Pot, Kettle, Black

If it is possible to bring down presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency Mitt Romney on the basis of his record at Bain Capital, we may be seeing that moment now. My guess is that the impact will be muted. In June, the Washington Post reported,

While economists debate whether the massive outsourcing of American jobs over the last generation was inevitable, Romney in recent months has lamented the toll it’s taken on the U.S. economy. He has repeatedly pledged he would protect American employment by getting tough on China.

“They’ve been able to put American businesses out of business and kill American jobs,” he told workers at a Toledo fence factory in February. “If I’m president of the United States, that’s going to end.”

Speaking at a metalworking factory in Cincinnati last week, Romney cited his experience as a businessman, saying he knows what it would take to bring employers back to the United States. “For me it’s all about good jobs for the American people and a bright and prosperous future,” he said.

For years, Romney’s political opponents have tried to tie him to the practice of outsourcing American jobs. These political attacks have often focused on Bain’s involvement in specific business deals that resulted in job losses.[1]

The story makes clear that Romney is far from innocent in the export of relatively well-paying jobs from the United States.[2] And it was already known that Romney’s company, which “under Romney’s leadership, . . . became one of the nation’s top leveraged-buyout firms,” often made money even as the companies it purchased failed or laid off workers.[3]

Bain managers said their mission was clear. “I never thought of what I do for a living as job creation,” said Marc B. Walpow, a former managing partner at Bain who worked closely with Romney for nine years before forming his own firm. “The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.”[4]

So voters may have already decided whether they believe that outsourcing and vulture capitalism was a good or inevitable thing, a manifestation of capitalist “creative destruction” which would reallocate labor resources (never mind that these “resources” are human beings who need to eat, pay rent, provide for families, etc.) to more “productive” (for which read “profitable,” and never mind that the replacement jobs, to the extent they exist at all, often pay far less than the jobs that have been lost[5]) or a bad thing that has contributed to widening income inequality and undermined the U.S. economy by making consumers more reliant on credit—and a fraud-driven housing value bubble that has now popped[6]—to finance their consumerism.

That may be why the latest revelations, that Romney retained 100 percent ownership of Bain Capital and was—formally at least—chief executive officer for longer than previously reported and that even before supposedly handing off control in 1999 he invested in a Chinese company that made no secret of its specialization in outsourcing may not move polls much.[7]

But there’s a better reason for voters not to care much. In three words, pot, kettle, black. Incumbent President Barack Obama’s economic team continues to be dominated by anti-regulation neoliberals focused on returning the financial system to (fraudulent) “business as usual” while largely leaving homeowners facing foreclosures and the unemployed to twist in the wind.[8] His re-election campaign co-chair has a record as “a private equity manager whose firm has shut down several factories and laid off hundreds of people amid a stalled economy” which bears enough resemblance to Romney’s that one has to question Obama’s sincerity. His jobs council has two more vulture capitalists.[9]

If, as I argued yesterday, Obama has a record too shameful to run on,[10] then he must hope to persuade voters that he’s better than the other guy.[11] For voters whose principal concern is the economy, that can’t be a tenable argument.

  1. [1]Tom Hamburger, “Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas,” Washington Post, June 21, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/romneys-bain-capital-invested-in-companies-that-moved-jobs-overseas/2012/06/21/gJQAsD9ptV_story.html
  2. [2]Hamburger, “Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas.”
  3. [3]Nicholas Confessore, Christopher Drew, and Julie Creswell, “Buyout Profits Keep Flowing to Romney,” New York Times, July 17, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/politics/retirement-deal-keeps-bain-money-flowing-to-romney.html; Tom Hamburger, Melanie Mason, and Matea Gold, “A closer look at Mitt Romney’s job creation record,” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/03/nation/la-na-romney-bain-20111204
  4. [4]Hamburger, Mason, and Gold, “A closer look at Mitt Romney’s job creation record.”
  5. [5]Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).
  6. [6]L. Randall Wray, “Right Now, A Complete Collapse Of The Financial System Is Not Out Of The Question,” Business Insider, November 4, 2010, https://disunitedstates.com/content/right-now-complete-collapse-financial-system-not-out-question
  7. [7]Callum Borchers and Christopher Rowland, “Mitt Romney stayed at Bain 3 years longer than he stated,” Boston Globe, July 12, 2012, https://bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2012/07/11/government-documents-indicate-mitt-romney-continued-bain-after-date-when-says-left/IpfKYWjnrsel4pvCFbsUTI/story.html; David Corn, “Romney Invested Millions in Chinese Firm That Profited on US Outsourcing,” Mother Jones, July 11, 2012, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/bain-capital-mitt-romney-outsourcing-china-global-tech; Peter Fulham, “New Bain Revelations Put Romney on Defensive,” Slate, July 12, 2012, http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2012/07/12/romney_s_bain_capital_tenure_boston_globe_report_says_sec_filings_show_he_was_ceo_for_three_years_longer_than_he_has_claimed_.html
  8. [8]Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, “Getting Away with It,” New York Review of Books, July 12, 2012, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jul/12/getting-away-it/
  9. [9]Neil Munro, “Obama national co-chair works in private equity, like Romney,” Daily Caller, May 24, 2012, http://dailycaller.com/2012/05/24/obama-national-co-chair-works-in-private-equity-like-romney/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Entitlement and elections,” DisUnitedStates.org, July 12, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=4914
  11. [11]Karen Tumulty, “Obama campaign’s rough patch concerns some Democrats,” Washington Post, June 12, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-campaigns-erratic-behavior-concerns-some-democrats/2012/06/12/gJQAedXZYV_story.html

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