Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 23, 2012

We the People: You're so Bain

By John C. Wund
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Whatever your position, Mitt Romney has both agreed with you and disagreed with you (perhaps on back-to-back occasions). As voters, then, it is our job to sort out his jive from what he might actually believe.

Mitt probably reveals himself most when he talks to gatherings of his "equals," particularly when he thinks his comments will stay within the "fraternity" of his privileged audience. So, when Romney spoke to a group of investors about his effort to expand the megabucks he got from Daddy, he probably wasn’t lying.

And, here is what he said, “Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit.”

The word “harvest” sounds pretty good (particularly at this time of year) because we usually imagine ourselves as the “harvester.” I once raised lambs for market. I tended them from their birth in February until their “harvest” in the summer. After harvest, we celebrated new meat in our freezer and a temporary increase in our bank account. For the lamb, however, “harvest” was not such a good thing. If you step into the shoes of the “harvestee” for a moment, the word becomes far more sinister.

Mitt’s company, Bain Capital, wasn’t in the business of managing long-term growth. Instead, it “harvested” corporations after only a few years and extracted as much money as possible, often by increasing debt and sending jobs overseas. Sometimes Bain “pumped and dumped” the company intact. Sometimes Bain dismembered the company and sold off the parts to “realize value.” Sometimes they invested in the United States, sometimes in China. Bain (Romney) showed no consideration for the conditions of people who worked in those companies, nor for their long term development. Always, Bain had offices in store-front ‘tax havens’ to avoid the dues most of us pay to be citizens of the United States.

And, if success means making money in such an operation, Mitt did a pretty good job of flipping, dismantling and salvaging parts. And now, Romney cites this ‘business success’ as his chief qualification for becoming President of our country.

But, do we really want a “grim reaper” so isolated from employees (or citizens) that he would cut their jobs, healthcare and pensions without a scruple so wealthy "investors" could maximize profit? Do we want a private equity speculator that put short-term facades on existing companies and dumped systemic problems on someone else? Do we want a "businessman" experienced at dismantling corporations like the carcass of a lamb?

Our country isn’t something to be harvested for profit in five to eight years. Neither is it a corpse to be picked apart. The United States is a living institution that must be carefully cultivated for centuries so all of our children will benefit. Mitt may be slick and have nice looking hair, but both the "business record" he touts and his elitist temperament, as revealed in other candid moments, seem to indicate that Romney has neither the expertise nor the inclination to work for the long-term benefit of the average American.