Because he couldn’t

Reaction to the presidential election result continues, from gloating by Dem partisans, shock and panic by Republicans, a claim by Anonymous that the reason Republicans were shocked was a rig job that they reversed, to relief by the rest of us that we’ll be rid of campaign commercials for awhile again. Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, added to the pile the other day confusion at how unchallenged a tactic went:

“I never understood why they never pushed back on our attacks on his business experience,” Cutter said at the seventh annual RootsCamp conference for progressive organizers in Washington, D.C. “He ran largely on an argument that, ‘I understand the real economy, I know how to fix this and the president doesn’t — he’s never been in the real economy,’ with his only credential his Bain experience.” [...]  “We weren’t making an argument … that Bain was bad,” Cutter said on Friday. “We were making an argument that this experience does not qualify you to be president of the United States or to understand the real economy. We obviously worked hard to tear that down, and they never built it back up. I never understood why.”

Actually, yes they were making an argument that Bain was bad, at least for the purposes of the campaign in the sense of what they wanted people to get from it. Implying how harmful the routine business practices of a company are to the average person inherently means saying that they are “bad”. That this occurred even though Obama accepted campaign donations from current Bain Capital executives is hilarious, but I figure they know something most of the public doesn’t.

…and that’s where the answer to Stephanie’s question lies.

Most people, if casually asked, wouldn’t know much about private equity or how it works. Since private equity was Romney’s main job prior to getting into politics, in order to defend his position he would’ve had to explain how private equity works. When given the most basic information for polling purposes (PDF, page 3), a majority emerges saying private equity practices are bad for the economy, and an even larger one cries foul on the tax rate of private equity managers being lower than theirs. Combine this with the stories of companies being loaded up with debt that they end up unable to pay back & the equity groups still getting paid huge even if the companies they buy collapse, and the particular example of Bain Capital draining a pension fund at a company they’d taken over such that it had to be bailed out by the government, and you get a picture that only gets worse the more it’s discussed.

Whatever else people believe, there’s a general common sense that if profitability & endurance of a business is decoupled from the fate of the wallets of those that own it such that they make millions even if it collapses, Something Is Wrong. For Romney to have defended his record in such a position, he would have to have explained what exactly it is private equity firms do, and why what little information had come out about them somehow didn’t deserve the big fat Does Not Compute that most folks registered about the concept & its worth. Does anyone seriously think that would’ve went over well?

Mitt Romney didn’t launch a full-throated defense of Bain Capital and other firms like it because he had a rather important realization during the campaign, and that realization was this: the more you explain actually-existing capitalism to people the less they like it.

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