And at another, he said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” The former Massachusetts governor later emphasized he was talking about health insurance and how people should have choices with their health care.
For all the criticism, there’s been a collective shrug in South Carolina so far, perhaps because of the way many workers view employers in the state.
It’s only about a generation removed from a time when companies essentially created villages by building the houses, schools, ball fields, dance halls and churches their employees used. Wages were low and these companies provided almost everything, creating a society where even surviving outside of an employer’s benevolence may have seemed impossible.
Malissa Burnette has seen such bonds between employers and workers in her 35 years as a labor attorney who has represented workers suing their employers in the state.
“When employees come to me, I see a lot of shock and disillusionment and disappointment in their employers because they did have the belief that employers were there to treat them well, look after them, to have their best interest at heart,” Burnette says.
Further evidence of how the people in South Carolina view businesses can be found on the Facebook page of Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Romney last month. She spent her first year in office fighting unions and encouraging businesses find to come to the state.
“South Carolina continues to be one of the lowest union participation states in the country,” Haley wrote on Facebook in November. “The reason is that our companies understand that they have to take care of those that take care of them. Our employees appreciate the direct honest relationship that they have with their employers. It will continue to be a winning combination.”
To be sure, there are voters in South Carolina who are angry with the way businesses operate these days. Just ask Wayne Ott, 64, who was applying for unemployment for the first time in his life after being laid off after 40 years as a truck driver.
“I believe in capitalism. I just don’t think we’ve been doing it right,” Ott said. He is deciding between Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum because he thinks Romney is part of a greater problem of people who get rich without earning it.
Others are taking a more pragmatic approach.
Angela Frost, 41, lost her job as an insurance underwriter in September. She blames Obama for the stagnant economy and has decided to support Romney because she thinks he has the best chance of winning back the White House.
“Cutting jobs and closing businesses are a part of the system,” Frost said. “The system has failed a lot of people. You can’t blame one person for the system.”