The attacks center on the presidential candidate’s tenure leading a private equity firm called Bain Capital. Republican presidential rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have been laying into Romney, who was CEO of Bain from 1984 until 1992. The critics say Romney lead a venture-capital enterprise that acted more like a “vulture,” buying up struggling companies in order to make a quick buck off their dismantlement. “They’re vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb, waiting for the company to get sick, and then they sweep in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton,” is the vivid way Texas Gov. Perry described Bain last week in South Carolina.
Gingrich was no-less blunt, using words like “loot” to suggest Bain operated a system where “you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers.”
The defense from Romney and many on the right can be boiled down to: Stop criticizing Romney’s work at Bain Capital because it’s exactly the sort of attack he’ll receive from his left during the general election. “We have a real problem when we have Republicans talking like dang Democrats against the free market,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said.
Romney, speaking on NBC’s Today show, kept the focus on President Barack Obama. “You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent — and those people who have been most successful will be in the 1 percent — you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”
Romney and others taking the “most successful” equals the top 1 percent line are treading across a precarious line, one that is counter to the nation’s definition of the American Dream.
This national ideal imagines a family with a house, steady employment and well-educated kids who have more opportunities than their parents.
Wealth is a part of that formula, but the American Dream is about more than the bottom line. Success is defined by more than the balance in the checking account. Americans tallying up success in life count their friends, a sense of accomplishment in their work life, close ties to houses of worship and other community organizations, the satisfaction of watching their children and grandchildren grow up, a firm loyalty to their country and a belief in its bright future.
“[T]hose people who have been most successful will be in the 1 percent?” Not on your life, Mr. Romney. Successful Americans are found across the spectrum, from the wealthiest to the poorest.