Occupy Wall Street has come to the Republican presidential campaign – only it isn’t because of anything the protesters have done. It’s because of withering populist attacks against Mitt Romney and his tenure at Bain Capital now being lobbed by his Republican rivals for the 2012 presidential nomination.
From Newt Gingrich: “Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money, or is that somehow a little bit of a flawed system?” And from Rick Perry: “Now I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company Bain Capital with all the jobs that they killed, I’m sure he was worried that he’d run out of pink slips.”
It’s a surprising line of attack for representatives of a party that, as the Romney campaign has worked hard to remind people, claims to be for free-market capitalism – a party that, not all that long ago, touted the virtues of having a CEO in the Oval Office. And it smacks of hypocrisy coming from candidates who, across the board, espouse smaller, more efficient government – which, by definition, also means fewer government jobs. Those attacks, as others have noted, seem particularly disingenuous coming from Newt Gingrich, who had been on the advisory board of leveraged buyout firm Forstmann Little.
“President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial and in the last few days we’ve seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him,” Romney said in his victory speech after the New Hampshire primary. “This is such a mistake for our party, and for our nation.”
But as the campaign moves on to South Carolina, the Bain bashing is bound to continue. Perry, who has staked his campaign on the primary taking place in two weeks, has already been hammering the theme there. On Tuesday, he compared Bain Capital’s buyout practices to “vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb, waiting for the company to get sick, and then they sweep in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.”
The problem for Romney is that whether jobs were lost or created, he made millions from most of those investments.
Gingrich, with financial help from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, plans to run a series of ads using a documentary called “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” a scathing look at Romney’s record with Bain. “Mitt Romney became CEO of Bain Capital the day the company was formed,” the movie says. “His mission: To reap massive rewards for himself and his investors.”
Of course it was. Just about every CEO will tell you the same thing – their goal is to maximize rewards for shareholders. Romney did precisely what he was supposed to do at Bain. As a private equity investor, he sought to make failing companies more efficient, even if it meant cutting hundreds of jobs. Reengineering corporations in order to make them leaner and meaner – and, ultimately, to help them survive – is nothing new.