The Wrong Way to Bash Mitt Romney

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"We've always encouraged young people," Mitt Romney said in a speech to students at Otterbein University in Ohio today. "Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business."

Liberal sites and commentators immediately jumped on Romney for asking students to borrow from their folks. ("The advice fits right into the characterization that Romney is 'out of touch' with regular people," Annie-Rose Strasser wrote in an instantly ubiquitous post this afternoon.) Romney might be the wrong messenger. His family members were very rich, and not every son and daughter has a mom or dad with thousands of dollars to spare. But there's nothing wrong about this particular message.

Young entrepreneurs borrowing from their parents is commonplace. Almost half of Asian immigrant start-ups tap family for loans. Entrepreneurs have a phrase, "the Three Fs," to refer to the friends, family, and fools necessary to get small companies off the ground. The Small Business Association has a page dedicated to help start-up firms approach family members for money in a polite and constructive way. Bottom line: It's not culturally insensitive to suggest risk-takers ask their parents for money. It's sensible, and it's common.

If you're going to go after the Romney recipe for entrepreneurship from the left, I'd say go after anything but this statement. Go after his tax plan, which cuts government revenue while raising rates slightly at the bottom. Go after the Romney-endorsed Paul Ryan budget, whose obliteration of non-defense discretionary spending would threaten the SBA, R&D spending, infrastructure spending, education investment, technology purchases, and other initiatives that could support entrepreneurship. Go after Romney's disingenuous critique of universal health care, a "socialist" solution, for sure, but one that would actually support start-ups by guaranteeing health insurance regardless of employment. Fear of not having insurance keeps some young people from starting companies, and fear of losing coverage locks entrepreneurial employees to a firm.

Eventually, commentators from the left will come to the conclusion that something less than 100% of what Mitt Romney says is wrong. Until then, they can at least focus their withering laser beams on the bigger picture.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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