Monday, October 15, 2012

My Responses to the Bain Question

The experts tell us that, besides the 47 percent issue, the president will be raising the Bain Question.  They mean, I presume, that President Obama will attempt to embarrass Mitt Romney with his record at Bain Capital, at which he... well, after Romney left, Bain bailed on an attempt to turn around a Kansas City steel company.  One of the guys laid off was a man whose wife later died of cancer.

You can see why they do this.  The average man in the street just sees Romney or Bain as a "boss" that can create or more significantly destroy jobs as the mood takes him, while keeping their own jobs and perquisites safe.  If you think of the average uncommitted voter as a woman with a job in a social service or health care or education bureaucracy, you can see how the attitude makes sense.  In a bureaucracy people normally take care of themselves before the organization.

But how should Mitt reply to the "Bain Question" on Tuesday night?  Here are a few responses that I've cooked up.  Probably they aren't as good as the ones the debate preppers are coming up with.
  • It's interesting that both the president and I have had experience with failing steel mills.  The president served a term as a community organizer in South Chicago where they had lost thousands of jobs when steel plants closed.  I wonder how many jobs the president saved.  The truth is, when a company is in trouble it is really hard to save it.  At Bain we tried, but we didn't always succeed.  But here is the point.  There is no getting around the fact that, for investors, such a failure means little more than a financial loss; for the workers it means a devastating end to their dreams, and I always tried to remember that when I worked at Bain.
  • It's always been interesting to me how success and failure are rated differently in business and politics.  In business, it is considered a plus to hire someone that has been through a couple of failed startups or turnarounds.  In politics, a failure is considered poison.  That is why politicians go to such enormous lengths to cover up their failures.  Like the killing of the US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.
  • Look, in business you win some and you lose some, and you are deeply conscious that, win or lose, there are peoples' lives depending on you.  The president's campaign has spent $100 million or so on negative ads to make sure that there isn't a single person left in America that doesn't know that Bain, two years after I left, closed a steel mill it had tried to turn around.  Bully for you, Mr. President.  Now can we get back to how we get this economy out of the ditch so Americans can get jobs again?
  • Good point, Mr. President.  Bain Capital did screw up sometimes when it tried to turn around failing companies, and thousands of people suffered.  Now can we get back to the US economy, and how millions of people are suffering because of your mistakes: how in 2009 you decided that the way to heal the economy was by distributing about a trillion dollars among special interests that supported your campaign?  Or that you decided to burden the economy with the enormous costs of Obamacare before you knew that the economy was getting back on track?
  • Good point, Mr. President.  Now can we talk about your mistakes, which are rather more to the point, since you have been in charge of the economy for the last four years?  I remember thinking, back in early 2009: wow, these guys don't get it.  They don't realize that all their grand plans for big new liberal spending programs have got to be put on the shelf until they get the economy moving again.  I remember wondering back then what the damage would be from that huge strategic mistake.  Well, now we know.  An economy that is growing at 1.3 percent a year.  Less than last winter.  Less than last year.  Less than the year before.  It's time for a change, Mr. President.
You get the point.  Really, who cares any more about Bain Capital except a few crazed liberals?  The question for America is which candidate looks as though he has thought about the nation's problems and has actually come up with a plan to fix them.  Investing in more teachers and more job training doesn't cut it, Mr. President.  And as for green jobs, please, Mr. President.  That dog won't hunt.

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