(2) Romney’s work at Bain differs in some important ways from how he has characterized it thus far. When Romney says that his goal at Bain was to “create jobs,” that’s not entirely true. As a private equity firm, Bain’s goal was to maximize return on investment (ROI) for a small group of high net worth investors. Sometimes that meant giving seed money to a promising start-up. Sometimes it meant rescuing a company and turning it around. Sometimes it meant finding revenue streams a company hadn’t realized—including government bailouts. Sometimes it meant off-shoring a company’s jobs. And sometimes it meant finding a company whose component parts were worth more than the whole—and dismantling it.
(3) Is it fair to take into account all this work, and not simply look at the top-line numbers? When voters evaluate a politician’s record, they look at both the whole and the parts. One or two tough votes can make or break a political career. By the same token, it’s perfectly reasonable for voters to look at a businessman and evaluate both the sum of his career and individual examples of his work. Would it be understandable for a voter to render a verdict on Bain based upon the few times when it shut down a business—in the way they might judge a legislator whom they generally liked, but cast a vote they vehemently disagreed with? I’d argue, yes.
(4) When people think “job creation,” they typically think about an enterprise that builds something. Bernard Marcus’s Home Depot, for instance. Or Steve Jobs’s Apple. Romney’s Bain was nothing like those firms. It was a hybrid venture capital/consulting operation designed to find hidden value in other companies and take advantage of it on behalf of its investors.