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How Fiorina Should Answer the "Exporting Jobs" Charge

The nation is watching carefully the California Senate contest between career politician Barbara Boxer and businesswoman Carli Fiorina.  In a place where Democrats reign supreme, the close election in California has frightened Democrats and energized Republicans.

In an anti-incumbency year, Fiorina has benefited from contrasting her executive experience against her opponents political experience.  Boxer has responded by turning Fiorina’s executive experience against her, claiming Fiorina exported 30,000 jobs overseas while CEO of Hewlett Packard.  Here’s Boxer from her opening statement of the September 1 debate:

And when I talk about shipping jobs overseas, I'm reminded of my opponent.

When she was CEO of Hewlett Packard, before she was terminated, actually, she shipped 30,000 jobs overseas.  Think of it.  That's the size of Foster City.  And through all of that pain, what did she do to show any sacrifice?  She took $100 million.  So that reminds me of Wall Street.

Admittedly, it’s a difficult charge to answer, and Boxer was debating in real time.  But if she had time to think, perhaps she would have responded like this:

To be a CEO in the private sector means one must make difficult, and sometimes painful, decisions.  All of those decisions are based on the needs of the company, the efficient use of company resources, and the reality of the balance sheet.   It is devastating to lose a job to outsourcing, and I hated making those decisions.  When we had to outsource, we did everything we could at HP to soften the blow to the people affected. 

But the global economy is a reality; and if a CEO makes uneconomic decisions, it threatens the existence of the company, the jobs of every other employee in the company, and the thousands of others who count on the company to fund their investments and retirement.  Like a company our country needs leaders who will make economic rather than political decisions--leaders who won’t cause the economy as a whole to suffer because they want to please a particular interest group. 

For 28 years, my opponent has had the luxury of spending your money without having to make tough decisions. To Senator Boxer resources are endless and there is no need to spend wisely as long as the Chinese are willing to finance our debt and our grandchildren are willing to pay the interest.  In the private sector I had no such luxury.  I could not fall back on the ability to print money or borrow from the next generation.  I had to make the best decision I could and live with it.

As a career politician, Senator Boxer has expected, because she’s a Democrat, that you would never hold her accountable for what she has done—or hasn’t done—in Washington.  Think about it.  How much money have you and your neighbors sent to Washington in 28 years?  And what does Barbara Boxer have to show for it?  Every step of the way, she’s made poor decisions that have jeopardized California and the entire nation.  And now Senator Boxer is asking us—even after witnessing the results—to send her back to D.C. for more of the same.