s Bain Capital, the private equity firm formerly run by Mitt Romney, a job-killing "vampire"? That's what President Obama's latest campaign ad, which focuses on Bain's 1993 purchase of Kansas City's GST Steel, would have you believe. (Watch the video below.) In 2001, shortly after Romney left Bain, GST went bankrupt, 750 employees lost their livelihoods and pensions, and Bain walked away with a $12 million profit. "It was like a vampire," says one former employee in the ad. "They came in and sucked the life out of us." The clip has drawn criticism from Republicans, and even Democratic donor and financier Steve Rattner, who oversaw the auto bailout. Rattner called the attack "unfair," arguing that it was not Bain's responsibility to create or preserve jobs, but to make profits for its investors. Is Obama hitting below the belt?
This is a legitimate attack: The ad is part of a "larger philosophical debate undergirding the presidential campaign," says Jonathan Chait at New York. The rise of Bain coincided with a transformation of American business that saw a "staggering rise in income inequality" and the dissolution of a "social compact between workers and their bosses." Obama is within his rights to show how conservative ideology makes "working life less secure and has failed to deliver broad-based prosperity even while it has bestowed enormous riches on the fortunate."
"Mitt Romney, Bain Capital, and the one percent economy"
And even Romney's GOP rivals attacked Bain: Running an anti-Bain ad is a "no-brainer" given that Romney's primary opponents did the same thing, says David A. Graham at The Atlantic. A super PAC affiliated with Newt Gingrich produced a documentary called "King of Bain" that featured "heavy-handed, ominous voiceovers" warning what would happen to America if a vulture capitalist like Romney took over. Obama's ad, which "features friendly, hard-working, older men who look like your father or uncle or brother-in-law," is tame by comparison.
"Obama attacks Romney's private sector record"
But Obama has overseen his own share of layoffs: Romney is not the only person in the presidential race who "took over a company and laid people off in an effort to save the larger enterprise," says Byron York at The Washington Examiner. The government bailout of GM and Chrysler involved shutting down "more than 700 dealerships, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs." The Romney camp will inevitably point that out, while launching a "counterattack against what might be called Obama's own record in business" — a lousy economy.
"How Romney will respond to Obama's Bain attack"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Attack of the invasive species
- 14 wonderful words with no English equivalent
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- Which states get screwed worst by the Electoral College?
Subscribe to the Week