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If They're Going to Target Romney for Outsourcing, Democrats Ought to Stop Enabling It

The issue here is not that Democrats offer no alternative to capitalism. But they offer no challenge to it in its most rapacious, exploitative incarnation of recent times.

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The Republicans are really upset because the ads are working. Polls show that in swing states, where people are more likely to have seen the ads, they are twice as likely to see Romney's time at Bain as a reason to vote against him – elsewhere the nation is evenly split.

At a time when corporate profits are soaring, unemployment is stuck at around 8% and poverty is rising, it's not difficult to see why the message would resonate.

In his "victory" speech on Super Tuesday Romney described the jobless rate as an "inconvenient statistic" for the White House. "But those numbers are more than data on a spreadsheet; they are worried families and anxious faces," he said. "And tonight, I'd like to say to each of them: You are not forgotten." But it was precisely by treating people as data on a spreadsheet that Bain made its money. Romney never forgot about those worried families because they never figured in his calculations in the first place.

The process of buying, slicing, bankrupting, restructuring and selling he practised at Bain is known as "creative destruction": that means creating profits for the shareholders and destroying people's livelihoods if necessary. That's what capitalism is; that's what capitalism does. It's essentially amoral. Its goal is not to create jobs, let alone keep them in a certain country, but to make profit.

The issue here is not that Democrats offer no alternative to capitalism. Somebody should but they've never claimed to. But they offer no challenge to it in its most rapacious, exploitative and ultimately self-defeating incarnation of recent times. It is difficult to accept lectures on outsourcing from the party that introduced the North American Free Trade Agreement – an outsourcers' charter liberalising trade between the US, Mexico and Canada. The party that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, loosening regulations that would have mitigated the worst effects of the most recent crisis, has no credibility to preach about business ethics.

The Democrats have done a great deal to make things easier for firms like Bain to do the very things they are criticising and precious little to protect the livelihood of people like Cobb and his former colleagues in the steel mill.

Given the opportunity to reform a banking system where venality, corruption and ineptitude were rife Obama decided instead to prop it up. As such he has proved himself more keen to save capitalism from itself than protect workers from its excesses.

He told the bankers at the 2009 meeting: "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." Next time he should get out of the way.

 
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