Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, January 12th, 2012.


Vulture Capitalism on Trial

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Obama Administration

The pushback against the Bain documentary is out already. A writer for Fortune (surprise, not) picked out what he said were errors in the narrative.

But Jia Lynn Yang in the New York Times documents that even those companies that Mittens brags that he “saved” are following the pattern of sending jobs overseas and hiking up the pay for its chief executives while wages for employees are stagnant.

The issue here isn’t Romney versus Obama; it’s the impact that unregulated capitalism is having on the lives of most working Americans. The documentary presents that impact, even if it’s production values are a little cheesy in places, and even if some of the details are fuzzy.

Greg Sargent:

If there’s one thing the presidential race has made clear, it’s this: There’s broad bipartisan agreement that certain practices of capitalism are not above reproach. It’s not only legitimate, but desirable, to raise questions about whether certain types of profiteering, such as that practiced by Bain, are immoral, destructive and fair game for condemnation.

Romney is arguing that attacking his record at Bain is the same thing as attacking “free enterprise,” but of course that’s nonsense, but his style of vulture capitalism destroys free enterprise. I say again, it really is like a cancer.

So keep pushing the documentary. Maybe someone will make more documentaries. This is effective stuff.

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Is Mittens Slipping Already?

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Mittens, Republican Party

One poll has Mittens’s lead in South Carolina nose-diving. And see the latest number’s at Nate’s place –

South Carolina VOTE
PROJECTION
CHANCE
OF WIN
Mitt Romney 25.5% 43%
Newt Gingrich 24.7 41
Ron Paul 16.4 8

Yesterday, Mittens had a 31.8 vote projection and 55 percent chance of winning. Newt’s vote projection is about the same as yesterday’s, although his chance of winning has gone up. Santorum has slipped a bit lower overnight, so he’s not getting the former Romney votes. It looks as if the votes falling away from Romney are being picked up mostly by Ron Paul, with some votes going to Perry and Huntsman.

Steve Benen has a post up about the impact of the Bain Capital documentary, which is posted below in its entirety:

Let’s also note the target audience. Ed Kilgore noted the video is “a heat-seeking missile aimed directly at the white working class id.” This is incredibly important in a 2012 context — if Romney is going to win the presidency, he’s going to need to crush President Obama with white working-class voters who tend to support the GOP anyway. This short film, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, tells this constituency that Romney is not only indifferent to their struggles, but he and people like him caused their economic plight.

So be sure all your bagger friends get a link to the documentary. This is something bigger than just Mittens.

Benjy Sarlin at TPM discusses whether the Bain story coming out this early in the campaign will inoculate voters from caring about it later.

“I would have preferred to wait, yes, to keep the bottle of whup-ass fresher,” one Obama campaign strategist told TPM. “At the same time — and this is important to note — having the Republicans eat their own actually makes the Bain story more potent than we ever could because it instantly validates it as a line of attack and falls on independent ears as a matter of legitimate debate, not as a partisan line of attack.”

And when the real Bain attack comes, it will be anything but old news to the voters it needs to reach. After all, it’s hardcore Republicans who are paying the closest attention to the GOP campaign and its Bain moment right now, and they’re not voting for President Obama anytime soon. …

… Once Democrats decide its time to make their ultimate Bain push, they’ll have the resources to flood the zone with TV spots, direct mail (likely referencing Bain layoffs in targeted swing states), and a small army of Democratic lawmakers and operatives reinforcing the story 24/7 on cable news. Think 2004, when the entire GOP apparatus (including, awkwardly, Mitt Romney) worked in unison to drive home the John Kerry “flip flopper” meme.

And consider the irony that distribution of this little film is made possible by a SuperPAC; this is what the GOP establishment wanted.

Update: In a new post, Nate Silver is urging caution about reading much into the decline in Romney’s numbers. We’ll get a clearer picture in a couple of days. Romney appears to be gaining in Florida. I postulate, though, that South Carolina television is being plastered with outtakes from the Bain documentary, but Florida television is not.

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Mitt’s People Are Worried

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Obama Administration

Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker write for the New York Times

Campaign advisers to former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, stung by unexpectedly fierce attacks from Republican rivals on his career as a corporate buyout specialist, are scrambling to avoid a prolonged and nasty battle over his business record before it does lasting damage to the front-runner.

Mitt’s problems is that he wants to run as a jobs-creating businessman, but his actual record at the helm of Bain Capital is secret, and apparently will remain so. So, Mittens is running on bullshit.

The campaign intends to cast Mr. Romney, a founder and a former chief executive of Bain Capital, as a defender of market capitalism, a bedrock principle of Republicanism, and to suggest that those who assail his business background are outside the party’s mainstream.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Mr. Romney lamented that “desperate Republicans” were attacking the free enterprise system and the very notion of success.

“This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation,” he said. “The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.”

But he’s been going around claiming to have created a hundred thousand jobs, sometimes tens of thousands of jobs, sometimes hundreds of thousands of jobs, and he can’t prove it. (The number appears to vary with Romney’s mood; sort of like the number of known communists Joe McCarthy used to claim were in the State Department.) Keach Hagey writes for Politico that Romney’s time at Bain Capital is in a “black box.” Attempts by journalists to get any kind of data whatsoever from Bain have been solidly unsuccessful. Bain won’t even tell journalists where its money is invested.

“Bain, even for a private equity firm, is particularly private,” said Josh Kosman, author of “The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy.” “Most private equity firms are because once you look behind the numbers, there is much they don’t want you to see.”

And the fact is, the number of net jobs Mitt’s work at Bain might have created, or uncreated, might be a figure that even Bain can’t pin down. They keep track of how much money they are making for investors, not whether they are creating jobs.

Some reporters have managed to get information by other means –

Reporters have produced a steady stream of human stories and case studies … such as The New York Times’s report on how Bain squeezed big payouts from medical company Dade Behring even as it headed for layoffs and bankruptcy, or Reuters’s tale of how Bain managed to make money from its purchase of a Kansas steel mill that ultimately had to have its pension fund bailed out by the government.

So, at least some news outlets are trying. And this is a hopeful sign. In 2000, George W. Bush got away with calling himself a successful businessman when he had been anything but. But the GOP was solidly with Dubya, keeping his back and fluffing up his record. Mittens doesn’t have that advantage. And I think it’s also the case that in the past dozen years the rise of political bloggers has made professional media a little more alert.

There is some talk that airing Mittens’s dirty laundry now may help him later, but frankly I don’t see how. If the image of Romney as a vampire squid solidifies in the public mind it would take inordinate charm to overcome that, and Mittens doesn’t have inordinate charm.

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