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January 09, 2012

Class Warfare? Gingrich, Huntsman, Perry All Pile On Romney For Bain Firings

Gingrich's Super-PAC is hitting Romney on how he made his fortune.

Gingrich accused Romney of building the fortune that has underwritten his political career through a “flawed system” – better known as private equity – in which “a handful of rich people [can] manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money” by “looting a company and leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods.”


“At some point, Governor Romney is going to have to answer those questions. And I think it’s a legitimate question about exactly what happened: Where did the money go? Who got the money? What happened to the people involved? And to what extent is that his responsibility?” Gingrich told reporters in Manchester, N.H.

Huntsman hits this theme obliquely, talking up a line of Romney's that he likes being able to fire people-- that is, people who don't give full value for Mr. Anka's money.*

There's kind of nothing wrong with that line, but it's like "Corporations are people, my friend." Well, technically, under the law, they are legally fictitious "persons" for purposes of owning and selling property and carrying on business and paying taxes and so on, but... people?

He's not at politics. He tends to lose. There are reasons for these losses.

Perry's got a ringtone of Romney saying that. And more.

Perry plays the class warfare/populist card, and also seems to push a charge of mismanagement, that Romney is not the turnaround guy he claims:

Have you met the Real Romney? The Romney that bankrupted 22% of the companies he bought? Although the scores of employees he laid off know Romney all too well, voters are just now meeting the Real Romney–the buyout tycoon who executed takeovers, bankrupted businesses, and sent jobs overseas while killing American jobs!

Will you donate $22 — the percentage of companies Romney sent into bankruptcy?

Yeah I would ditch the class warfare/populist economics (which is really just guaranteeing people in noncompetitive industries their jobs via government interventionism and subsidy) and make the case that if he's a turnaround guy, why did one fifth of his takeovers go bankrupt, and how do we know America would be one of the fortunate 78%?

Eh. It's a rotten scrum. Can't say Romney doesn't deserve it, though. Romney has rarely met an attack too cheap to deploy.

Santorum meanwhile declines to press that attack:

Leaving the frozen event, Santorum also declined to take a shot at Romney over a remark earlier from the front-runner that he “likes to fire” workers who are not doing a good job.

“We try to hire good people, we try to keep them employed. If someone if obviously not performing their duty and their mission, obviously a business has a responsibility for the greater good of the business and the other employees to make sure that everybody there is pulling their weight,” Santorum said.

Asked whether Romney’s corporate takeover experience at Bain Capital would be a liability, Santorum said: “I’m not making it a liability. I believe in the private sector.”

That may be tactical, as Santorum is suspected on issues of capitalist freedom generally, as he often votes in a pro-union way, and seems at least somewhat supportive of state intervention in the economy.

Plus, there's his whole "personal autonomy" shpiel:

Here is what Santorum told NPR about the role of government in 2006:

"This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don't think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone ... [that] government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues. ... Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can't go it alone."

And meanwhile, two free-marketers not named "Jen Rubin" weigh in to defend Romney's record at Bain. Serious Romney critic Philip Klein:

In reality, capitalism is the most moral economic system ever conceived of, because it’s the only one that’s consistent with personal freedom. Investors such as Romney pump money into businesses, and often have to cut jobs in an attempt to make them more efficient and profitable. And sometimes they fail despite their best efforts. But by cutting their losses, they have more money to invest in other businesses, and hopefully the gains outweigh the losses. In Romney’s case, he was tremendously successful overall, helping to grow businesses such as Domino’s and Staples that now employ tens of thousands of workers. In the process, he produced huge returns for his investors, who in turn had more money to invest elsewhere. However tragic the displacement of some workers was, on a net basis, companies like Bain help fuel economic growth. And there’s also no reason to believe that jobs that were lost – in steel investments, for instance – would have survived anyway. None of his rivals are accusing Romney of doing anything illegal or fraudulent in his business dealings, so it's purely an attack on capitalism. It’s sad to see them go this route.

And James Pethokoukis:

Of course, Romney and Bain weren’t in the game to create jobs. They were in it to make money for their investors and themselves. Then again, the same would go for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Warren Buffett, and just about every other successful entrepreneur and investor you could name. But that is the miracle of free-market capitalism. The pursuit of profits by creating value benefits the rest of society through higher incomes, more jobs, and better products and services. This isn’t “destructive creation”—like, say, crippling U.S. fossil fuel production before “clean energy” sources are viable—but “creative destruction” where innovation and efficiency sweep away the old and replace it with a more productive and wealthier society.

This is true enough, but a frequent knock on Romney is that "he looks like the guy who fired you," as @fredosso said on Twitter the other day. Certainly he shouldn't be playing into that.

* This meme is so old I forgot who did this rant. I wrote "Neil Sedaka" and decided that didn't sound right. I had to google it.

Maybe I'm just getting old quicker than I ever thought I would.

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posted by Ace at 05:25 PM

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