WBUR

Bain Is Fair Game

Thomas S. Monaghan, founder and chairman of Domino's Pizza, Inc., left, and Mitt Romney, managing director of Bain Capital, Inc., sign an agreement for Monaghan to sell a "significant portion" of his stake in the company to Bain Capital Sept. 25, 1998, in New York. (AP)

Thomas S. Monaghan, founder and chairman of Domino's Pizza, Inc., left, and Mitt Romney, managing director of Bain Capital, Inc., sign an agreement for Monaghan to sell a "significant portion" of his stake in the company to Bain Capital Sept. 25, 1998, in New York. (AP)

If you run for president on your private sector experience, then it should be examined, judged and open to criticism. Mitt Romney has no trouble blaming President Obama for unemployment, the housing market, gas prices, tight credit, health care and the entire federal deficit.

But he takes offense when his experience as a venture capitalist is questioned. Romney says Obama doesn’t know how the private sector creates jobs and that he does because of his work at Bain Capital. That depends on what happens to your job when private equity comes to your town.

The downside of private equity, aka venture capital, is a much bigger deal if you live in places where people still work in manufacturing or hold a job that doesn’t require staring at a computer all day. These people are “costs” which venture capitalists insist must be squeezed out of a company to improve its balance sheet or share price. Those jobs are often shipped overseas for cheaper labor or they simply disappear. It’s crushing to work at a place for most of your adult life and have some hotshot in a designer suit fly into town and show you the door.

When a private equity firm takes over a business, the fastest way to make it more attractive to potential buyers – Bain doesn’t want to run businesses, they want to flip them for a profit – is to slash payroll and cut costs. Bain investors made money while companies they bought and sold were often forced to fire workers or close down. That didn’t happen 100 percent of the time, but often enough for it to be a painful pattern.

Anti-Worker Attitude

A recent national poll by ABC and the Washington Post shows that Bain is a wash with voters; roughly the same number like and dislike it. Personally, I believe it is a mine that can still be worked in states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Not because people there hate private equity, but because Bain reveals Romney’s cold anti-worker attitude.

Remember, “I like firing people”? Or, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”? Or, “Corporations are human beings, my friend”?

The Even Principle

In politics, there’s a communications tactic I’ll call the “Even Principle.” It refers to someone who should be on your side but isn’t. Such as Cory Booker, the black mayor of Newark, N.J. Even he didn’t like the attacks on Bain.

After he appeared on Meet the Press, Booker got two solid days of free publicity when he said Obama’s TV commercial knocking Bain was “nauseating.” He likened it GOP superPAC’s plans to make Obama’s one-time Chicago preacher, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the subject of televised attacks against the president.

Booker has his reasons. No one outside of New Jersey knew who he was before he decided to excoriate the president. He is said to be interested in running for governor or U.S. senator next year or in 2014. His state is home to more than a few venture capital firms, whose executives are politically active donors. He could also be looking to appear independent, not marching in lockstep with America’s first African American president. Nevertheless, Politico says Booker has angered New Jersey Democrats and may pay a steep price for his high-profile attack.

(Check out Bill Maher and Paul Krugman’s take on Booker’s nausea.)

Feckless Driving

Even Steven Rattner, who was the White House’s “car czar,” took a sharp right turn against Obama’s ads. Before his government service, Rattner had been an investment banker for three global private equity firms. Do you expect him to question the damage his old firms did to people’s livelihoods? He now manages the assets of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Will he soil that bed?

In a column for the New York Times, Rattner said of Romney, “When Staples went public in 1989, it had 1,100 employees; at the end of 1998, right before Mr. Romney exited Bain, it had 42,000 workers. Yet Mr. Romney takes credit for the 89,000 employed at the close of 2010.”

Even Sarah Palin disputed that Romney has created 100,000 jobs. She said questioning it isn’t negative campaigning; it’s fair for a candidate to be held accountable. For the first time in history, Democrats might find themselves agreeing with Palin.

Even Newt Gingrich said it’s “pretty hard to justify rich people [like Romney] figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company.”

Fast And Furious

Bain is the heart of Romney’s campaign; if he can’t convince us that venture capital creates jobs, the foundation of his candidacy collapses. You can tell the Romneyites know Bain bashing is a potentially life-threatening injury because they fought back fast and furiously when the Obama TV spots began running. They immediately created a TV ad defending private equity using Booker’s gift. Romney’s people have done many focus groups testing how to deal with Bain and have a stockpile of new ads with satisfied employees from companies Bain bought.

Wrong Party

When Romney’s handler Eric Fehrnstrom (the Etch A Sketch artist) says using Bain against Romney didn’t work in the primaries, he’s forgetting something. The primaries were for Republicans, not Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. Making money by deliberately destroying people’s livelihoods isn’t something everyone in swing states accepts as how capitalism should work.

Even venture capitalist Rattner said, “Adding jobs was never Mitt Romney’s private sector agenda, and it’s appropriate to question his ability to do so.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • NMPatriot1

    I think it’s wonderful to fire people, loot their pension funds, borrow huge amounts on the company’s back and then let it go bankrupt while I pocket the cash.   If that doesn’t work I can fire the lot and  ship the jobs to China or Thailand.   I can just put that money in my Swiss Bank account.   And I can have that grin on my face the whole time.   And I challenge anyone to walk into Staples and look at where the majority of their products originate.   Hint:  not the United States.  And those high paying jobs (not) at Staples  and Dominos are just what our economy needs.   Heck, you can always get two or three of those jobs.  And don’t expect any benefits.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  You can grow up to do the same thing Romney did.  Hey, he even has a neat term for looting companies and destroying jobs.   Romney calls it “creative destruction”.  Rick Perry was right.  This is “vulture” capitalism that stomps on workers and enriches snotty fat cats like Willard Mitt Romney.  

  • bdcstrong1

    Wonder where Chris Hayes in today… 

  • Bike Mike

    Palin?  She couldn’t, wouldn’t, and won’t handle accountability.

    • http://twitter.com/gary4205 Gary Jackson

      Hahahahahahahaha!

      Yeah that’s why, as Governor she had a sustained approval rating in the mid 90s. The highest of any governor in the country, likely any elected official in the country. The key word here being sustained. The media called it unprecedented.

       That’s why the current mayor of Wasilla STILL credits Sarah Palin for all the prosperity she created when she was mayor. She turned Wasilla from a dirt road nothing, into the shopping hub of the entire Mat-Su Valley, an area roughly the size of the state of Delaware.  About 50,000 people a week shop in the town of roughly 7500 people.

      How about educating yourself before making silly comments online and embarrassing yourself.

      • J__o__h__n

        Why didn’t she finish her term?

  • Bike Mike

    Romney?  His father was born in a foreign country and is of mixed race.  I’d like to see his birth certificate because he wasn’t born in the same state I was born in.

    • http://twitter.com/gary4205 Gary Jackson

      So?  Obama is of mixed race and HIS father was born in a foreign country as well. WORSE, when he became a sperm donor for little Barry, Obama Sr was still  married to his wife in Kenya! 

      And I thought it was the Mormons who believed in polygamy!

      Intelligence and being a democrat really is a mutually exclusive proposition, isn’t it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Proj-Coord/100000923461988 Proj Coord

    Most American Working Class do not understand what is happening to them when it happens, Most refer to venture capitalists/investment bankers as “New Owners”. They really don’t  have  a clue on the disposition of the often called new owners. Infact what they are told before and during the process is that “there are going to be some changes and we don’t know “who all” will be affected”. That’s how the naive loyal employee is prepared for the “slow death” of the “hatchet men”. First thing they do is disable everybody by “freezing capital improvement”. Then they move to cut people and double work load on the survivors now stricken with utmost fear of losing their jobs. Any idiot can improve bottom line instantly if you have one person do  two or three people’s work. They cut it all the way past the bone and only stop when things start falling apart such as employees getting injured at work due to fatigue. In a nutshell, their job is to push an organization to the critical level of human endurance. They might call it productivity, but it is really Capitalism showing its ugly side (aka.. cracking the jockey’s whip). Unfortunately, there’s no central point to educated/inform citizens on these types of matters. Oftentimes, worried employees seek  strength and counseling with their ministers who generally suggest they pray about it because they too don’t really have the foggiest idea that the hatchet man is at work.   So ignorance before and after protects  the Investment Banker’s atrocities from coming to light except for times like this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dorlan.francis Dorlan H. Francis

    As CEO of BAIN Mitt Romney was a GREEDY CORPORATE RAIDER. When he was a VENTURE CAPITALIST that was fine. That’s when he financed Staples. But he morphed in to a corporate buy-out specialist where his philosophy and focus changed to SHORT TERM PROFITS by any means necessary including using crippling debt to pay dividends. Most of which went in to his and his friends pockets. It is interesting to note that when they had CONTROLLING INTEREST they PLUNDERED companies. Most of the companies that BAIN invested in and which prospered had BAIN as MINORITY SHAREHOLDERS and hence they could not employ the PLUNDER strategy.

  • http://twitter.com/gary4205 Gary Jackson

    Oh please left wing loons, PLEASE attack Romney on Bain. Newt Gingrich might be the GOP nominee today if he hadn’t decided to take the left wing, occupy crowd’s stupidity as his own. Attacking Romney over Capitalism sunk his campaign immediately! 

    By the way, Dear Leader Obama has taken more money from Bain than any candidate in history. In fact he’s funded by the corrupt wall street crowd, and has taken more campaign cash from bankers, lawyers, lobbyists, and other sorted “enemies” of the left than any candidate in history.

    Please, please, PLEASE attack Romney, a self made businessman, who created wealth for the millions of mom and pop investors who owned stock in the various companies he saved.

    The American people are sick of the democrat party’s war on women, minorities, wealth, and the middle class.

    BTW, NPR, you tool of the democrat party, you completely misrepresent what Sarah Palin said, of course, one would expect no less from a wholly owned subsidiary of the democrat party.

    Thanks for playing.

    • J__o__h__n

      He wasn’t self made.  His father was.

      Newt had no chance of getting the nomination. 

Most Popular