Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Truth About Bain

Newt Gingrich's PAC has new video out about Mitt Romney’s role as the CEO of Bain Capital. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:


It’s obviously a hit piece. But the video is devastating. The bulk of it is regular people describing what Mitt Romney’s company did to their employers and their lives. They also talk about the obscene profits Romney and friends made pillaging these companies.

The counter-argument, that criticism of these kinds of corporate raiders is an attack on capitalism, is simply untrue. People who have ideas, build companies, create jobs, manage organizations, and really build things can be praised and respected. The financiers who don’t do the work, but who do make the investments and provide the capital to make businesses possible are vital. Without them most of us wouldn’t have our livelihood. I don’t begrudge them their big paychecks or their return on investment.

We can praise capitalism and still be appalled by the vultures that reap obscene rewards by preying on it.

The private equity firms like Bain Capital stand accused of not building great companies but of pillaging them. They boosted the stock price by decimating the workforce, routed the companies assets into their own pockets, had the companies borrow heavily to hand the cash over to the new owners and abandoned once-healthy companies to debt and bankruptcy. Making money by streamlining and rebuilding troubled companies is one thing. Making a fortune by gutting them is quite another.

Activities taken in pursuit of obscene wealth are not intrinsically virtuous. We’re all living amongst the wreckage of those who performed selfish acts for personal gain. We know the damage that can be done by financiers untroubled by morality or consequence. It is inconceivable that in the aftermath of the economic crash, and the bank bailouts, that we would choose to elect a ruthless corporate raider as our President.

Maybe there is another side of the story. If so, we need to hear it.

Romney needs to account for his actions at Bain. He needs to tell us the story of how he conducted his business. He needs to get beyond his phony talking points and tell us who Mitt Romney really is. If Romney is going to run on his business experience then we need to know he has experience improving the lives of working Americans and not in destroying them. We need know he’s on the side of the middle class an not just the ruling class.

We are owed the truth of what was going on at Bain Capital. If even a part of Romney’s vast fortune came from pillaging of successful companies, raiding employees’ pensions to scoop up additional millions, and destroying jobs to feed his personal greed, then Romney is unfit to be President.

He owes us the true story. And it better be good.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"I Like Being Able to Fire People"

Romney really stepped in it on the eve of what is supposed to be his big win tomorrow in the New Hampshire primary.

“I like being able to fire people” is a line that is sure to haunt him. He’s not talking about his Bain Capital days - during which he surely did fire a lot of people. But the comment reveals him to be someone deeply out of touch with our times and the modern climate. Nobody with any experience with unemployment or a shred of compassion for those who have actually lost their jobs would think to say those words.

What Mitt is actually talking about is health insurance. He likes being able to “fire” his health insurer. This too is deeply misguided. The services a health insurer provides is paying your medical bills. When you’re staring at huge medical bills, that your insurer has refused to pay for, being able to “fire” your insurance company isn’t going to be much comfort.

If you do “fire” your insurance company, well, then you and your family won’t have health insurance. And if Mitt Romney has his way, then nobody will be obligated to sell you a new insurance policy on account of the “pre-existing condition” that caused the trouble in the first place.

Mitt Romney might “like being able to fire people.” That won’t get people to like him.

Monday, January 2, 2012

1st In the Nation Primary

One of the great joys of being political junkie and New Hampshireite is, of course, the cyclical spectacle that is the nation’s first presidential primary. I had expected that much of 2011 would have been spent talking in events and using this space for some eyes-on observations of contenders and characters vying to be our next president.

But. As it turns out... not so much... I didn’t manage attend a single town hall, didn’t hear any stump speeches, didn’t have a  single candidate sighting. This outcome stems in no small part from the fact that my focus and attention have been directed elsewhere. But also reflects the nature of the campaign.

My natural loyalties tend towards the Democrats and I love me some Obama. I’ll happy vote for his renomination and would even if there was competition - which there isn’t. No drama there.

The Republican nomination battle has been a wonderful show. I’ve been following the ebbs and flows of that contest with a mixture of schadenfreude and slack-jawed amazement. But even there the action hasn’t been in New Hampshire. My Granite State perch hasn’t improved the view.

Normally, in a contest this open I would expect something of an ongoing carnival atmosphere. Battling visibility events, a town square occupied with supporters from different camps, phones constantly ringing with campaign calls and pollsters, and lots of candidates coming to town are all part a robust campaign season. Not this year.

There have been a few appearances by candidates and near-candidates. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump both popped into the gourmet goodies shop beneath my office during their flirtation phases. A visiting Parisian relative happened upon Rick Perry offering up his ignorance of evolution during a downtown stop. Yard signs have popped up most everywhere. But the season’s been relatively quiet.

Perhaps this is as it should be. The unfair influence of the New Hampshire is an regular complaint. This time the campaigns have been national affairs from the start. The fortunes of the candidates have been tied the televised debates and, more importantly, the post-debate media-spin, and the blogospheric reaction. The rise of Herman Cain certainly had nothing to do a great ground operation. Gingrich's flame-out was unrelated the efforts of local organizers.

I’m a fan of the traditional first ballots cast by the good citizen’s of Iowa and New Hampshire. More than ever, it appears we’ll just be the first to ratify decisions that have already been made by the parties as a whole.

Soon it'll be all over. It feels like it never really begun.