We don’t know all of the details of how Bain conducted its business under Mitt Romney, but we do know that in at least several instances the conduct was to squeeze out cash while leaving behind a failed company. In many other instances Bain helped companies to grow.
In a capitalist system, that process of weeding out weaker companies and reallocating resources may serve a greater good, much as natural selection helps to make the population stronger. In a political candidate running for the presidency in the general election, however, it is potentially fatal.
In response to this entirely legitimate point being raised that a predatory history of investing may not be what we want in the nominee for the presidency, we have a chorus of voices asserting that Newt is attacking capitalism. Some of those voices long have hated and vented venom at Newt, others are less ideological and have reacted as if the entire capitalist system were under attack.
It’s sad to see so many in the Republican Party so incapable of distinguishing between economic and political arguments.
The question all along has not been whether a predatory style of investing should be legal, or whether it serves some larger purpose in our economic system. The question is do we want the entirety of the general election turned into a referendum on Bain, which it will be if Romney is the nominee regardless of whether or by what means the issue is raised in the primaries.
I want the general election to be about Obama, and his movement of the country towards a West European style of socialism. Capitalism, which achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people, easily should win that argument. Yet it may not because the Republican Party now has equated capitalism to Bain.
Capitalism can beat Obama, Bain cannot.
Some commenters say it is not right to make value judgments as to Bain, as if criticizing Bain is an attack on capitalism. I think Dan Riehl has it right:
How viable a GOP nominee would Mitt be if he had decided to make a fortune off of running a national string of adult book stores that sold porn and provided peep shows? Or, God forbid, what about a chain of health clinics that provided abortions because, well, there is a good market for it?….
Just because I am able to respect Romney as a great capitalist does not mean I must accept his values in exercising his acumen as one, now that he seeks to be my president.
There are many activities of a capitalst nature, not all of them are equal once one considers the underlying values driving the various individuals engaged in them. I can remain a solid capitalist and still not care for Mitt Romney as a potential nominee because of the decisions he made in his personal wealth creation. And anyone who would say, oh no, you can’t do that, but would reject him on values grounds if he sold porn, or hookers where it’s legal, or provided abortions is simply fooling his, or her self.
Update No. 2: This video is perhaps Newt’s best explanation, which had the hostile Scarborough thinking by the end (note also Newt defends Romney on the “firing” question):