conditions were not changed, I hope it becomes viral, but for now, we have a pretty good idea that Romney agrees with the contention that many hands go into helping an American success story.
Romney supporter SooperMexican says liberal blogs like the above have got it all wrong. Their point, he says, is to
“try to make him sound like a heartless evil capitalist exploiting workers, but the entire context of the story shows what many conservatives believe about such factories – conditions in other countries are so terrible that factory jobs are in high demand and greatly improve the lives of those who work there.”
One final interesting take:
Romney entirely misses the real moral of his story. He has just told us a story that illustrates two sides of the same unequal process. The women in that Chinese factory work making products for the global market. Their labor at “the China price” has made it possible for Americans to maintain a high standard of living despite falling real wages. Americans enjoy larger houses purchased with low-interest loans. We have less environmental pollution and are drowning in so many cheap products that some people have to rent mobile storage units to keep it all. If 95% of life for someone born in America is “settled,” as Romney asserts, then it is because we benefit from the fundamental inequality of the global production system.
Those women in that Chinese factory work for us.
Of course, by saying this, I don’t mean to simply lay a guilt trip on average American consumers. In spite of what many seem to think, consuming is not like voting—consumer choices don’t affect global economic policy the way that politics does. Simply blaming the misplaced desires of consumers won’t get us very far. The responsibility gets disproportionally larger going up the chain—making corporations and governments much more responsible than an average American worker trying to save a few bucks by buying cheap stuff at Walmart. Romney and Bain were, after all, buying the factory. They could have paid higher wages and offered a better package to their workers. As a powerful global company they could also, potentially, have more influence on local Chinese government officials to enforce China’s national labor standards. They could also reject the logic of the China price entirely by keeping some jobs back for their fellow Americans back in the United States. Perhaps this did happen. Romney doesn’t share these details. But, why do I doubt it?
Most importantly, however, Romney fails to recognize that his own spectacular wealth and the wealth, I am sure, of others in that room comes from accumulating the difference between those women “working for a pittance” in China and what Americans who buy those appliances pay to low cost retailers back in the US.
What this video shows is much less sensational than an admission of slave labor. What it does expose, however, I find more profoundly disturbing for different reasons. The hidden camera reveals the simple worldview of a powerful and very wealthy man among powerful and wealthy people who isn’t aware of what he is actually saying. It appears that behind words like “amazing” and “unique” and “special,” Romney has a very empty notion of what America is and how it relates to the rest of the world. While Mitt no doubt knows much about turning a profit, it appears that he doesn’t have a clue about the fundamental inequalities of the global economy or have any moral vision that can see the lives of those people in China as linked to ours.