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Matt Taibbi Reveals How Romney Made His Fortune -- It Ain't Pretty, and He Shouldn't Be Proud of It

"Earned" is a very generous way to put it.

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AMY GOODMAN: Matt, you say that Mitt Romney is not the flip-flopper that critics say he is.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah. I mean, this is a sort of a subtle point about Mitt Romney. It’s funny. I don’t want to stretch this comparison too much, but, you know, there’s—it’s almost like he has a kind of a religious conviction about being able to lie to people outside of the tent, so to speak. You know, there’s that tenet of some forms of extreme Muslim religions where it’s OK to lie to the infidel. And I think Mitt Romney has a little bit of that. He seems to believe that it’s OK, that there’s nothing particularly wrong with changing one’s mind about things, and he does it repeatedly in a way that I think is different from other politicians. For him, it’s just changing a business strategy, and he doesn’t see why everybody should get so upset about it.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that Mitt Romney has a vision, that he’s trying for something big. Lay out what that vision is.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, Mitt Romney is really the representative of an entire movement that’s taken over the American business world in the last couple of decades. You know, America used to be—especially the American economy was built upon this brick-and-mortar industrial economy, where we had factories, we built stuff, and we sold it here in America, and we exported it all over the world. That manufacturing economy was the foundation for our wealth and power for a couple of centuries. And then, in the '80s, we started to transform ourselves from a manufacturing economy to a financial economy. And that process, which, you know, on Wall Street we call financialization, was really led that—sort of this revolution, where instead of making products, we made transactions, we made financial products, like credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. We created money through financial transactions rather than building products and selling them around the world. And that revolution was really led by people like Mitt Romney. And the advantage of financialization, from the point of view of the very rich and the people who run the American economy, is that it was extremely efficient at extracting wealth and kicking it upward, whereas the old manufacturing economy had the sort of negative effect of spreading around to the entire population. In the financialization revolution, you can take all of the money, and you don't have to spread it around with anybody. And Mitt Romney was kind of a symbol of that fundamental shift in our economy.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday, Democracy Now!'s Mike Burke caught up with the Texas governor, Rick Perry, and asked him about his comment about Mitt Romney, calling him a vulture capitalist. Let's take a listen.

MIKE BURKE: You described Mitt Romney, compared him to a vulture. What did you mean by that? And you said his work with Bain Capital was indefensible.

GOV. RICK PERRY: How are you?

MIKE BURKE: Those were your words during the primary season, Governor. Do you have any comment at all?

AMY GOODMAN: What you were just listening to was the silence of Governor Perry not responding to Mike’s question. Yes, Governor Perry called Mitt Romney a "vulture capitalist." Matt Taibbi, what does that mean?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, look, again, this is what—how companies like Bain made their money. And a great example was a company that I went and visited—well, the place where it used to exist—KB Toys, which used to be headquartered out in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They took over the company with like $18 million down. They financed the other $302 million. So that’s borrowed money that subsequently became the debt of KB Toys. This is an important distinction for people to understand. When they borrowed that money to take over that company, they didn’t have to pay it back, KB had to pay it back. Once they took over the company, they induced it to do a $120 million, quote-unquote, "dividend recapitalization," which essentially means that the company had to cash in a bunch of shares and pay Bain and its investors a huge sum of money. And in order to finance that, they had to take out over $60 million in bank loans. So, essentially, you take over the company, you force them to make enormous withdrawals against their credit card, essentially, and pay the new owners of the company. And that’s essentially what they did. They took over a floundering company that was sort of in between and faced with threatening changes in the industry, and they forced them to cash out entirely and pay all their money to the new owners.

 
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