Romney tries to confuse this issue by focusing on a handful of firms he was involved in founding, like Staples and Bright Horizons. Essentially, he talks about his work as though he had been in venture capital, not private equity. But an essential part of private equity is shutting down things that don’t work, or are too expensive. To succeed in private equity, you have to be comfortable being the hatchet man.

The funny thing is that, framed correctly, Romney could turn this into an asset. There are large parts of the government that don’t work or are too expensive. There is a culture in government of continuing to do things just because we’ve always done them, and continuing to employ people because we have always employed them. This doesn’t just make government expensive, it also crowds out resources that could be spent on improvements of public services.

A private equity mentality in the public sector could do a lot of good for making the government more efficient, and therefore serving taxpayers better. As I’ve written before, it’s not the solution to all the problems in American governance, but it would be a good approach for some of them, and Romney could talk about why.