I can halfway understand it when it's politicians like Ryan, Newt Gingrich, and some others doing the bloviating. They have no substantive private sector experience. Gingrich, for example, went from grad school to teaching at a public university to being a professional politician. His private sector experience came after he left government, and then it consisted (and still consists) of selling himself, not a particularly useful product. Ryan has at least seen the private sector from the sidelines -- his great grandfather founded Ryan Construction, a company that grew into a substantial business -- although his entire adult life has been spent in government, first as an intern and employee and then as a career politician. The no real-world experience leaves them free to fantasize about how much better things must be outside the stifling constraints of a government bureaucracy. I get it. I worked for the government, too, and I'm familiar with the frustrations.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, should know better. He was, after all, a
Of course, businesses fail all the time. Maybe Bain just sped up the inevitable a little for the companies it sucked the life out of. A person doesn't have to do much research to come up a lengthy list of companies that were booming not many years ago and have faded into obscurity or totally vanished today. Kodak, Enron, American Motors, Gimbels Department Stores, Woolworth's, Eastern Airlines . . . the "rust belt" is full of industrial ruins, the remnants of what used to be foundries and factories, and every state has its ghost towns that boomed for awhile around a sawmill, a copper mine, or a textile mill. It doesn't matter what area of the private sector -- manufacturing, extractive, or service -- a business is in, it can fail. It can fail fast -- the Small Business Administration optimistically notes that "70% of new business are still in operation two years later," which is another way of saying that 30% have gone belly up -- or it can fail slow. Studebaker was in business for over 100 years and successfully transitioned from building wagons to building automobiles, but bad management succeeded in killing the company in the 1960s. Woolworth's and Gimbels were both retail giants for decades, but longevity wasn't enough to save them.
The Small Business Administration also says that the five year survival rate for new businesses is a whopping 51%. Wow. That's definitely cheerful news. If you start a new business, you've got a 50/50 chance of staying in business long enough to pay off a car loan.
Which brings me back to my original question: why the fetishization of the private sector? Based on its failure rates, the private sector doesn't exactly inspire confidence it would be a good role model for government. The one thing it does well appears to be failure. You know what they call it when governments fail? Bosnia. Rwanda. Somalia. Afghanistan. Things get really messy, and people die.
[I do actually know the answer to my rhetorical question. Romney et al. want to apply the Bain model to the U.S. government, i.e., strip it of anything worth selling, award no-bid contracts to their cronies, and then pass the cannibalized corpse back to the next administration to try to re-animate.]