The attacks on Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney over his role as the CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital have produced a remarkable backlash in right-wing Republican circles and in the corporate-controlled media generally. Nothing has so reconciled the ultra-right to Romney’s likely nomination as the attacks by former House speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican rivals on the predatory operations of the company Romney headed for 15 years.
Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry began raising the issue of Bain Capital in the last days before the New Hampshire primary, as polls predicted an easy win for Romney in that state and for the first time gave him the lead in the upcoming South Carolina primary. Both criticized the private equity firm for profiteering from asset-stripping that left the targeted companies bankrupt and deprived workers of their jobs, pensions and health benefits. The two continued in this vein Wednesday as their campaigns moved to South Carolina, site of a steel company that was taken over and closed by Bain, with the pensions dumped on the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
The Wall Street Journal published an editorial Wednesday denouncing Gingrich and Perry “for their crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism.” The editorial continued: “Politics isn’t subtle, and these candidates are desperate, but do they have to sound like Michael Moore?”
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The editorial noted that the Journal had political differences with Romney—because the former Massachusetts governor is insufficiently reactionary, in its view—but not with his business record. “Mr. Romney has a good story to tell,” the Journal declared, advising him to “base his claim to office on a defense of the system of free enterprise that has enriched America over the decades and is now under assault.”
Right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh devoted his show Tuesday to defending Romney. “Capitalism is under assault here in the Republican Party,” he claimed, comparing the attacks by Gingrich and Perry to language of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
In his victory speech Tuesday night in New Hampshire, Romney made an open appeal for the various factions in the Republican Party to repudiate the criticisms of his Bain Capital role by his primary opponents. “President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial,” he said. “In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him… This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.”
In an appearance the next morning on NBC’s Today Show, Romney not only branded any criticism of Bain Capital illegitimate, he claimed that any criticism of economic inequality was the product of “envy” and amounted to “class warfare.” In response to fawning suggestions by interviewer Matt Lauer, Romney agreed that his opponents were betraying the commitment of the Republican Party to the free enterprise system.
While both Romney and the Wall Street Journal suggest that the Obama administration is “anti-business” and promoting “class warfare,” the reality is that the Democratic Party defends the interests of corporate America and finance capital just as assiduously as the Republicans, as demonstrated by its expansion of the bailout of Wall Street begun under George W. Bush.
Obama has packed his administration with ex-bankers, including every one of his White House chiefs of staff: Rahm Emanuel, who raked in $18 million during a brief tenure at Wasserstein Perella; William Daley, formerly Midwest vice-chairman of JPMorgan Chase; and now Jacob Lew, a former top official of Citigroup at its internal private equity unit. These individuals were just as ruthless and predatory in their financial operations as Mitt Romney.
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