Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Romney at Bain: A question worth asking

Just not anything about Bain Capital...
or my time as Governor of Massachusetts...
or about George W. Bush. I really hate that one. 
Yes, a lot of Democrats are too close to Wall Street, and I don't just mean geographically. Being openly critical of the financial sector is not the best way to nurture a promising political career in the New York City Tri-State area.

In some ways, Cory Booker's defense of private equity firms points to the difficulty of those of us on the left who side with the Democratic Party as the least bad alternative. Barack Obama is not a socialist and he's only on the left in that weird world of American politics where everything is so skewed right that a centrist can be called a socialist. Remember, Wall Street money is deserting Obama, which means they used to be with him.

But I agree with Obama's critique of private equity firms, and also agree that they are a good way to attack Romney as a heartless prick. But I also think that if Obama had his way, he'd rather not have to attack big money in America. I don't think his natural instincts are to do that and, maybe, Cory Booker, as his "surrogate," made comments that were a kind of Freudian reflection of that fact.

Having said this, it seems odd to be making too much of Booker's statements given what other Republicans have said about Romney's work on behalf of a bunch of rich people.

The Daily Kos tracked down some illustrative quotes, to wit:
  • "[They] loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns." - Newt Gingrich
  • "It's the ultimate insult when Mitt Romney comes to South Carolina and tells you he feels your pain - because he caused it. [...] There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do business. I happen to think that is indefensible." - Rick Perry
  • "Governor Romney has claimed to have created over 100,000 jobs at Bain, and people are wanting to know: is there proof of that claim? And was it U.S. jobs created for United States Citizens? And that's fair. that's not negative campaigning." - Sarah Palin
  • "Governor Romney enjoys firing people." - John Huntsman
  • "While Mitt Romney was at Bain Capital, almost one in every four companies they were involved with went bankrupt or went out of business." - John Brabender , Rick Santorum campaign manager.
So, fine, the relationship of America's two main political parties to finance capital is complex. Sometimes Democrats line up with big money, sometimes Republicans play the economic populist card. Like I've said before, they are all capitalist and you can't be a capitalist while maintaining an antagonistic relationship to capital, at least not for long.

All I want to know, and I think Obama is right to ask this, does Romney's work at Bain provide the kind of experience that would be useful to a president? Some of Romney's colleagues in the GOP don't seem to think so. At the very least, the question is worth exploring.