Poll Position: Who’s right about Romney’s time at Bain?

(Note: Apologies for the late Poll Position today, but I wanted the ethics reform post to be online all day.)

This week has seen one of the more amazing attack lines in any GOP presidential primary. It seems some Republican candidates think Mitt Romney was too much of a capitalist.

Well, that’s not exactly how they’d put it. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (yes, he’s still running, despite barely beating the combination of Buddy Roemer and “total write-ins” in New Hampshire) refers to Romney’s career at Bain Capital as “vulture capitalism,” not venture capitalism. A so-called Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich produced a 28-minute video titled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” about a company in South Carolina — the site of the next primary — bought by Bain.

Who's right about Romney's time at Bain Capital?

  • Gingrich and Perry (178 Votes)
  • Romney and his defenders (95 Votes)
  • Who knows? (38 Votes)

Total Voters: 311

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Their attacks have been lauded by some on the right, and virtually everyone on the left, as an appropriate critique of Romney’s claim to have been a job creator in the private sector and/or a good way to toughen up Romney for the general election against Barack Obama. (I didn’t realize Gingrich and Perry were running for “presidential sparring partner” instead of president.) But Gingrich and Perry have also been fiercely criticized by many on the right for making pandering, un-nuanced attacks on capitalism merely to boost their electoral chances.

Who’s right?

That’s this week’s Poll Position question. Answer in the nearby poll and in the comments thread below.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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388 comments Add your comment

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

January 13th, 2012
12:02 pm

Someone on Morning Joe this morning said that Bain Capital got it wrong 22% of the time (meaning lost jobs or closed companies).

That means they got it right 78% of the time.

I think most people would be ecstatic with a .780 batting average, wouldn’t you?

Road Scholar

January 13th, 2012
12:06 pm

Ti: Except for those who lost their jobs!

MarkV

January 13th, 2012
12:08 pm

Wrong question, Kyle. Romney is wrong when he tries to claim that what he did at Blain was to create jobs. It was to make profit, pure and simple, without regard to who gets hurt. And his Republican detractors are wrong when they praise the free market system and at the same time attack Romney for exercising it.

ragnar danneskjold

January 13th, 2012
12:10 pm

I’m not particularly a Romney fan, but Rush offered a great argument yesterday. Warren Buffet buys strong companies, strips the cash out, and is lauded by the leftists. Bain Capital bought dying companies, turned most of them around, and is condemned by the leftists. Nice to see a real turnaround artist running for president, given our need for same.

Matthias Klein

January 13th, 2012
12:11 pm

Let’s face the dire truth. The US is founded on vulture capitalism. What else is slavery?

It is a myth that capitalism is pure and good by itself and must not be regulated. It is now time to stand up for true righteousness and expose the hypocrisy. 

Remember the civil war and how unwillingness and stubborness led to the bloodiest war in the history of the US. Great Britain got rid of slavery in a peaceful way. The United States, where all men are created equal on paper, had to have it pried out of their fingers.

What would happen if the rich, who profit from vulture capitalism, and their powerful friends in the media and in Washington, are as stubborn and unwilling to acknowledge the evil of vulture capitalism. Why would God not bring justice to those oppressed by this selfish system as He did for the slaves?

Watch my video: A German’s preachers thoughts on 2012.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpLYq525SpM 

carlosgvv

January 13th, 2012
12:16 pm

Matthias Klein – 12:11

Everything you say is true. Unfortunately, our system of predatory capitalism is so broken that no amount of protest will ever fix it. The only solution is for American voters to replace it with Socialism. Many people don’t want to hear this, but being in denial will only extend the amout of time we all suffer under the current system.

DeborahinAthens

January 13th, 2012
12:18 pm

I’m a Democrat. I have been a stockbroker/financial advisor for 26 years. I started out in investment banking, and you don’t get more capitalist than that! I love watching Newt and Perry do their song and dance, it is just more illustrations of their hypocrisy. They believe in small government, too, except when they want to tell you how to live your life, then they propose every Contitution bending law their mean little minds can conjur up. These idiots would rape their own grandmother and eat their young to get elected, so why does this behavior shock any of you? Dubya the Dumb did the same thing. His Rove-led juggarnaut absolutely slandered and destroyed John McCain, then the Repugs, idiots that they are, were shocked-SHOCKED- when the Dems used the same arguments against McCain when he ran against Obama. All I can say is keep up the good work…Obama 2012!!!

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

January 13th, 2012
12:32 pm

Yeah, carlos, great idea.

As if Socialism has worked in any way, shape or form in the history of the world. :roll:

You’re kinda like that poor, dumb redneck who says “I wonder what happens if I do this . . . “. Nothing good can come of that.

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
12:33 pm

I support Romney and his tenure at Bain!

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
12:35 pm

I think most people would be ecstatic with a .780 batting average, wouldn’t you?

Since we’re talking about people’s lives rather than baseball, the analogy is sad. I can assure you that those who lost their livelihoods, and perhaps more, are not ecstatic. Neither are those of us care about them.

ragnar,

Which companies did Berkshire “strip cash out of”? Which companies did Berkshire bankrupt by adding debt (as Bain has done)? It’s my understanding that Buffet purchases undervalued, well-run companies and, generally, leaves management alone to continue doing what they did to make the company strong in the first place. That’s a far cry from what Bain has done to American Pad & Paper (or AmPad) and others. I think your comparison is weak.

Ayn Rant

January 13th, 2012
12:36 pm

I don’t give a flip about Romney’s past. The race for President should be about the future course of the nation, not about the personalities of the candidates.

So far, the Republican candidates have offered nothing more than the standard line of bull: tax breaks for the super rich, deregulation for the financial manipulators and environment polluters, denigration of the poor, and oppression of gays and pregnant women. There’s hasn’t been a peep from them about a method to move the economy out of stagnation and bring the US infrastructure into the 21st century.

Why can’t we have candidates who address the issues of the American people rather than a bunch of has-been’s with shady pasts and no concept of the future?

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
12:37 pm

Bart….maybe the ones that “lost their livelihoods” should have worked harder and been a more valuable asset to the company.

td

January 13th, 2012
12:38 pm

MarkV

January 13th, 2012
12:08 pm

It was to make a profit for whom? The investors in Bain and himself? Is this not what free enterprise is all about?

MarkV

January 13th, 2012
12:43 pm

td @12:38 pm

Why are you asking me that question? Isn’t that what I wrote?

MarkV

January 13th, 2012
12:47 pm

carlosgvv @12:16 pm

Socialism is a failed system. Nobody who really knows what socialism means and has some sense will support it.

hsn

January 13th, 2012
12:49 pm

*I didn’t realize Gingrich and Perry were running for “presidential sparring partner” instead of president.*
=================================================================

Gingrinch and Perry are running for President not “sparring partner.”
Where were you when a pro-Romney PAC were lambasting Gingrich in Iowa?

Gingrich and Perry are poking holes in claims Romney has made about his “achievements” as a “businessman” and that is fair and it is also NOT AN ATTACK on capitalism. That is akin to saying anyone who critiques Obama is assaulting the US government.

If pro-Romney supporters like you and others would rather prefer that Romney not be vetted but be “handed” the nomination without breaking a sweat, then why hold primaries?

You guys were ok with Romney-backed super pacs attacking Gingrich a few weeks ago. Fact: Romney IS NOT a conservative. He will say anything he needs to say or do to get the nomination, but true southern conservatives will not be fooled by this fraudulent RINO, who actually bragged about being a “moderate Republican” in a Mass election.

Now he is masquerading as a conservative. He is a fraud and if nominated, the Obama campaign will have a field day.

JF McNamara

January 13th, 2012
12:49 pm

It is what it is. He is essentially Gordon Gekko, and he is unapologetic about it. He flip flops on everything, but he hasn’t flip flopped on this. That’s not illegal, but is he the person you want running the United States?

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
12:49 pm

ragnar’s comparison with Warren Buffet (a company that most admire) demonstrates that attacks against Bain under Romney’s tenure are not attacks against free enterprise and capitalism. Nobody has a problem with one group of investors purchasing a company from another group of owners or investors. It’s the approach the Romney used to make these acquisitions that are so distasteful.

If you get a $100,000 mortgage loan to buy a house, and subsequently sell the house with the loan still outstanding, you don’t get to keep the all proceeds from the sale of the house. You have to pay back the loan, and you only get to keep the profit, if any.

On the other hand, with leveraged buyouts, the buyers would use the strong balance sheet of a well managed business to get a loan to acquire that business. However, when sold, the investors don’t have to repay the loan. The company they unloaded is stuck with the debt. Sometimes that debt (that wouldn’t otherwise exist) leads to cuts in benefits, payroll, layoffs, bankruptcy, and/or total closure.

That’s not capitalism. That’s a loophole. And it’s a loophole that only the wealthiest among us can take advantage of. It needs to be closed.

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
12:51 pm

JF….there is nothing to be apologetic about!

hsn

January 13th, 2012
12:54 pm

MarkV

January 13th, 2012
12:55 pm

Romney and his supporters fail to mention that not only were people hurt so that he could make money, but the taxpayers were stuck with a 44 million bailout of the pension fund.

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
12:56 pm

MarkV…..and?

Somewhere over there

January 13th, 2012
12:59 pm

Perry and Gingrich need to drop out of the race. This is embarrassing for the GOP.

Somewhere over there

January 13th, 2012
1:00 pm

“It seems some Republican candidates think Mitt Romney was too much of a capitalist.”

Yep and Gingrich/Perry look as bad as Obama.

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
1:02 pm

Romney is also advertising Bain’s success with a company in Dekalb County, Indiana called Steel Dynamics. What Romney didn’t advertise is that Steel Dynamics received generous tax breaks/subsidies from the state and county. The community actually imposed a new income tax to help Romney’s company.

Using the language of the right, I think it’s fair to say that the man is both a welfare queen and a socialist.

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
1:04 pm

Bart….Steel Dynamics has a facility in Duluth, Ga. as well. Reaching much?

wallbanger

January 13th, 2012
1:06 pm

MarkV and others: What is wrong with wanting to make a profit? Doing it legally? This is America. This is what it is about. To those of you who want to whine about companies going under. Well they go under anyway, Bain or no Bain. Bain did a service apparently 3 out of 4 times saved companies. How come we aren’t talking about the positive side. Frankly, there is no merit in being a poor man if you can be a rich man. Rich men hire poor men after all.

jconservative

January 13th, 2012
1:06 pm

Well, we can have capital from private sources, such as Bain, or we can have capital from government sources. Apparently Gingrich and Perry frown on private capital. That leaves government capital. I am not surprised by Gingrich favoring government capital, liberalism has always been his philosophical base. But I am surprised that Perry, the governor of a state with such a large number of capitalist, adopted the liberal solution. Expect his Texas money to dry up.

This nation needs to grow its economy. We can do it with private capital, government capital or a combination of the two. The latter option, which we have been practicing for decades, leads to $16 trillion national debts. Which is OK if we can find a way to pay the debt. So far we have refused to even entertain the subject, much less make a decision on paying off the debt.

We need more Bain’s, not fewer.

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
1:10 pm

UGA,

Please consider changing your handle. Your use of it is an embarrassment to the institution that many of us love so much.

td

January 13th, 2012
1:11 pm

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
12:35 pm

Lets do talk about peoples lives. What about the lives and futures of all the investors in Bain? These Teacher retirement funds, public service workers funds and 401K funds invest in Bain to give them a return on their investments so that they can have a retirement savings. Is Bain not suppose to maximise their return on investment? How do you think Teachers are able to pay less then a $100 per month for 30 years in a retirement fund and then be able to draw 70 to 100% of the highest years salaries for the next 20, 30 plus years?

td

January 13th, 2012
1:14 pm

JF McNamara

January 13th, 2012
12:49 pm

Do you think the teachers in CA and TX would say he is Gordon Geeko or would they say he has made it so they can have a nice retirement?

JDW

January 13th, 2012
1:17 pm

I think Mark V is on the right track when he says “Romney is wrong when he tries to claim that what he did at Blain was to create jobs. It was to make profit, pure and simple”. That said Newt et al are simply picking a strategy, no matter how unfounded or distasteful, to win an election. Did you expect more from them? I don’t.

Back to Romney, in some cases the byproduct of his business was to create jobs in others not and frankly, I don’t have a problem with that. As someone who has been forced to be the bearer of bad news on a large scale you do have a tendency to think more in terms of numbers than people but frankly to keep your sanity you have to.

At the end of the day, in the corporate world, the winner is he whom creates the most value…that typically means the most profits with the fewest number of people. Sure companies embark on “Green Initiatives”, “Community Outreach”, or “Social Responsibly” initiatives but in most case those are expected to enhance not detract from the bottom line.

I know I know there is a new wave of “Socially Responsible” companies that count among their values support for issues other than profitability (Google for one). Those are great but if profits go so do those other things in short order. Bottom line companies are in the business of profit and governments are in the business of social responsibility.

BTW this really doesn’t qualify as reprehensible….what Chambliss did to Cleland in Ga. and Bush did to McCain is SC that was reprehensible.

JDW

January 13th, 2012
1:20 pm

@Bart…”Please consider changing your handle. Your use of it is an embarrassment to the institution that many of us love so much.”

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
1:22 pm

Bart….is that all you’ve got? Wow that hurt! hahaaha.

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
1:23 pm

td,

Yes, Bain is supposed to maximize their return on investment. But they have to do so within the guidelines of ethics and fairness that we, as a country, agree on.

Surely you don’t support maximizing one’s return on investment by murdering your competitors (as the mafia does). Surely you don’t support maximizing one’s return on investment by lying to potential buyers of your stock about the strength of the financials (which the Gingrich super-PAC film accuses Romney of having done).

We all agree that there are reasonable limits and restrictions on how investors can maximize returns. The debate is about which limits to apply and which limits not to apply.

The question I have is should investors be able to borrow money against the assets of company and then unload that debt onto the company itself rather than be required to repay the loan themselves (as we must do with a mortgage loan, for example)? I say no. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not capitalism any more than murdering your competition to maximize profits is capitalism.

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
1:25 pm

Bart….and what ethics would those be? Only they ones that you personally approve of?

carlosgvv

January 13th, 2012
1:26 pm

Tiberius – MarkV

I told you something you did not want to hear and you reacted just as I knew you would. Any political system is only as good as the people running it. Predatory capitalism, by it’s very nature, attracts Sociopathic people who are only interested in themselves. If honest Socialist politicians run for office and are elected, you will live in a much improved America. Stay in denial if you like but you’re only hurting yourselves.
re

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
1:28 pm

Bart…Your comments sound more like a union than Bain.

retiredds

January 13th, 2012
1:29 pm

poor old Newt, he’s going after Romney because he speaks French. What a fool.

Dusty

January 13th, 2012
1:33 pm

Too many questions here. I do not know the answers.

Would THE company have failed if Bain/Romney had not bought it?

Would pensioners still have gotten their pensions?

Was there anything illegal in Bain’s purchase? Like what?

To buy a sound company is “venture” but buying a failing one is “vulture”?

Is the purchase by Bain any different from thousands of other business purchases?

Delta may buy Anerican airline. Is that venture or vulture outside the political world?

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
1:34 pm

Dusty….amen.

td

January 13th, 2012
1:39 pm

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
1:23 pm

Your since of anger is misplaced. Has Bain broke the law? Has Bain played by the rules set out before them? Your since of anger is misplaced. Bain has played within the rules the government has established. Since they have been in business then that means the rules have been written while both parties held the office of the President and while both parties have controlled Congress.

If you do not like the law then work to change the law but you can not blame a company for playing within the guidelines set in front of them.

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
1:41 pm

Would THE company have failed if Bain/Romney had not bought it?

No, not likely.

That’s the problem. The reason these companies are frequently taken over is because they have low debt, strong balance sheets, and are well managed. In many cases, they went bankrupt because of the debt left behind by the investors who took over the company…debt that otherwise would not have existed.

Is it illegal? No. But if enough people knew and understood about the bizarre loophole in our laws that makes this possible (such loans without recourse don’t apply to other forms of borrowing), then I suspect that it would be.

AceDawg

January 13th, 2012
1:42 pm

Looking forward to seeing the video before offering my real thoughts, but on the surface I’d agree with those that are backing Romney, at least on this issue, that venture capitalism is nothing to be attacked by those in support of economic freedom. If Romney is simply reflected as some sort of heartless jerk in the video, so be it, but I would have a hard time retaining even an ounce of respect for those who attempt to undermine free enterprise for political purposes.

td

January 13th, 2012
1:43 pm

carlosgvv

January 13th, 2012
1:26 pm

If socialist politicians start winning elections then they will have Sociopathic people would be converting to socialism platform (same thing Dems did in Georgia with converting to Republicans) If you do not believe that then you my friend are living in a dream world.

UGA 1999

January 13th, 2012
1:43 pm

Bart….I am sure they know….give the American people more credit.

Odis

January 13th, 2012
1:45 pm

The issue I have with Mittens is that he’s spinning what he did while at Bain as if their main objective was the creation of jobs. It was not, it was to make a profit. Wait until the discussion of Bain turns to the $10 MILLION DOLLAR government handout it received back in 1991 to save it from going bankrupt or how the governement had to step in and cover another companys pension fund after Bain looted the company for millions of dollars. Mitt Romney got wealthy, while the working class got the shaft.

How is it that Bain could go into a company make MILLIONS of dollars on “consulting fees” and then the company ends up bankrupt shortly after?

MarkV

January 13th, 2012
1:46 pm

carlosgvv @1:26 pm

Carlos, the only thing that perhaps excuses you is ignorance of Socialism. Perhaps the conservatives, who call every social progress “Socialism,” who are so ignorant that they call Obama and everybody who disagrees with them a Socialist, have confused you.

Bart Abel

January 13th, 2012
1:48 pm

td,

Nobody is arguing that Bain broke the law. When people criticize Gingrich for serial adultery, nobody is arguing that he broke the law. When people criticize Obama for joining a church they don’t like, nobody is arguing that Obama broke the law.

The debate is about ethics and fairness and right and wrong. So I’m talking about whether a law that doesn’t exist, should exist.

Unfortunately, some people need a law to tell them the difference between right and wrong. That’s precisely why we have them. But the notion that you can’t criticize Romney for doing something because he didn’t break the law is not persuasive.

Dusty

January 13th, 2012
1:49 pm

Carlos, the socialist who proclaims:” If honest socialist politicians run for office and are elected, you will live in a much improved America.”

Yeah, sure, and after that we can have a fine communist America where everything is supplied and no worry about jobs or home because you have an assigned one and medical care is free and there are no rich people (except leaders) and we are all non-thinking little tadpoles in a big mudhole.

Amazing that Americans don’t eat up that happy harpy land, Carlos. They could rid themselves of all that independence and faulty freedom. Seems you like the idea.