Political Animal


November 13, 2011 12:20 PM ‘The guy who laid you off’

By Steve Benen

Four years ago, Mike Huckabee contrasted his style as a candidate with that of Mitt Romney’s style: “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.” It was a sharp quip because it hit close to home: Romney’s private-sector background involving laying off a lot of American workers.

The former Massachusetts governor has two broad flaws as a presidential candidate. The first is that he’s a craven, cowardly flip-flopper who shifts with the winds and demonstrates a practical allergy to principled stands. The second has to do with Romney’s record on jobs — specifically, how abysmal it is.

During Romney’s one term as governor — his only service in public office — his state’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country.” How bad was it? During his tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in job growth.

But it’s his private equity firm, Bain Capital, that should cause the real political headaches. The NYT’s Michael Barbaro takes a detailed look today at one deal in particular from Romney’s private-sector past.

Romney and his firm bought an Illinois medical company called Dade International and subjected it to Romney’s turnaround method. For some, it was a very lucrative deal. For others, not so much.

[A]n examination of the Dade deal shows the unintended human costs and messy financial consequences behind the brand of capitalism that Mr. Romney practiced for 15 years.

At Bain Capital’s direction, Dade quadrupled the money it owed creditors and vendors. It took steps that propelled the business toward bankruptcy. And in waves of layoffs, it cut loose 1,700 workers in the United States, including Brian and Christine Shoemaker, who lost their jobs at a plant in Westwood, Mass. Staggered, Mr. Shoemaker wondered, “How can the bean counters just come in here and say, Hey, it’s over?”

Romney’s firm played with borrowed money, then forced the company to borrow more money in order to pay Romney’s firm. Bain then proceeded to layoff a huge chunk of the company’s workforce, and tell many of the remaining employees that they could either accept a pay cut or leave. All the while, Romney and his business made a fortune.

In time, the over-leveraged company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection — and accused Romney’s firm of “professional negligence” and “unjust enrichment.”

And Romney thinks Americans are eager to bring this kind of experience to the White House. Indeed, the former governor hardly ever mentions his background in public service, and frequently tells voters to support him because of his business background.

What a background it is.

It reminded me of a recent piece from Frank Rich, describing Romney as a “poseur” who pretends to care about working people, and whose attempts at claiming credibility on unemployment are truly laughable.

No one doubts that Romney is a shape-shifter par excellence, whether on abortion, health care, cap and trade, or the Detroit bailout (which he predicted would speed GM and Chrysler to their doom). In his last presidential run, he was caught fabricating both his prowess as a hunter and a nonexistent civil-rights march starring his father and Martin Luther King. But to masquerade as a latter-day FDR is a new high in chutzpah even by his standards. […]

It’s a record Romney perennially tries to cover up. It may have cost him his Senate race against Ted Kennedy in 1994. In that campaign, Romney was stalked by a “Truth Squad” of striking workers from a Marion, Indiana, paper plant who had lost jobs, wages, health care, and pensions after Ampad, a Bain subsidiary, took control. Ampad eventually went bankrupt, but Bain walked away with $100 million for its $5 million investment. It was an all-too-typical Romney story. […]

That Romney thinks he can pass himself off as the working stiff’s savior and Obama as the second coming of the out-of-touch patrician George H.W. Bush of 1992 truly turns reality on its head.

There was also this gem from Stephen Colbert:

“You see, Romney made a Mittload of cash using what’s known as a leveraged buyout. He’d buy a company with ‘money borrowed against their assets, groomed them to be sold off and in the interim collect huge management fees.’ Once Mitt had control of the company, he’d cut frivolous spending like ‘jobs,’ ‘workers,’ ‘employees,’ and ‘jobs.’ […]

“Because Mitt Romney knows just how to trim the fat. He rescued businesses like Dade Behring, Stage Stories, American Pad and Paper, and GS Industries, then his company sold them for a profit of $578 million after which all of those firms declared bankruptcy. Which sounds bad, but don’t worry, almost no one worked there anymore.

“Besides, a businessman can’t be weighed down with a bleeding heart. As one former Bain employee put it, ‘It was very clinical…. Like a doctor. When the patient is dead, you just move on to the next patient.’”

Colbert presented Romney as a cross between Gordon Gecko and Jack Kevorkian, which sounds about right.

Add to the mix Romney’s belief that “corporations are people,” and his desire to cut taxes for the rich while asking those without to pay more, and we have an anti-populist Republican frontrunner who might find it very difficult to convince working families not to laugh in his face when he asks for their votes.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • PTate in MN on November 13, 2011 12:25 PM:

    Wow...and Romney is considered the BEST the Republican have to offer because he isn't bats**t crazy (Bachmann, Cain) or a testosterone-saturated ignoramus (Perry).

  • GeneJockey on November 13, 2011 12:38 PM:

    Um... I think you meant "laying OFF a lot of American workers"

  • tom on November 13, 2011 12:40 PM:

    I guess if you're a believer in free market capitalism, then Bain Capital is an example of success and we should all strive to be like them. I hope that Romney's political profile will help educate people about what modern free market capitalism is really all about.

  • jjm on November 13, 2011 12:42 PM:

    The front page NYT article this morning on Romney and Bain Capital was devastating.

    I cannot imagine a single one of the millions of people thrown out of work by these 'turnaround' experts (who extract all the money from the company they advise, encouraging them to take on debt they cannot afford and pushing them into bankruptcy) would ever vote for this piece of scum.

    In effect, Bain Capital did to the Illinois company and the others named above what those evil subprime mortgage lenders did to unwary homeowners: got them in over their heads, took their own money upfront, and then moved on to vulturize other companies. By pushing them into bankruptcy, it not only destroyed these companies, through thousands out of work, but in effect defrauded their lenders, too: in bankruptcies the lenders and vendors to the defunct companies are forced to take the losses.

    All of which monies (their upfront 'payment' and the losses incurred by lenders and vendors, plus all the workers' wages) end up in Romney's pocket, not the rightful owners of that money. Theft on a massive scale.

    For far too long our 'millionaires' have been made by investing not in goods and services, but in the amount of money they can defraud out of others.

    If anything ends -- or has ended already -- capitalism as we once knew it, it's vampires like Romney.

  • m2 on November 13, 2011 12:50 PM:

    background involving laying a lot of American workers.

  • golack on November 13, 2011 12:52 PM:

    and what do you think the POG's are trying to do the federal government????

    I was thinking of vulture capitalism, but that's not the right term...

    JJM got it right with vampire capitalism

  • jon on November 13, 2011 12:54 PM:

    "Romney’s private-sector background involving laying a lot of American workers."

    Isn't that supposed to be about Herman Cain?

  • mmm on November 13, 2011 12:58 PM:

    Typo ALERT! "laying a lot of American workers"...??? Does he have a Herman Cain problem?

  • c u n d gulag on November 13, 2011 1:07 PM:

    It's funny that a guy named Mittens has left so many of his fingerprints on his deadly assault on jobs.

    He's the smarmy rich kid you hated in HS, and used to give him wedgies in the locker room, and slapped him around when the teachers weren't looking.

  • sherifffruitfly on November 13, 2011 1:10 PM:

    "Progressive" lies about "Obama is a republican" look more laughable with every passing second.

  • bigtuna on November 13, 2011 1:27 PM:

    There is a third theme that should be developed here - that is, the destruction of shareholder value to enrich Bain. How many of these companies went bankrupt after Bain took over, and how much did Bain pocket? There are at least two Ampad and Dade; I am sure there are others. Grab onto that meme and maybe you'll peel a few middle of road types....

  • sloan on November 13, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Bain Capital is a financial wrecking yard that takes American companies, strips them of their most valuable assets and melts them down for scrap value.

    Romney is the banker who forecloses on your house and Obama is the neighbor who helps you move.

    Here's a debate question for Mitt: "What is your net worth?" I bet he couldn't answer even if he rounded it to the nearest million.

  • j on November 13, 2011 2:05 PM:

    sloan I agree with you and let's not forget that Romney had (perhaps still has) two of those overseas companies that just have an adress in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda so that he would not have to pay US taxes on his income, and this is the man eyeing cuts to medicare, social security and veterans benefits. Every time he get's his hand in the pot the poor have to pay.

  • desertflower on November 13, 2011 2:06 PM:

    Yeah, Willard will have lots to try and explain away.

    This doesn't even TOUCH the healthcare issues he's going to have, or the stance on bombing Iran...or letting all those foreclosures just "happen"...thinking it better to have investors buy the homes, and let the people rent..."Corporations are people, my friend!" But I guess if we wait about 20 seconds, he'll change his stance on any given issue to fit the audience.Republican "leadership". No thanks.

  • cld on November 13, 2011 2:07 PM:

    But, if

    “corporations are people”

    doesn't that make him a murderer? Indeed, a serial killer?

  • jeri on November 13, 2011 2:25 PM:

    cld -- Good one! I like your thinking.

  • dalloway on November 13, 2011 2:35 PM:

    Anybody see the episode of the Sopranos where a poor slob who owns a sporting goods store is targeted by Tony and Co? They hollow out his business by stealing his cash and inventory, force him into bankruptcy and when he complains, they kill him. Aside from the murder, I don't see much difference from Bain Capital.

  • You Don't Say on November 13, 2011 2:46 PM:

    I hope we see that Huckabee clip in some campaign ads this election.

  • PS on November 13, 2011 2:58 PM:

    This sounds an awful lot like the Sopranos - specifically the "Bust Out" episode.

  • Adam on November 13, 2011 3:17 PM:

    I guess we know where the inspiration for the storyline in The Sopranos where they "bust out" the sporting goods store.

  • Mark on November 13, 2011 4:12 PM:

    A little off-topic, but I'm having trouble emailing you - here's a dandy for the God Machine.


    Michigan passes "Matt's School Safe Law" at the Senate level, but inserts a clause that says bullies cannot be held responsible if they can show a religious or moral motivation for their actions. This, according to the President of the American Family Association of Michigan, had to be done to prevent the law from becoming "a Trojan Horse for the homosexual agenda". I'm not kidding.

    Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer called the passage of the law "worse than doing nothing".

  • square1 on November 13, 2011 4:20 PM:

    In a sane world, a Democratic President would ram Romney's background with Bain right up his ass during the race.

    In reality, Obama has largely shot his credibility all to hell.

    Obama is going to attack Romney on layoffs? The same Obama who picked GE's Jeffrey Immeldt to be his Jobs Czar? I defy Obama -- or anyone else for that matter -- to show dime's worth of difference between Romney and Immeldt with regard to offshoring and layoffs.

    Let's cut the crap. If Romney wasn't running for President, he's exactly the type of corporate asshole that Obama would invite to the White House and listen to for hours while Romney waxed about excessive regulation of salmon and business uncertainty.

    In fact, I specifically challenge "sherifffruitfly" to defend Obama's selection of Immeldt since he/she believes that comparing Obama to a Republican is so absurd. And it wouldn't be out of place to explain the appointment and continued employment of Geithner, the renomination of Bernanke, and the White House pushing for the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama while the GOP blocks every effort to create jobs at home.

  • jjm on November 13, 2011 5:07 PM:

    To @square1's notion that Jef Immeldt and Romney haven't got a 'dime's worth of difference with regard to offshoring and layoffs."

    Is GE a company that manufactures goods? Is Bain Capital a company that manufactures goods?

    I don't see the similarities. In addition to its mainstay, appliances, GE technologies are at work in multiple fields from aviation to electricity and transportation, not to mention the work it does, of course, for the US government/the DOD.

    If @square1 wanted to compare the financial arm of GE to Romney's Bain Capital that would be one thing, and there may be parallels; I know nothing about that aspect of GE.

    But to compare a company that is producing products, services and technologies and selling them all over the world, literally, to the vampire companies who suck the life out of such companies is pretty specious.

    Perhaps GE's financial arm has engaged in such practices; it would be good to know. But there is no parallelism between the two kinds of corporate enterprises.

  • thebewilderness on November 13, 2011 5:21 PM:

    There is a third item in the Mittsters past that will probably prevent more people from voting for him than anything else. The dog, on the roof of the car.

    There is a significant segment of the population who have not forgotten that he abuses animals the same way he abuses people for his own profit and convenience.

  • square1 on November 13, 2011 5:32 PM:

    jjm: I didn't ask you to compare GE to Bain. Obama didn't appoint GE to be his jobs czar. He appointed Immeldt.

    The important question is whether Immeldt's views on macroeconomic policy are any better than Romney's views. I submit that the answer is "no".

    Immeldt's ideas for job creation have been lower taxes (BTW, GE pays zero taxes) and appeasing the confidence fairy through deregulation. Please tell me how he isn't as stupid as Romney.

  • spiny on November 13, 2011 5:46 PM:

    he's a craven, cowardly flip-flopper who shifts with the winds and demonstrates a practical allergy to principled stands

    And that contrasts with Obama exactly how? Oh, well I guess Obama at least is smart enough to campaign on the principled stand fist and then sell out after getting elected.

    Really these two guys are pretty much two sides of the same coin- i.e. the politics of big money that rules America today.

  • jjm on November 13, 2011 6:38 PM:

    to@square1: it might interest you to know that Jeff Immelt was named one of the top ten worst CEOs in 2008 by--The FREE ENTERPRISE ACTION FUND.

    When Obama appointed him in 2011 he was obviously trying to make some overtures to the GOP dominated House that had recently won the elections in the midterm. Likewise with the appointment of Bill Daley as CoS.

    Neither worked, and Obama has now taken a new course, relieving Daley (who had pushed most of the policy stances that progressives found pretty horrifying, e.g. the debt ceiling compromises) of his central role. Immelt might soon follow. We'll see.

    As long as people are persuaded that there's 'no difference' between the GOP and the Dems, or between Romney and Obama, the GOP is made to appear far better than it is (see Daily Kos today asking that someone put that pathetic excuse for a party out of its misery) and Obama and the Democrats much less than they actually are.

    It's a sad thing to see appearing on this blog.

  • Doug on November 13, 2011 7:18 PM:

    square1, rather than IMPLYING actions on Immeldt's part as support for your allegations, why don't you provide some FACTS? Or wouldn't they support your untiring, and tiresome, efforts to sway the "jury"?
    I trust you also realize that, by using the selfsame methods and "logic" you employ, one must arrive at the conclusion that you're nothing other than a troll?

  • neil b on November 13, 2011 7:24 PM:

    Romney - Three broad flaws: the consummate corporatist hack.

  • square1 on November 13, 2011 8:05 PM:

    @jjm & doug:

    I have made some very specific allegations about Immeldt. To wit, that his idea of job creation is to cut corporate taxes and deregulate business. Are you really so ignorant about the man that you deny that these are his positions? I am more than happy to produce a bunch of quotes from the guy, if need be. But is this really necessary?

    I mean, don't get me wrong. I'll spend the time giving you links to exactly where Immeldt reveals himself to be just another corporate douchebag. But I'm only going to do it if you first tell me what you think that Immeldt's positions are and why they are better than Romney's.

    None of this vague bullshit about making "overtures" to Congress. Give me specific ideological or policy positions held by Immeldt that are favorable when he is compared to Mitt Romney.

  • square1 on November 13, 2011 8:23 PM:

    When Obama appointed him in 2011 he was obviously trying to make some overtures to the GOP dominated House that had recently won the elections in the midterm. Likewise with the appointment of Bill Daley as CoS.

    Bullshit. Appointing Immeldt and Daley had nothing to do with Congress and everything to do with fellating Obama's Wall Street johns, um, I mean donors.

    There is a reason that Daley was recently retasked and not fired. The reason is that Daley's primary job is to be Obama's Wall Street liaison. Daley's lack of skills in dealing with Congress was unfortunate, but not fatal to his ability to communicate Wall Street's wishes to Obama. Hence Daley's job was simply redefined to not include, you know, actually being a chief of staff.

    Same with Immeldt. His job was never to produce jack shit in terms of job policy. The purpose of his appointment was simply to reassure Wall Street that Obama wouldn't get all populist on them. Since Immeldt hasn't produced squat in terms of job policy and since he is obviously a political liability, why doesn't Obama simply get rid of him? Because Wall Street wouldn't like it.

    Sorry, people, you can call me a troll till the cows come home or you can cry crocodile tears over the tragedy of Obama being compared to -- horrors! -- Republicans. But I am not going to shut up. If Obama chooses to surround himself with neoliberal disaster capitalists, and if Obama chooses to implement neoliberal disaster capitalist policies, and if Obama chooses to
    repeat neoliberal disaster capitalist talking points then I am going to continue to call him on it.

    If Obama has a problem with that then he can fire Daley, fire Immeldt, fire Geithner, call for the resignation of Bernanke, and apologize for ever hiring them in the first place. Until then, no excuses.

  • Anonymous on November 13, 2011 8:54 PM:

    @square1: You aren't a troll. You are a fucking moron. Bain and Immeldt's company are totally different. If you can't tell the difference, you are truly stupid. Say, are you a Naderite?

  • events in florida  on November 13, 2011 11:55 PM:

    Really these two guys are pretty much two sides of the same coin- i.e. the politics of big money that rules America today.For more details visit http://www.whatsupinfl.com

  • Cha on November 14, 2011 12:48 AM:

    @ square1

    With that post and other ignorant ones like it, square1, your credibility is shot all to hell. You're boring with blatant willfill ignorance.

  • Cha on November 14, 2011 12:59 AM:

    Thanks Anonymous.

    Here's a Fact Check article from AP on gop debate..more problems for mitt and the gang who can't or won't learn facts.

    "WASHINGTON (AP) — Herman Cain contradicted himself on torture, Mitt Romney offered a prescription for challenging China that didn't add up and Newt Gingrich seemed to forget about crucial help by Pakistani intelligence in running down terrorists.

    Factual missteps in the latest Republican presidential debate suggested that on some the knottiest foreign policy and national security issues of the time, contenders were out of their comfort zone. Several raised the prospect of an eventual war with Iran that the U.S., by any current measure, is ill-prepared to start.

    A look at some of those claims Saturday night and how they compare with the facts:"


  • The Oracle on November 14, 2011 1:01 AM:

    On the other hand, Mitt Romney sounds like the perfect Republican replacement for the previous Republican presidency, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, with Romney a hybrid of both. And Romney should choose Herman Cain as his vice-presidential running mate, because both are right-wing predators, easily matching the predatory Republican ideology and policies of Bush and Cheney. With President Obama there's at least a slim chance that we won't see another Great Depression, but with either Romney or Cain (or both) in the White House, another Great Depression would most definitely occur, made certain with their predatory help and the predatory help of Republicans on Capitol Hill. So, it is really simple: a vote by Americans for any Republican is a vote for another Great Depression to occur.

  • square1 on November 14, 2011 7:47 AM:

    Wow. I asked a simple question: How are Immeldt's ideas any better than Romney's?

    Seems like nobody was up to the task of answering that one.

    The responses to my question were also quite telling and indicative of why Obama is struggling politically. Obama has a massive problem due to his close association with people who are either directly responsible for the current economic crisis or whose economic views are wildly wrong, and biased toward the 1%.

    Centrist Democrats don't want to solve this "problem" because they see Obama's Wall street ties as a feature not a bug. Hence they resort to shooting the messenger; whether it is Rahm calling the base "fucking retarded" or the accusations on this board that I am a "troll".

    It is fine by me. My job is to help liberals see that Centrist Democrats and liberal Democrats are not on the same side. The more Centrists unveil their rage and hostility towards liberals, the easier to it is for liberals to see that the adoption of neoliberal policies by the party is neither "pragmatic" nor an accident. It is a conscious choice.

    Good day!

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  • chopin on November 14, 2011 10:16 AM:

    I love the way this post presents the case against Mitt. And if he is the GOP presidential candidate and I don't see an ad featuring one of those laid off workers making this case along with the punch line (And Romney thinks Americans are eager to bring this kind of experience to the White House?), then the Dumb-O-Crats are guilty of gross stupidity. Come on Numb Nuts! Kick them where it hurts damn it!