Political Animal


December 21, 2011 2:45 PM Romney’s layoffs move towards center stage

By Steve Benen

I’ve been wondering for months why Mitt Romney’s Republican rivals weren’t going after the former governor’s vulture-capitalist record. It turns out, they were just waiting until crunch time.

To briefly review, Romney got very rich running a private-equity firm, Bain Capital, which broke up companies and laid off American workers. He had considerable success orchestrating leveraged buyouts, seeking taxpayer subsidies, flipping companies quickly for large profits, and making money for investors “even when companies slid into bankruptcy.” Romney, it turns out, is still making millions from the firm he left more than a decade ago.

This is starting to matter. Newt Gingrich took a shot at the Bain record last week; Rick Perry’s campaign has a new spot slamming Romney for “making millions … laying off workers”; and Jon Huntsman’s campaign is following highlighting all the New Hampshire workers who lost their jobs because Romney, at least indirectly, fired them.

This coincides with a very tough AP article, published on Monday, noting the hundreds of layoffs Romney’s firm orchestrated in South Carolina, creating lots of profits for Romney and his investors.

Don’t worry, Romney is aware of all of this — his work at Bain helped derail his Senate campaign in the ’90s — and he has a response ready: his critics are probably communists.

We got our first hint on Sunday, when Romney told Fox News “there’s going to be every effort to put free enterprise on trial.” The Republican candidate was more explicit talking to MSNBC’s Joe Scaborough yesterday:

“That is the nature of free enterprise. If someone thinks they can find a way that every enterprise that one invests in becomes successful, all are successful, why, they are not living in a free enterprise system. They are living in a system like the old Soviet Union where the government insists that everybody adds employment every year, and ultimately the economy suggests that the people become poorer.

“I believe that free enterprise works and I believe that other models have been proven to be failures time and time again. And I was surprised to have Newt Gingrich pick up the story line that came from Barack Obama and the DNC and go on the attack against free enterprise.”

Got that? If anyone in either party has a problem with Romney’s style of ruthless, job-killing business tactics, those critics, he argues, simply don’t accept capitalism. (For the record, the president never “attacked” free enterprise, and he regularly emphasizes that the free market is the greatest engine of economic prosperity in human history. Romney is lying.)

Nevertheless, in Mitt Romney’s eyes, President Obama, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Jon Huntsman might as well be Fidel Castro.

I have no idea if mainstream voters will find this persuasive, but if they have any sense at all, they shouldn’t.

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.


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  • bigtuna on December 21, 2011 2:53 PM:

    If this is communism, I wonder what capitalism looks like ....

    Huntsman is a global manufacturer and marketer of differentiated chemicals. Our operating companies manufacture products for a variety of global industries, including chemicals, plastics, automotive, aviation, textiles, footwear, paints and coatings, construction, technology, agriculture, health care, detergent, personal care, furniture, appliances and packaging.
    Originally known for pioneering innovations in packaging and, later, for rapid and integrated growth in petrochemicals, Huntsman has approximately
    12,000 employees and operates from multiple locations worldwide. The Company had 2010 revenues of over $9 billion.

  • Willie the Whiner on December 21, 2011 2:56 PM:


  • bleh on December 21, 2011 2:59 PM:

    I don't think the free-enterprise-on-trial line will work, simply because it's so easy to refute, even pre-emptively.

    "I have no quarrel with free enterprise -- on the contrary, it was the men and women who built businesses that gave this country the greatest standard of living in the world. But that's the men and women who BUILT businesses, not the ones who tore them down, Men and women who CREATED jobs, not the ones who destroyed them. Men and women who RAISED factories and offices and communities, not the ones who hollowed them out, fired all their people, and looted what was left to line their own pockets."

    Blah blah blah...

  • Grumpy on December 21, 2011 3:11 PM:

    ...Romney told Fox News "there’s going to be every effort to put free enterprise on trial."

    The more Romney hides behind "free enterprise," the more likely "free enterprise" is going to be defenestrated with him.

  • rikyrah on December 21, 2011 3:16 PM:

    with the recent revelation that Willard is STILL getting paid by Bain...it's a DNC AD just waiting to be made.

    Simple really.

    Open with workers of some company that went bankrupt, and have those folks talk about not only the job, but I'm sure, the PENSIONS that they lost.

    then, transpose that with how much Willard has gotten through TODAY, even though he left Bain...

    the ads to write themselves.

  • sherifffruitfly on December 21, 2011 3:22 PM:

    (shrug) They want FREE enterprise? Fine - let's cease ALL corporate subsidies of any sort NOW.

    Fucking sick of hearing that whining.

  • Walt on December 21, 2011 3:24 PM:

    I am so eternally tired of this man. A decade of this poseur is enough. Whether he gets the nomination or not we will be done with him for good in August or December 2012. Even Mitt wouldn't hang around for a third try.

  • jjm on December 21, 2011 3:24 PM:

    Substitute the word 'fraud' for 'free' and you've got Romney's point of view.

  • John Dillinger on December 21, 2011 3:26 PM:

    The response: Governor, no one is questioning your right to make a profit on business deals where the companies succeeded, but you made alot of money where the businesses failed, and people lost their jobs. How do you justify such a system?

  • Texas Aggie on December 21, 2011 3:29 PM:

    Another way that he is being less than forthcoming is that when he claims that free enterprise means some companies are going to fail, he forgets to say that the reason his companies failed is that he bled them dry. Instead of trying to resuscitate the companies, he charged them outrageous management fees for "managing" them to death. There's a big difference between a failing business and one that is being killed.

  • bob h on December 21, 2011 3:29 PM:

    I would bet that among the laid-off are tales of divorce, depression, even suicide. This should make for some juicy commercials

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 21, 2011 4:14 PM:

    Yeah, Mitt! You tell them closet Nazi Commie Pinkos of the GOP!!!!

  • Tom Dibble on December 21, 2011 4:51 PM:

    @Dillinger: Nail, head, hit. Exactly.

    No one is saying that all businesses should succeed, nor that people shouldn't lose their jobs when their business goes under, as tragic as that is. The problem with Bain, which apparently after almost 20 years of being hit over the head with this Romney still just doesn't get, is that he was ENTRUSTED with doing right by those companies, HE profited massively, while the EMPLOYEES were completely screwed over.

    It's not that the companies failed. It's that Bain, and chiefly Romney, took massive profits in the process of putting those companies out of their misery. That is not productive capitalism, that's parasitic opportunism. It is NOT the stuff which made America great. It acts in quite the opposite direction, actually.

    I'm not sure if it's better for Romney if he truly can not see how this predation on American workers is anti-capitalist, or if he is just faking na�vety to avoid the question. His record is damning enough. His inability or unwillingness to come to grips with it and make amends thoroughly disqualifies him from public office. We don't need a sociopath in the Whitehouse!

  • Wallys son on December 21, 2011 5:08 PM:

    So, what happens if, by some chance, Jon Huntsman becomes the nominee? He's actually somewhat sane. So, what would Obama's strategy be against him?

  • Andrew on December 21, 2011 5:28 PM:

    Its actually worse for Romney. He has been pushing the idea that he knows business and he knows how to create jobs. His record however shows the opposite. He cut workers of the companies Bain was managing and his record of creating jobs while he was Governor of Mass. was horrible. And this is supposed to be his strength.

  • kk on December 21, 2011 6:31 PM:

    People who sell rape-fantasy pornography are engaged in free enterprise. People who make money advertising junk food for children are engaged in free enterprise.

    Just because they're not illegal doesn't mean that these are honorable occupations, or that they qualify someone for the presidency. And someone who cricizes these perfectly legal activities is NOT attacking free enterprise.

    What a moron.

  • Steve P on December 21, 2011 9:16 PM:

    Governor Romney, meet Governor Romney--George Romney, that is. In charge of American Motors, he CREATED and SAVED American jobs. He turned down unseemly raises in his own pay. As a presidential candidate, he denounced the Johnson administration for lying to Americans and himself about progress in Viet Nam.
    Oh, and he was a Republican. Honest. In Michigan we don't know where Mitt came from--it's like "The Omen".

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 10:14 PM:

    The fruit fly with the star on his chest has the right idea.