Political Animal


January 05, 2012 10:50 AM Meet Donny Box

By Steve Benen

When it comes to Mitt Romney’s background at Bain Capital, we tend to think about the layoffs in the abstract. Romney orchestrated leveraged buyouts, flipping companies quickly for large profits, at the expense of thousands of workers who were considered collateral damage.

But the story has a greater impact when we shift away from the thousands and towards the individual victims. Randy Johnson, for example, who lost his job in the ’90s when Romney took over American Pad & Paper (Ampad), has been an active critic of the Republican. Johnson told reporters this week, “I really feel that he didn’t care about the workers. It was all about profit over people.”

But Johnson isn’t the only one. MoveOn.org released a new ad this morning featuring steel worker and Army veteran Donny Box, who lost his job of 32 years at Kansas City’s GST after Romney’s firm took it over.

“We lost our jobs, they made millions,” Box says in the ad. Box concludes, “Mitt Romney wants to call himself a ‘job creator’? Mitt Romney doesn’t care about jobs. He cares about money.”

The spot will run in New Hampshire starting tomorrow and running through Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary.

For its part, the Romney campaign recently began arguing that critics of Bain Capital’s layoffs are borderline communists, trying to “put free enterprise on trial.” Who knows, maybe that’ll work.

But it strikes me as a pretty potent area of criticism. Between this and Romney’s larger agenda — take away health care coverage from millions, tax breaks for the wealthy, free rein for Wall Street, more foreclosures — it would appear Romney may struggle to reconcile his message/background and the public’s economic anxieties.

Remember, Romney has been haunted by his victims before, and in his 1994 campaign, this mattered. Many of Romney’s victims drove to Massachusetts to protest the Republican’s campaign, and Democrats put together a half-dozen ads featuring laid-off workers who said they suffered while Romney lined his pockets at their expense.

When the general election phase gets under way, I suspect we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about this.

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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  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2012 11:04 AM:

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Mitt's got a very strong record as a "Job Creator!"

    If these are the jobs you want to create:
    Human Resources termination specialist.
    Unemployment councilor.
    Marriage councilor.
    Re-mortgaging agent.
    Real Estate agent.
    Moving company worker.
    Divorce attorney.
    Child placement workers.
    Suicide Hotline staffers.
    911 call center staffers.
    Obituary writers.
    Funeral home greeters.
    Grief councilors.
    Cemetery workers.
    Backhoe operators.
    Headstone carvers.
    Among others.

    That them there's A TON OF JOBS!

  • stormskies on January 05, 2012 11:04 AM:

    This will be the new model for Romney if he becomes the president:

    A growing number of companies across the country are purposely misclassifying workers as self-employed 'owners' for the sake of saving on labor costs. Doing so allows the companies to avoid paying health care, to ignore worker regulations, shift the burden of payroll taxation to the workers and obtain an uncompetitive advantage over businesses who do the right thing. A recent investigative report by Utah's KSL 5 News took a closer look at how the process works:

    Thousands of Utah construction workers are employed in dozens of large projects not as traditional laborers, but as “owners” under a workforce re-classification process that critics say could allow employers to avoid paying benefits, payroll taxes and workers compensation insurance, according to an investigation by KSL Television.

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Labor Commission told KSL they are each looking into the practice, which contractors say has allowed such companies to under-bid competitors on construction projects by as much as 50 percent. The companies who pursue the practice say it is legal under Utah’s limited liability laws, and isn’t designed to shirk any tax or payroll obligations.

  • zandru on January 05, 2012 11:05 AM:

    "Profit over People"

    Why not? A fundamental tenet of wingnut philosophy is that when everyone is selfish and greedy, thinking only of their own personal gain to the exclusion of everyone else, the economy booms, innovation thrives, and everyone does better.

    They can literally run on this as a platform, because it's superficially plausible - if you don't consider that the playing field is not level and that humans have thrived as a species by cooperating with one another.

  • davidp on January 05, 2012 11:13 AM:

    Steve: it's "free rein", not "free reign."

  • DavidNOE on January 05, 2012 11:15 AM:

    I guess it's a sign of the decline in the use of horses over the 75 years of my life that the time-honored phrase "free rein," a metaphor based on letting the horse you're riding or driving do whatever it wants to, has been turned into "free reign," which doesn't really seem to mean much of anything.

  • TCinLA on January 05, 2012 11:20 AM:

    If "free" enterprise was put on trial, it would be found guilty of crimes against humanity. Of course it has to be restrained, it's like having a wild lion living in your living room.

    The sooner we take the top 200 Wall Street back alley assassins, bank robbers, train robbers, thieves, murderers and traitors out and hang them for conspiracy, the rest of the pinstriped scum will "get the message". Burning down the Hamptons or Greenwich CT might also work.

  • TCinLA on January 05, 2012 11:29 AM:

    @davidp: Steve: it's "free rein", not "free reign."

    Actually it's both: "free rein" for the companies and "free reign" for their lordships of Wall Street.

  • lou on January 05, 2012 11:30 AM:

    "put free enterprise on trial"

    No. Just the rapacious, unbridled kind. Mitt and his corporate goon squads will do everything to blur the difference. And the ditto heads will follow.

  • stormskies on January 05, 2012 11:38 AM:


    "If "free" enterprise was put on trial, it would be found guilty of crimes against humanity. "


    Fuck, this says it all .............

  • John T. on January 05, 2012 11:40 AM:

    At first this line of attack looks like it could be effective but once the general election gets underway Romney's campaign (assuming that he's the nominee) and its various PACs are almost certain to air similar ads with workers who blame Obama for them being laid off. Truth wont matter. Eventually the airwaves will be filled with ads with workers blaming Romney and ads with workers blaming Obama and at that point this line of attack will be nullified.

  • SteveT on January 05, 2012 11:53 AM:

    the Romney campaign recently began arguing that critics of Bain Capital's layoffs are borderline communists, trying to "put free enterprise on trial."

    This reminds me of Elliot Abrams back in the 80s, talking about Central American marxist guerillas and saying "I don't understand why anyone would want to be a communist."

    If you're a peasant farmer in an allegedly-capitalist democracy where government-sponsored, U.S. funded death squads kidnap, torture and kill anyone who dares suggest that the peasant farmers might get a better price for their crops if they organized, then you might be open to considering an alternative form of government.

    And if, after decades of hard and loyal work, you've been cast aside after the company you worked for was bought out by a "free-market capitalist", you might be open to considering the idea that "free markets" might not be the best system.

    Conservatives seem unable to understand any idea that doesn't fit into their preconceptions.

  • Gandalf on January 05, 2012 12:27 PM:

    SteveT that's well said. What you said has to be repeated to anyone who might be on the fence.

  • Robert L Fast on January 05, 2012 1:13 PM:

    Romney claims that he created 89000 jobs at Staples. But Staples doesn't create any jobs at all.

    Staples can't increase the demand for paper and pencils. Computers, printers, and word processing software create that demand. The 89000 jobs at Staples were taken from companies like American Pad and Paper and the thousands of independent local stationery stores around the country that are now out of business.

    Creating jobs in the private sector usually achieves no net growth in employment beyond what can be expected from population increases, and rarely has anything to do with creating new jobs in the overall economy. Does Wal-Mart cause people to eat more? Of course not. The exception is when a business invents a new product. Apple creates jobs - unfortunately they're in China.

  • booch221 on January 05, 2012 2:07 PM:

    So is MoveOn.org supporting Santorum in the NH Primary?

  • Michael Box on January 09, 2012 10:48 PM:

    My cousin Donny is 100% correct. Corporate raiders like Romney didn't think about the jobs, the homes, the kids, the schools, or the fabric of the communities they willingly shred. They only thought about greed. They didn't see places like Armco and Union Wire Rope as essential elements of Kansas City's economic engine. They only saw these businesses as fat hogs to slaugher.