5 Reasons Why Obama's Attack on Bain Is Good For America
Ever since the Obama campaign launched a full-frontal assault on GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his record as a leveraged-buyout kingpin at Bain Capital, all manner of consternation and hand-wringing have ensued -- some of it from Democrats.
At issue are campaign ads and videos that focus on the people whose jobs were lost when Bain, during Romney's time as CEO, bought up the companies they worked for, and then shuttered those companies' operations. One ad looks at Bain's killing of a steel plant in Missouri; a subsequent video looks at the case of SCM, once a major office-supply manufacturer, and the brutal way in which Bain fired the workers. In both instances, Bain and its investors made substantial profits. At SCM, Bain bankrupted a company that had been turning a profit when the buyout firm grabbed it.
The Obama campaign may have gone after Romney on Bain simply because staffers want their man to win the election -- and they've found quite a chink in Romney's armor, given that the former Massachusetts governor has hung the rationale for his presidential campaign not on his prowess as an elected official, but on his success as a businessman and self-described "job creator." But the anti-Bain campaign, and its fallout, is a potent reminder of how income inequality manifests in the lives of real people, and how structural problems in the electoral system favor the Bain-style robber barons of the world.
So, even if the Obama campaign's anti-Bain offensive is nothing more than a bid to ensure a win for its candidate, in the long run, the campaign is doing America a service, for the reasons listed below.
1. It breaks the long-observed campaign rule of kowtowing to Big Business and Big Finance - Try to remember the last time a presidential candidate went after his opponent for running a business by standard business practices, such as those observed by Bain Capital under Romney's direction. After all, Romney was just doing what "private equity" (a.k.a., leveraged buyout) firms do: They buy up businesses, and then dispense with them in ways that make money for investors. This was no Ponzi scheme, no Enron, nothing irregular. And politicians are generally loath to criticize businesses for just doing what the law allows them to do. But with Romney likely to suck up most of the campaign dollars being served up by Wall Street, the Obama campaign is apparently willing to take the risk of alienating a few fat cats, it that's what it takes to win in an increasingly tight presidential race. An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama a mere 3 points ahead of Romney -- well within the margin of error. On the issue of who would best steer the economy, the poll finds the two candidates tied.
With data like that, Obama's best shot at making his case is to expose the kind of values Romney's tenure at Bain Capital reveal -- values that lard the coffers of rich people, often at the expense of working Janes and Joes. (For more on this strategy, read Newsweek's Michael Tomasky; Obama strategists apparently are.)
2. It has exposed the major structural problem of American democracy, smoking out big business' allies in the Democratic Party. Exhibit 1 of this structural bent toward extreme inequality is the outburst of Newark Mayor Cory Booker on NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday, when His Honor dubbed as "nauseating" the Obama camp's ad about the Bain-eviscerated steel plant -- and equated the Obama ad with a superPAC proposal for a race-baiting anti-Obama ad that would dredged up the white-fear bogeyman figure of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.