Journalists need to find the truth of Romney's record at Bain

May 26, 2012

I agree with The Sun's recent position on the relevance of Governor Romney's experience at Bain Capital to the presidential race that's already underway ("The Bain of Romney's campaign," May 22), but the methodology is curious. Asking Mr. Romney to give us his version of how Bain helped create jobs and save companies is like asking the fox how it protected the henhouse — or asking David Plouffe how President Barack Obama's stimulus package saved us from an even deeper recession. We'll get an answer, but it will have been vetted, cooked, skewed, and totally useless as a guide to making an informed decision about whose economic vision should guide the country as we begin to creep out of a long recession.

Isn't the business of journalists to find stuff out and to explain it so we can understand it? Why doesn't The Sun assign a competent reporter with skills in economics, accounting and finance to study the doings of Bain and Mr. Romney, then to lay out a clear explanation of what jobs were created, lost, or outsourced under Mr. Romney's watch?

Was Bain a job-creator? Or was it, as rumors persist, an exploiter of many marginal companies? How did the economics work? As a preliminary, we might ask the following questions: 1) how many jobs were created and what kind of jobs were they — blue collar, manager, venture capitalist? 2) How many jobs were lost, and what kind of jobs were these? 3) How many jobs were outsourced? Should those be counted as jobs gained, or jobs lost? 4) How many jobs were "created" by terminating workers when Bain took over, then permitting them to reapply and compete for their old jobs, usually at lower wages and benefits? 5) How much of the cost of these services resulted in extraordinary profits for Bain — did they profit from the companies that tanked under their management as well as the poster companies like Staples that prospered?

I don't share Mayor Corey Booker's feeling of being "nauseated" by the Obama campaign ad that portrayed Bain as a "vampire" any more than I share Gov. Rick Perry's view of it as "vulture capitalism." But these claims, or sound bites, are reductive and offensive, and they will persist as the campaign heats up. The right has done as at least as much — remember the recent (wink, wink! nudge, nudge!) "pulled ad" from a PAC that Mr. Romney rejected as unworthy of the process, but recall that the ad was summarized by the media of the left as well as the right.

Make no mistake — we're going to hear a lot from Mr. Romney and his advocates about his record as a job creator, and it would be good to have a reliable database on which to decide this critical question. One thing is for sure — we can't depend on either campaign to tell the truth. And that was once a job for journalists.

David Dougherty, Timonium

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