Romney's Bain Capital Is Sending a Bunch of High-Tech Jobs to China on the Day Before the Election
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On the day before an election that's supposed to hinge on jobs, taxes and the middle class, Bain Capital, the company Mitt Romney founded, will close the doors of a factory in Freeport, Illinois, and ship 170 good, high-tech jobs to China.
The employees of Sensata Technologies were forced to train their Chinese replacements, and the American flag that long flew over the factory was reportedly removed while the Chinese engineers were visiting the site. A group of workers have set up camp across from the factory -- calling it “Bainport” -- and some supporters have tried to block the trucks hauling equipment out of the plant. According to Dave Johnson, there have been several arrests.
Sensata workers have asked to meet with Mitt Romney and hoped to enlist his help keeping their jobs in the United States, but he has refused, instead remaining on the campaign trail where he speaks often about “getting tough” with China.
The most important part of the story is that Sensata Technologies is profitable operating in Illinois. Net income last year was $355 million, up 16 percent from 2010. The company reported total revenues of $1.8 billion in 2011, up almost 19 percent from the year before. According to a company financial statement, “both 2011 net revenue and adjusted net income represent record levels for the company.”
So this has nothing to do with “making hard choices” in the process of turning around a failing business, which is how the Romney campaign describes Bain's corporate raiding. Bain's partners are looking for a modest boost in profits by locating the plant closer to the booming Asian automotive market (Sensata makes high-tech automotive parts). They'll get a small tax break for relocating the plant – the one Mitt Romney insisted did not exist during the first debate – and possibly defer taxes on some of the income the company generates.
It takes both capital and labor to make a successful business like Sensata Technologies. In order to make a few more bucks, 170 of the people who helped make the company thrive will be cast aside like so much trash. The layoffs will surely have a ripple-effect in Freeport – a town of 25,000 with a declining population and a poverty rate well above the national average. The move is the epitome of corporate America's lack of patriotism – it's capital unmoored from any sense of responsibility for the people that make the profits or the communities where they live. The city passed a resolution Monday asking Romney to intervene.
But the Sensata story has, so far, had little impact on the presidential race, mostly because Mitt Romney has no direct involvement in the operations of the company he established (despite continuing to make millions as a “passive retired partner”). But this is reading the story of Bain Capital too narrowly. Mitt Romney is directly responsible for its business model.
As Tom Gaulrapp -- a lifelong resident of Freeport and 33-year employee of Sensata – told the Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel, “They're still using his business model. He's the one who taught them how to do this. These guys were put there by him. So you can say he doesn't run the day-to-day operations, but he's still at blame for the way they do business."
Mitt Romney started the firm, and built it up on a strategy of buying firms with little money down, loading them with debt, raiding their pension funds and breaking their unions and then “harvesting them” – in his words – for a profit. Romney is the only person to ever serve as Bain's CEO – since his departure, the firm has been run by a managing committee.