The half-hour documentary on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, When Mitt Romney Came To Town, is a huge story this week. Watch it – it’s devastating and the interviews of workers who lost their jobs after Romney’s Bain came in and broke their companies are heart-breaking.
“When Mitt Romney Came To Town” is the product of a pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC, but both Gingrich and Rick Perry have been hammering Romney over his job-destroying ways at Bain for a while now. What’s incredible to watch is two 1%-coddling politicians adopt the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement to wage attacks on Romney. What’s even more incredible is to watch these attacks explode the internal contradictions of the Republican Party.
On the one hand, you have Fox News’ Eric Bolling treat accusations against Romney and Bain as an attack on capitalism itself. Rush Limbaugh has likened Gingrich to Fidel Castro for his attacks. Likewise the right wing US Chamber of Commerce is calling for a halt to attacks on private equity. On the other hand, conservative icon Bill Kristol has criticized those reflexing defending Bain and Romney as “silly“. You even have Sarah Palin saying Romney should back up his claims that he created a 100,000 jobs in his tenure at Bain.
What’s most remarkable, though, is that this debate isn’t happening at Occupy encampments, but on Fox News and The Weekly Standard (well, presumably folks at Occupy are talking about the destructive thievery of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital). I don’t think any of us knew that the GOP had this sort of rhetoric in it! The reality is, of course, that they don’t. This is pure politics, as Robert Reich notes, otherwise Gingrich and Romney would be making some sort of prescription of how they would stop the newly-discovered evils of private equity and Wall Street greed. Reich writes:
Is Newt proposing to ban leveraged buyouts? Or limit the amount of debt a company can take on? Or prevent financiers – or even CEOs and management teams – from taking a public company private and then reselling it to the public at a higher price?
None of the above.
Rick Perry criticizes Romney and Bain pushing the quest for profits too far. “There is nothing wrong with being successful and making money,” says Perry. “But getting rich off failure and sticking someone else with the bill is indefensible.”
Yet getting rich off failure and sticking someone else with the bill is what Wall Street financiers try to do every day. It’s called speculation – and at least since the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act, investment bankers have been allowed to gamble with commercial bank deposits, other people’s money.
So is Perry proposing to resurrect Glass-Steagall? Not a chance.
This is politics, plain and simple. Romney’s opponents are making a last, desperate plea to knock him off of the winner’s podium. Had they made this case for the better part of the last year and had they backed it up with prescriptions to stop companies like Bain Capital from committing these crimes against American workers, they may have even succeeded in defeating Romney. While it’s certainly possible that these attacks can gain traction against Romney, neither Gingrich nor Perry are credible messengers. Reich concludes that, “the only serious question here is what kind of serious reforms Obama will propose when, assuming Romney becomes the Republican nominee, Obama also criticizes Bain Capitalism.” I think that’s right, though it remains to be seen if Obama splits off the path being set by faux populists Gingrich and Perry.