A Minor Objection From Obama
No doubt you've read about, or heard, President Obama's brutal attack on Bain Capital and the free enterprise system when he defended his campaign's comments about the aforementioned company. Obama explained
The reason why this is relevant to the campaign is that my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying, I'm a business guy, and I know how to fix it, and this is his business.
And when you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how are we paying for their retraining. Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters so they can attract new businesses. Your job as president is to think about how do we set up an equitable tax system so that everybody's paying their fair share, that allows us then to invest in science, and technology, and infrastructure, all of which are going to help us grow.
And so if your main argument for how to grow the economy is "I knew how to make a lot of money for investors," then you're missing what this job is about. It doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity. But that's not what my job is as president.
My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure the country is growing not just now, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now.
If that wasn't vicious enough, the Socialist-in-Chief later reiterated
My view of private equity is it is set up to maximize profits. And that's a healthy part of the free market. That's part of the role of a lot of business people. That's not unique to private equity. I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries.
Democratic (the identification here used very loosely) Senator Mark Warner of Virginia echoed the President's statement, remarking (according to Talking Points Memo)
Bain Capital was a very successful business. I think they got a good return for their investors. That is what they were supposed to do. I think when you’re in public life, though, what you’ve got is a different time horizon. The notion that everything in government is exactly the same way that it is in business, they’re different time horizons when you’ve got to invest for the long haul, when you actually do the kind of early stage investing, whether in preschool, whether it’s in K-12, whether infrastructure, that doesn’t pay back quarter to quarter.
Warner spokesman Kevin Hall told TPM there is, as the latter put it, "no daylight" on the issue between his boss and Obama.
Of course there isn't. Warner, unoficially a Blue Dog Democrat, one thought to be interested in the 2016 presidential nomination, could hardly have been offended by the President's endorsement of rapacious corporate practices.
And endorse Bain Capital he did. The problem, according to Obama, isn't the debt the private equity firm routinely created for the companies it took over. Nor is it the individuals fired so as to finance the debt, nor the salaries reduced and the pensions often eliminated for the workers who remained. And it certainly isn't the millions Mitt Romney and the Board of Directors scooped up as they were destroying companies.
No, none of that. It is, well, simply not the place of a President to make millions. That is better left to companies like Bain, which apparently provide a socially worthwhile service to the country. Romney, in this framework is among those "folks who do good work in that area" who "identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries.
It was kind of President Obama to vouch for his opponent's efficiency and effectiveness.Obama differs only in noting that Mitt Romney and other heads of Bain perform a different function, assume a different role, than does the President of the United States.
Still, Mitt Romney wasn't satisfied. Responding to the President's remarks, the presumptive GOP nominee issued a statement maintaining
President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against....
So Barack Obama nods and winks at Wall Street, assuring the 1% that Mitt Romney and the type of firm he headed are (in 1960s lingo) just Swell. Neat. Cool. We don't wish any offense- looting is merely not what a President does. Then Romney accuses Obama of attacking the "free enterprise system," an odd description of marauders periodically destroying companies while reaping millions, assisted by government subsidy (video below).
Admittedly, it's a little difficult for President Obama to be terribly critical of Mitt Romney when he himself is raising dough from private equity executives. Still, Romney's extreme response- slamming an opponent for "attack(ing)" free enterprise when the latter is defending it- suggests that mild, tepid questioning of the opposition will get the Obama campaign nowhere. It must respond in kind, and slamming politicians who became multimillionaires on the carcasses of American companies would be a good place to start.