By Justin Sink - 05/24/12 01:58 PM EDT
Mitt Romney accused President Obama of "attacking capitalism" and defended the record of Bain Capital as "solid" in a rebuttal Thursday to the president's critique of his tenure at the private-equity firm.
Romney argued that Bain had an overall record of economic success and was an example of American capitalism at work.
In his comments, Romney was responding to three central criticisms advanced by the Obama campaign this week: that Romney's venture capital firm had exploited companies for the economic gain of executives, that Romney was advocating failed Bush-era economic policies and that Romney had equated productivity with personal income to suggest Americans weren't working hard enough.
The presumptive Republican nominee added that it "certainly sounds like" the president was attacking the free market system.
"There's no question but that he's attacking capitalism, in part, I think, because he doesn't understand how the free economy works. He's never had a job in the free economy; neither has Vice President Biden," Romney said.
The Obama campaign has released two ads focused on companies that failed, shed jobs our went out of business after being purchased by Bain. Obama has personally said Romney has not drawn the lessons from his background in private equity that voters should want in a president.
At a campaign event Wednesday, he said Romney's working assumption is that if "CEOs and wealthy investors like him get rich, then the rest of us automatically will, too."
"What Gov. Romney doesn't seem to get is that a healthy economy doesn't just mean a few folks maximizing their profits through massive layoffs or busting unions," Obama said at the event, in Colorado. "You don't make America stronger by shipping jobs and profits overseas. When you propose cutting taxes while raising them on 18 million working families, that's not a recipe for broad-based economic growth."
Romney defended his economic proposals during his television appearance Thursday, saying his plans to repeal the president's signature healthcare reform package, revamp the country's energy strategy and reduce the deficit all qualified as fresh ideas that broke the mold of former President George W. Bush.
"It's actually kind of funny listening to him. I just described three things I'd do — they have nothing to do with what's [been] done in the past," Romney said. "These are new problems we have that have been created by President Obama; they need new solutions if we're going to get this economy going again."
Romney also responded to the president's critique of his handling of an Iowa woman who asked about keeping good jobs in the state after her employer moved five hours away. As part of his answer, Romney discussed the concept of productivity, and at one point argued "our productivity equals our income" as part of a larger discussion about the benefit of free market competition. The president has seized on this remark during campaign speeches to insinuate Romney is out of touch.
"When a woman in Iowa shared the story of her financial struggles, he gave an answer right out of an economics textbook. He said, ‘Our productivity equals our income,’ as if the only reason people can’t pay their bills is because they’re not productive enough. Well, that’s not what’s going on. Most of us who have spent some time talking to people understand that the problem isn’t that the American people aren’t working hard enough, aren’t productive enough — you’ve been working harder than ever," Obama said earlier this month while campaigning in Seattle.
Romney responded to that critique by saying he was "amazed” that the president “doesn't know what productivity means."
"I'm afraid he doesn't understand what the word ‘productivity’ means. Gosh, this is quite a revelation if you have the president of the United States that doesn't understand that productivity is a measure of output per person in the nation as a whole, and is driven by such things as the level of automation in a society, the extent to which the government encourages output and production, it's not just a measure of how hard people are working. As a matter of fact, the American people are harder-working than people in France, in Europe, even in Germany," Romney said.
Romney was interviewed from Philadelphia, where later Thursday morning he will tour one of the city's charter schools. On Wednesday, Romney outlined his education plan, with an emphasis on vouchers and charter schools, during a speech in Washington, D.C.
This story was posted at 8:51 a.m. and updated at 9:58 a.m.