Stewardship

The Obama campaign is going after Romney’s qualification as a businessman, portraying his career at Bain as heartless looting, extracting wealth like pensions and health care from blue-collar workers rather than creating value and sharing. The new video is posted here (at the end of the story text), and it’s pretty heartrending. It also suggests (visually only) another line of attack: Romney may have hosed off the dog and the car, but he doesn’t clean up after himself, like the rich people in The Great Gatsby who create chaos and then retreat behind their wealth leaving a mess behind for others. Or like W’s Iraq, and US economy, after he and his pals finished trampling around in them.

Bain bought a steel mill, not a thing of beauty but something that worked and made stuff. After they turned it off and put its people on the street, they left behind a landscape that looks like something Bashar Al Assad’s artillery worked over. Not a park, not a cleaned-up site for new enterprise, not some tidy piles of parts and materials for recycling: a field of wreckage, decay and almost certainly lots of ground contamination with nasty stuff. The video lingers on the broken fences, rusting gates, and askew signs Bain left behind to face the street and the neighbors; it’s an honest picture of what they did to the workers and the company, but can anyone be proud to turn a factory into a junkyard?

Perhaps this is a liability of being raised by a family with servants, but I know lots of former rich kids, now rich grownups, who don’t leave dirty dishes and piles of socks about for others to deal with. They either hire people to wash up, or they deal with their own coffee mugs in the office kitchen; they don’t just leave a trail of messes.

No class, Mr. Romney.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based community]

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.