A corporate raider threatens a hostile take-over of a “mom and pop” company. The patriarch of the company enlists the help of his wife’s daughter, who is a lawyer, to try and protect the company. The raider is enamoured of her, and enjoys the thrust and parry of legal manoeuvring as he tries to win her heart. — Plot Summary of Other People’s Money courtesy IMDB
Last night, I was talking to a very smart, well informed friend of mine who is convinced that Mitt Romney cannot beat Barack Obama in a general election. She cited most of Romney’s standard weaknesses, but she also feels Bain Capital is a huge negative for him — much bigger than most people realize. Now, I think Romney’s electability is DRAMATICALLY overestimated. In fact, I consider him to be a slightly less electable candidate than the average GOP POTUS nominee. In other words, he may be stronger than Goldwater, but weaker than Ford or McCain. Maybe Mitt’s comparable to Dole? Long story short, Mitt’s probably not a dead dog loser, but I do think he’s a weak candidate and conservatives don’t realize how much Bain Capital could potentially end up hurting Romney in the general election.
That brings us to Other People’s Money. Other People’s Money is a fine little movie about a slowly dying company owned by Gregory Peck that’s targeted by a corporate raider called “Larry the Liquidator” (Played by Danny Devito).
This is quite relevant because Mitt Romney made his money by being “Larry the Liquidator.” That’s a big part of what he did for a living at Bain Capital. Some companies Bain Capital financed and helped grow. Other companies, they bought out, saddled with debt, and then sold off. When that happened, Romney’s pockets got fatter because he was putting poor and middle class Americans out of their jobs.
That’s not to say what Romney did is immoral, unethical, or even a bad thing. I’m a big fan of Wal-Mart, for example, as are most Americans judging by their shopping habits. Still, even if you’re a fan of Wal-Mart, you have to acknowledge that as a result of its success, a lot of mom and pop stores have gone out of business. That’s part of the creative destruction of capitalism. Inefficient uses of capital fade away while efficient uses thrive and make everyone better off over the long haul.
Now, all that being said, how you look at this can be greatly impacted by whether you’re on the wielding or receiving end of the ax. If you’re Mitt Romney putting a slow growing company out of business and getting rich in the process, it’s the wonder of capitalism! If you’re someone who saw Mitt Romney swoop in, take over the company where you worked, put you out of a job, and as a result, you couldn’t buy your kids Christmas presents — it doesn’t look so benign.
Right before I started working on Right Wing News full time, I, along with everyone in my department, got laid off. It was only 10 months before I intended to quit and go full time anyway; so looking at it that way, it shouldn’t have been all that big of a deal. Still, I detested those guys. I couldn’t stand the corporate hatchet man who personally gave us the ax, I loathed the company and when I heard about that corporation losing business, I took great pleasure in it. Did it have a right to do it? Sure. Was it a smart business move? Sure. As a free market capitalist, do I think what they did was wrong? Not at all.
But, people feel the way they feel.
Expect some of the people who feel the way I felt, the way a lot of Americans have felt in similar situations, to be on TV, talking about what Mitt did to them.
Here’s someone like that.
That’s an effective ad. It’s an effective ad because tens of millions of Americans will be able to relate to it, they’ll remember Mitt in the place of the boss that did that to them, and even if they intellectually understand it, they’ll still feel a negative sensation when they think of Mitt Romney. There won’t be any shortage of people to put in front of the cameras either. According to the not-for-public-consumption research I’ve been given, Bain Capital ended up putting about 18,000 people out of work.
….Which brings me back to Other People’s Money. The key moment in the movie involves two dueling speeches. The first is from Gregory Peck, explaining to the shareholders in his company why they should hang in there, stand up for America, and support the business that has kept their town afloat. It’s a good speech, a very good speech. In fact, it’s so good that when Danny Devito’s character is given his chance to speak, the audience boos him before he gets to the microphone. As a viewer, you want to boo him, too. Then, Devito gets his chance to talk and, after making his case, you realize he’s right. It’s really an extraordinary scene and well worth watching.
Here’s the key thing to take away from this: Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital will help him with some people and it will hurt him with others. In fact, there will be tens of millions of people, some of them independent voters, who consider Mitt Romney to be a terrible person because of the things he did at Bain Capital. There will also be a lot of people, even capitalists, who will have mixed feelings about Mitt getting rich by grinding the faces of a bunch of ordinary Joes into the dirt. Sure, it’s legal and ethical. So’s telemarketing, bill collecting, and sending out junk email. Just because it’s legal, profitable, and part of capitalism doesn’t mean it’s a universal positive.
Because conservatives tend to be free market capitalists, because Mitt has the inside the Beltway conservative crowd locked up, because the mainstream media has anointed him their favorite Republican candidate — Mitt hasn’t had to take any heat on this issue yet. If he gets the nomination, that’s going to change and his time at Bain Capital will go from being his chief positive in a GOP primary to somewhere between a small positive and a big negative in the general election. This is the sort of thing people should take into consideration before passing over more electable candidates like, at a minimum, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and even Jon Huntsman.