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Slate's Matthew Yglesias summarizes Baingate like this:

The way the Bain/outsourcing debate has gone, if I understand it, is this:
1. Romney touts his experience in the private sector as a key qualification for the presidency that Obama lacks.
2. Obama runs ads slamming Bain Capital for involvement in offshoring of jobs to foreign countries.
3. Romney angrily denies that he was even running Bain at the time this stuff happened.
4. Obama notes that Rommey was listed in government documents as Bain's CEO of record.
5. Romney says those filings don't reflect reality on the ground about who was running the company.
6. Obama begins collecting scraps of evidence pointing to Romney's continued involvement.
Lost in the shuffle here is the question of what it is Romney is denying he's responsible for.
http://www.slate.com/...

Most of the debate has been about Yglesias's item #6, finding a smoking gun indicating that Romney was actively involved in Bain affairs after February 11, 1999. I agree that that is important, because finding that smoking gun will remove any lingering doubt about Romney's status as a liar. But in fact, that's not how this started.

It started because Bain was responsible for an increasing amount of job outsourcing during Romney's Olympian period, and Romney has denied any responsibility for it. However, as Yglesias points out, it is already well established by the documents disclosed in the Boston Globe and in several diaries here that Romney retained his position as CEO and sole owner of various major portions of the Bain empire while this was going on. That is, if he had disapproved of the outsourcing/offshoring of American jobs, he was in a position to stop it immediately, simply by picking up a telephone. But he didn't do that. The conclusion is that either he didn't know anything about it, which is extremely dubious because it was being discussed widely at the time, or that he didn't disapprove of it, which is almost certainly true.

So from this point of view, the curious incident of Romney in Utah may not be what he did in his capacity as Bain's CEO, but what he didn't do. (This being a reference to “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” in Conan Doyles' Silver Blaze.)

This is a much easier case to make, because his own statements, along with the already-established documentary evidence, establish it fully: in spite of being in a position to easily prevent the loss of American jobs, he took no action and let them go in increasing numbers, up until the “period of negotiations” about his retirement were complete in 2002.

Now, Yglesias attempts to make what is to me a blatantly false equivalence between Romney's non-action in this regard, with Obama's non-action on the same issue. I think that this fails completely, because Romney as CEO could have stopped the outsourcing immediately, with no need to comply with laws limiting his powers to interfere in the legal affairs of a private business. In fact, I can't even imagine a scenario where Obama could have stopped corporations from outsourcing and offshoring jobs by a simple order. He could propose legislation to Congress, and he could, via an executive order perhaps find some way to try to produce such an effect indirectly, but that's about it. Romney could simply have ordered, as CEO, “No, we won't destroy American jobs, let's find another way to make money”. To make his equivalence argument, Yglesias needs to find a similarly direct and immediate means that Obama could have used to save jobs. (And of course, there is the obvious fact that Obama did save thousands or perhaps millions of American jobs, albeit less directly, through his economic stimulus programs.)

Anyway, I'm all for finding the smoking gun, but even if it doesn't happen, Romney is still responsible for all those lost jobs simply because he had the power to stop it and did nothing. And, if the smoking gun does appear, it will make Romney's responsibility for the lost jobs even more apparent.

Originally posted to Greg Shenaut on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 09:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Bain Files.

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