I love this Bain debate. It is exactly the kind of debate about the nature of business and job creation we need to be having in this campaign. The Republicans, along with pro-Wall Street Democrats, are squealing like stuck pigs about the Obama campaign “attacking free enterprise” because they want to change the subject fast. They are saying to themselves: please, let’s talk about anything else. Deficits would be their first choice, but anything would be preferable. Maybe we’ll see them start talking about contraceptives and how people shouldn’t have sex again just to change the subject. Because this debate goes straight to the heart of what kind of economy we should be trying to build in this country.
This is isn’t about being for or against free enterprise. This is about how the economy should work better for everyone in it, not just the top 1 percent. The Republicans -- and Democrats like Cory Booker and Harold Ford, who both have raised millions of dollars in Wall Street money (including money from Bain) for their campaigns -- say that it is great when financial corporations like Bain make money by loading up the companies they buy with debt, taking all the tax write-offs the law allows, and then walking away with tons of money whatever happens to the original company. In fact, the companies Bain bought frequently went bankrupt, and Bain usually profited when those companies did go belly-up because of tax write-offs and sucking the companies’ assets dry. But in this line of reasoning, it’s all good, because capitalism should be unrestrained and some people got very rich.
What Obama and other Democrats are arguing is that our government should be on the side of the businesses that create not just wealth for a few at the top, but jobs and incomes for a lot of people. That is why Obama made the incredibly gutsy move to save the American auto industry, a policy that saved 1.45 million jobs in the short run, and kept desperately needed manufacturing jobs in this country for years to come. It is why Obama has made big investments in the budget for Small Business Administration jobs. It is why investments have been made in clean energy jobs of the future. It is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has emphasized rural economic development and small business development in areas where jobs and incomes are desperately needed.
Democratic policies are in fact far more pro-business than policies like the Romney-Ryan budget, which independent studies estimate would cost the nation more than 4 million jobs in the next two years. That’s a lot of business customers who no longer have money to spend.
The Republican attack machine (helped by Democrats like Booker and Ford who have been feeding at the Wall Street trough for their entire careers) wants to intimidate the Obama campaign by making the claim that any attack on greedy business practices like the ones Romney perfected at Bain is an attack on all business and the market. It’s the same kind of argument Republicans make when they complain about class warfare politics when Democrats suggest that millionaires ought to pay a little more in taxes. It is an utterly soulless, amoral argument. But this is a fight Democrats can and will win if we make our case, because I think most people understand that there are ethical and unethical business practices. And they get that there is a difference between making money by manipulating the tax code and squeezing all the value out of businesses before throwing them away, and making money by making and selling good products that people want to buy. Biden laid this case out beautifully in a speech in Youngstown:
And the President got it right when he said “when you are President, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”
This debate about Bain Capital is one we need to have. What kind of business activity, and what kind of government policy, is better for America? Republicans, you better batten down the hatches, because we are going to have this debate. Whiny Wall Street Democrats, get over it, this is a fight we are taking on. This is a make or break moment for America’s middle class, and we aren’t going to let Republican bullies and Wall Street Democrat whiners from making Bain the bain of Romney’s existence.