Epilogue—The pet dog versus the workers: What do “private equity” companies actually do?
Most people couldn’t much tell you. In yesterday’s New York Times, Julie Creswell marveled at the sheer complexity of the matter.
“The world of private equity is a nuanced, complicated business that will never be fully captured in anybody's ads,” Creswell wrote, near the start of her piece. Soon, she added to this portrait: “[M]ore than three decades after private equity burst onto the scene in the merger mania of the 1980s, the industry remains as mysterious…as ever.”
As Creswell continued, the mystery depended. “The industry has done a terrible job of explaining what it does,” a Dartmouth professor was quoted saying.
Creswell’s own explanation proceeded from there. We found it a bit murky too.
What do “private equity” companies do? Very large numbers of people can’t tell you. But as he opens this morning’s column, Paul Krugman mentions one of the things Mitt Romney’s firm apparently did:
KRUGMAN (5/25/12): In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, President Obama has enacted some modest and obviously needed regulation; he has proposed closing a few outrageous tax loopholes; and he has suggested that Mitt Romney's history of buying and selling companies, often firing workers and gutting their pensions along the way, doesn't make him the right man to run America's economy.Say what? Mitt Romney often fired workers and “gutted their pensions along the way?”
Romney “gutted” workers’ pensions? (E. J. Dionne has used the word “looted.”) Most people couldn’t explain what that means either. But then, there’s a reason for that.
Consider the way Rachel Maddow opened her program last night. (To watch this segment, click here.)
Good lord! Maddow started her program by reviewing what she called “the strapping the dog to the roof of the car story.” Once again, we were encouraged to weep for one of the liberal world's favorite victims—Seamus, the abused Irish setter.
Just before that, Maddow recalled another favorite story about Mitt Romney’s bad character. She described this story as “the Mitt Romney gay-bullying incident from when he was in high school.”
In truth, the Washington Post presented no evidence that the victim in this case, John Lauber, was bullied because Romney and his friends thought he was gay. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/16/12.
Whatever! At least in this case, there was a real victim. He too is a liberal fave.
In our view, there is no evidence that Romney’s dog was mistreated during that car trip. By way of contrast, it seems clear that Lauber was mistreated—when Romney was in high school, of course.
Whatever! By now, Seamus and Lauber are liberal icons, a few of our favorite things. But even as we re-wept for Seamus last night, another group of Romney’s victims wasn’t permitted to bark.
Maddow wept for Romney’s dog. She wept for a high school kid who almost surely was mistreated. But what about all those working-class people whose pensions got “gutted” or “looted” by Romney?
On Maddow’s program, these victims don’t bark. And such judgments have driven American politics over the past fifty years.
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! We’re asked to cry for poor abused Seamus, even though the two adults present on that ancient trip say he enjoyed his rides on the roof of the car. (In his kennel, not “strapped to the roof” and certainly not “in a cage.”)
But how about those steel mill workers, the people whose pensions got gutted or looted? These people have names and personal histories—but Maddow’s viewers aren’t asked to know who they are.
Her viewers aren’t asked to weep for these victims. Why aren’t they a few (hundred) of our favorite things on this often-ridiculous program?
Darlings! Must you ask?
Anyone with eyes to see can see a plain fact about our politics: Modern liberals don’t give a fig about the white working-class. Its members aren’t cuddly like a pet dog; we can’t talk doggy-talk when discussing them. Lofty as we are, we can’t picture our own victimization in their story, as we can do in the case of Lauber.
Darlings! Those workers are adults, of a class we don’t especially care for. They’re yokels, yahoos, rednecks, rubes.
They’re uncomfortably close to being tea-baggers! Are their limbic brains working correctly?
But then, within elite American culture, no one cares a whole lot about such people—no one except the Republican Party, which approaches them, and wins their votes, with various social issues.
As the GOP wins their votes this way, Maddow tells dick jokes at their expense, then weeps about Romney’s pet dog.
Seamus yes, looted steel workers no! This rather obvious cultural preference has been a major part of our politics—and of our journalism—over the past fifty years.
It isn’t just a newbie like Maddow who is skipping their victimization. The looting of those pension funds is largely being ignored in the traditional upper-end press corps too.
This “gutting” is so mysterious, so nuanced, that Creswell chose to skip right past it in yesterday’s report. The pensions were “underfunded,” she said. Underfunded by whom?
It’s more depressing to see this issue passed over by TV liberals like Maddow. But then, Maddow and her upper-end type think nothing of trashing folk like these. For much of the past two months, her colleagues slandered a bunch of cops in astonishing ways, making ugly misstatements about them (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/12).
There is no sign that Maddow’s colleagues will ever correct these misstatements—slanders they aimed at working-class cops who were white, black and Hispanic.
For Maddow, it was bad when Romney mistreated his dog. Those steel mill workers count for much less.
For fifty years, American politics has turned on the judgment displayed last night—on the bad political judgment of a corporate-paid millionaire.