FROM BOTH SIDES NOW: What Fallows wrote is extremely dumb!


Part 4—Our mind-reading skills on display: What did Mitt Romney do wrong at Bain Capital?

Last night, Ed Schultz took another stab at this very significant question. He spoke with Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich spokesman. Tyler now works for the pro-Gingrich PAC which is airing the half-hour film which attacks Romney’s conduct at Bain.

What did Romney do wrong at Bain? Last night, Schultz seemed to be somewhat better prepared than he was Monday night, when he couldn’t explain this topic at all. But good grief! Schultz still didn’t understand the sweep of the alleged misconduct.

Our “leaders” tend to be like that. It’s been that way a long time.

In the passage which follows, Schultz is asking a very key question about Bain’s conduct. We’ll suggest that you read his question with care. It takes us well beyond the more limited question of how many jobs got created or lost as a result of Bain’s ventures:
SCHULTZ (1/11/12): All right. Is there proof that Bain Capital—and this is a key question, because I think Americans want to know this. Is there proof that Bain Capital under Mitt Romney went in and made profit from companies when they shortchanged their pension funds? In other words, did they steal the pension funds and call it profit in the general fund? Did they go after people’s retirement?

I need to know that.
Sometimes, companies have to be shuttered. When they close, people do lose their jobs. But Schultz was asking a much more serious question: Did Bain loot the pension funds of workers in the process of closing plants? Did people lose their jobs and their retirements?

“Did they steal the pension funds?” Schultz asked a very serious question. He got a very serious answer—but he still doesn’t seem to understand the sweep of the alleged conduct.

For the record, GSI is the Bain company which owned the Kansas City steel mill whose story Schultz couldn’t explain Monday night (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/10/12). GSI owned two steel mills—one in Kansas City, one in South Carolina. Did Bain steal the pension funds of GSI’s workers? Here’s what Tyler said:
TYLER (continuing directly): Well, right here in South Carolina, there is a company called GSI. They made steel. And Mitt Romney and Bain bought that company. They liquidated it. They eliminated the jobs.

And there was a pension in that company and that pension got shorted. And the federal government had to bail out the pension so taxpayer money made up the difference in the pension and Bain Capital made a profit of tens of millions of dollars in that deal right here in South Carolina.

SCHULTZ: Tens of millions of dollars. And you’re telling me that the pension the workers had ended up getting thrown off on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, which of course is the federal government, and the American taxpayers, bailing out the folks who worked in industries that have failed? Is that correct?

TYLER: That’s correct.


SCHULTZ: I just want the right wing talkers of America—we know who they are—go on the air tomorrow and do this story, and ask the American people, these conservative listeners, if they think it’s fair that Mitt Romney took millions and threw the retirement off on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.
“If the working folk of America know the real story about how this guy operates,” Schultz said as the segment closed, “you’re not going to want him near Pennsylvania Avenue.” That may be true. That's why it’s important to explain what Bain actually did.

But even last night, Schultz was still understating the allegations in the GSI matter. According to a detailed Reuters report from last Friday, the problem was more extensive than what Tyler described. (To read the report, click here.) If Schultz had read the first six paragraphs of this report, he would have encountered this account of what occurred at the GSI plant in Kansas City:
SULLIVAN/ROUMELIOTIS (1/6/12): Less than a decade later, the mill was padlocked and some 750 people lost their jobs. Workers were denied the severance pay and health insurance they'd been promised, and their pension benefits were cut by as much as $400 a month.

What's more, a federal government insurance agency had to pony up $44 million to bail out the company's underfunded pension plan. Nevertheless, Bain profited on the deal, receiving $12 million on its $8 million initial investment and at least $4.5 million in consulting fees.
According to the Reuters report, the tax-payers did pick up part of the tab—$44 million worth. But the workers still lost a good chunk of their pensions and they lost their health insurance to boot. According to Reuters, the pension funds did get looted. The taxpayers were forced to pick up part of the tab, even as Bain walked off with large profits. But the workers got robbed of the rest.

“The Kansas City millworkers...are still fuming,” Reuters reported, “after being left with no health benefits and a reduced pension check.” This is the situation Schultz couldn’t explain at all on his Monday night program.

Even on his second try last night, Ed Schultz still couldn’t explain the extent of the apparent problem with Bain’s conduct. But so it goes when our own team’s millionaires serve the public interest. Maybe if Schultz would drop his daytime radio show and spend his daytime hours preparing, he would know what the fig he’s talking about when he hits the air at night.

But Schultz rakes in big fees each day, not unlike Mitt Romney before him. Even last night, he was still understating the alleged misconduct in this particular case.

We liberals arnt reel gudd att explaning topicks lyke thiss. Our “leaders” have been lazy, incompetent, compromised, feckless for lo, these many years. But on the bright side, there is one skill at which we excel in this Brave New Era of pseudo-liberal fury.

Our mind-reading skills are becoming quite good! Unfortunately, the nonsense is coming from both sides now. For a truly sad case of what we mean, we recommend this unfortunate blog post by our team’s most valuable player, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.

In the past dozen years, Krugman has explained more policy matters than the whole liberal world put together. But when it comes to partisan politics, he’s a bit of a late-blooming rube. Yesterday, he linked to a hopeless post in which David Atkins explained why it really was really bad when Romney made that really bad remark about the way he likes firing people (click here).

In turn, Atkins linked to a post by James Fallows, a post which is very foolish in a very familiar way. Essentially, Fallows conducts a seminar in post-modern pseudo-deconstruction; he helps us see that True Believers can find something wrong in every act by those in the other tribe. Their every minor turn of phrase; their every piece of body language! The True Believer can always seize upon such evidence to show us the soul within.

For a truly foolish discussion, click here to see what Fallows says. Good God. This post includes the perfect expression of the True Believer’s key test:
FALLOWS (1/10/12): Here's a test: If you were making the point about the need for competition, can you imagine yourself saying, "I like being able to fire people..."?
In his post, Fallows explains that Romney was making a sensible point in the remarks under question—“a reasonable point about the need for choice and competition.” But people! He didn’t say it exactly the way we “imagine” we would have done! To the tribal True Believer, this shows that the man is truly vile! When he made his "reasonable point," he didn’t sound just like us!

Fallows isn’t new to this sort of conduct. Like many other establishment players, he bought the same package during Campaign 2000, when the mainstream press and the right-wing world were engaged in these of “proofs” concerning the deeply vile Candidate Gore. Every minor turn of phrase! Every piece of body language! The loathing was so great by that time that people like Fallows could truly see what these trivial tics told us about Gore’s soul. How stupid can tribal players get when they succumb to this pleasing disease? This was the Washington Post’s Sebastian Mallaby, in one of his twice-weekly columns:
MALLABY (10/9/99): Bill Bradley has a new trick on the campaign trail. He is holding court at a community health center, having just wrapped up an earnest hour's discussion on the problems of the uninsured. Now it is the media's turn to ask questions, and immediately the topic shifts from medical bureaucracy to the baser topic of the presidential horse race.

How, one journalist asks, would the candidate respond to Al Gore's accusation that he is not a loyal Democrat? Bradley jabs himself as though something sharp has struck him. "I don't think," he says firmly, that "the American people want the politics of the dartboard."

The jabbing gesture says a lot about Bradley's surprising progress in the Democratic primaries. It manages, like the candidate, to be both goofy and appealing—clumsy, but wonderfully different from the lecturing, wagging forefinger of the vice president. It manages to dismiss Gore's accusation humorously rather than harshly, as though the vice president were a brash son in need of gentle calming. And it suggests that, although Bradley promises a campaign of big ideas and has sounded bold on health care, the difference between him and the vice president comes down to personal style as much as policy: to things as small but telling as body language.

It is easy, for example, to imagine Gore chairing the same health meeting in Manchester, and even to think of him making the same arguments to the doctors there. But it is not at all easy to imagine Gore looking mildly bored as one of the health center's workers takes a long-winded turn at the microphone, or to imagine him burying chin and mouth in a big hand, slumping slightly forward and studying the tabletop while the prospective voter drones on. Never in a million years would Gore, confronted with a badly worded question, demand sharply, "Whaddya mean by that?"

Bradley does all these things, and people like him for it; the latest New Hampshire poll shows him clearly ahead of Gore. This is partly the effect of Clinton fatigue, which makes goofy candidates seem better than slick ones.
Good God. Just for the record, Gore went on to win New Hampshire and every other primary. But let’s consider Mallaby’s key observation:

You can’t picture Gore looking mildly bored as a long-winded voter drones on! This imagined fact showed that Gore was “slick!” (Just like you know who!) From this point in time, can we see how moronic, how inane this resort to small gestures and imagined conduct was? But all the establishment folk were playing this game at this time. Here’s the loathsome Lady Collins right after the first Gore-Bradley debate, which was conducted town hall style:
COLLINS (10/29/99): Al Gore has a personality without a thermostat, and when he tries to look animated he practically crashes into the wallboard. On Wednesday he hijacked the auditorium early on, begging for a chance to do a pre-debate Q.-and-A. ("This person has a question! Do we have time for his question?") He tossed in a little Spanish and a long joke, and made endless attempts to create Clintonesque mind-melds with the audience. ("How old is your child, Corey? . . . Are you unionized, Earl?") At the end, he refused to be dragged offstage. ("Can I say one more word? I would like to stay!") He bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the kid who asks the teacher for more homework. Mr. Bradley, lounging on his stool, arms folded across his chest, looked like the high school athlete watching the class nerd volunteer to stay and clap erasers.
Pitiful, isn't it? Bradley looked like the high school athlete! Gore was like the class nerd! But in her most repellent passage, Collins used her mind-reading skills to explain the hidden meaning of one brief exchange. During the debate, a young woman told Gore that her child was quite ill. When Gore dared inquire further, Collins—and a string of vacuous colleagues—told us why he had done this thing! Gore was trying to be like Bill Clinton! In Collins’ semi-plagiarized language, he was trying to “create a Clintonesque mind-meld with the audience” when he had the decency to ask a young woman about her sick child.

Collins is a horrible person—and she’s deeply stupid. (Her column today is a balls-out disgrace. More to follow.) But please understand: When True Believers start truly believing, they can see the truth of their deeply-held judgments all around them—in the wagging of a forefinger, in the most basic human reaction. Every bit of body language shows them the ugly soul of the man from The Other Tribe! Every minor turn of phrase helps them see the truth! When Gore inquired about a sick child, this showed Collins that he was a phony! Just like the vile phony Clinton!

Yesterday, Krugman endorsed this pitiful game. He came to partisan politics very late in life. He is a giant of policy—and a bit of pimple-faced teen when it comes to these tribal matters.

Fallows could see these things in 2000 too! That summer, he wrote an endless deconstruction of Gore for the Atlantic—an influential, deeply punishing, widely discussed cover story. At great length, he helped the world see what a nasty liar Candidate Gore truly was/had always been. (For the start of our five-part report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/00.) But then, many of his establishment colleagues could see these obvious truths at that juncture too. They were True Believers RE Clinton and Gore. They could see the truth in a wagging forefinger, in every turn of a phrase.

Good boy! The dead of Iraq stare up from the ground, congratulating Fallows for his insight. Today, Fallows is being foolish again—and Krugman, citing the ludicrous Atkins, has endorsed such True Belief too.

Schultz still can’t explain what Bain did. But on the bright side, we’re very good at mind-reading the deepest meaning of Romney’s “reasonable” minor remarks! This worked against Gore because everyone played—the mainstream and right-wing worlds alike. That surely won’t be the case this time—and it’s just monumentally stupid.

We can't explain what he did at Bain, but we can mind-read his minor comments. The stupidity comes from both sides now. It defines our political culture

Tomorrow: We’ve saved the most depressing for last


  1. Look, I get it. The U.S. and the world would have been better off with a Gore presidency. And as much as the media were complicit in dismissing him as a grind, they wouldn't have mattered an iota if he'd picked anyone on Earth other than Joe Liebermann as his running mate.

    1. Joe Lieberman was a terrible, terrible choice for Vice President.

  2. i suspect one thing (and this is simply speculation on my part, not to be confused with a factual statement) romney did at bain was help identify potential acquisition targets. these would be companies with high FMV assets (but reported at historical cost on the balance sheet), that could be quickly liquidated. a non-union workforce would be especially attractive, since they could more easily be fired.

    i could be wrong, but based on his background, that would seem to make sense.

    1. If that is what Bain did every time, explain Steel Dynamics, a company Bain made an identical investment in and which operates very successfully today.

      Your depiction is only one of a large number of possible outcomes in what would be Bain's portfolio approach where not every deal works. That is why portfolio approach (buy a bunch of companies where the returns on the successful ones outstrip the losses or less successful ones) works. Know who else tries to buy undervalued companies? Buffett.