DISDAINING THE RUBES: Who cares about looted steel workers!

THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012

Part 4—The New York Times covers for Bain: What did Romney do at Bain Capital?

There’s little chance you’ll ever find out reading the New York Times! Indeed, Julie Creswell’s report in today’s New York Times is a masterpiece of upper-class pseudo-reporting.

Creswell’s remarkable “news report” ought to be placed in a time capsule. This would allow future generations to marvel at the cultural attitudes which were widespread among the “press” in this, our new Gilded Age.

Creswell’s report should be saved for the future. But for current purposes, her news report is a masterwork of covering up for Mitt Romney and Bain. At its heart, we find a great disdain for the yokels, the losers, the yahoos, the rubes, the unappealing lesser breed:

“Darlings, please!” Creswell’s piece seems to cry. “Who cares about looted steel workers?”

Let’s start with a bit of background. Creswell is responding to a nauseating, very disappointing ad by Obama. In a press release announcing the ad, the Obama campaign said the following:

"After purchasing [GST Steel], Mitt Romney and his partners loaded it with debt, closed the Kansas City plant and walked away with a healthy profit, leaving hundreds of employees out of work with their pensions in jeopardy.”

In anything, that statement is soft. But that represents the state of play which led to Creswell’s report.

Please note: Obama’s ad doesn’t make a statement about private equity in general. Instead, Obama’s ad makes a statement about Mitt Romney’s conduct at Bain. But the modern upper-class press corps is loaded with folk who defer to powerful upper-end interests. This may explain how Creswell managed to start her report in the following way, headline included.

Obama’s ad concerns Romney’s conduct at Bain. But note the way Creswell defines her topic:
CRESWELL (5/24/12): Political Ads Don’t Tell Full Story on Private Equity

In an advertisement released this month by President Obama’s campaign, Mitt Romney and the private equity firm he co-founded, Bain Capital, are painted as vampires. They sucked the lifeblood out of GST Steel in the 1990s, which pushed it into bankruptcy, destroying jobs and eliminating pensions.

In a quick counterattack, the Romney campaign released an ad that highlighted the robust job growth at another Bain investment, the manufacturing company Steel Dynamics. The ad featured employees who said the investment had helped them achieve the American dream.

So, which version of private equity is true?
Obama’s ad attacks Romney’s conduct at Bain. Creswell responds with a lengthy news report—about "private equity" in general.

Don’t get us wrong! We’d like to see our major newspapers explain what “private equity” is. The phrase is being tossed all around—but very few voters know what it means.

These hopeless yokels have little idea what “private equity” firms really do. Pitiful yahoos that they are, they don’t know how “private equity” firms different from other entities.

Creswell would be providing a service if she explained what “private equity” is. For our money, her performance today is rather weak in this area.

But Obama’s ad doesn’t concern private equity firms in general. His ad concerns Mitt Romney’s conduct at Bain, a subject Creswell skips until paragraph 24 of a lengthy, 26-paragraph report.

If readers are still around at that time, here's what they read about Romney’s conduct. What follows is Creswell’s full discussion of the subject which occasioned her news report.

Might we note one minor miracle? Almost five months later, the New York Times has mentioned that Reuters report!
CRESWELL: As for the dueling ads, in the case of GST Steel, a manufacturer based in Kansas City, Mo., that Bain bought in 1993, the company, according to a Reuters article this year, issued new debt that was used to pay tens of millions of dollars in dividends to its buyout owners. That sent GST's debt levels and interest payments soaring, which eventually pushed it into bankruptcy.

When the bankruptcy was announced, the company also said that it was shutting down a mill, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs, and that it would not provide workers with severance pay, health insurance and other benefits. The company's underfunded pension was eventually bailed out by the federal government. But not explored in the campaign ad is that GST was a company already well in decline in an industry under pressure from cheap global product before Bain acquired it and pumped money into it. It was one of many steel manufacturers that filed for bankruptcy during the period.
If you stuck around for paragraphs 24 and 25, that’s what Creswell managed to tell you about the subject of Obama’s ad—though you’ll note that Romney’s name isn’t mentioned. We think her report should go in a capsule, so future generations can see the way our upper-class “press corps” disdained the yokels, the rednecks, the rubes.

What did Romney do at Bain? More precisely, what did he do with respect to that steel mill? Creswell is full of excuses for the fact that the plant had to close (see below). But among the various shaky practices Reuters described in its buried report, Bain’s underfunding of the pension fund was perhaps the most egregious.

What does Creswell say about that? This is all she could manage:

“The company's underfunded pension was eventually bailed out by the federal government.”

Too funny! The pension plan was “underfunded,” she says. But who underfunded that pension fund? By some miracle of pseudo-journalism, Creswell forgets to say!

“Mistakes were made,” Richard Nixon once said. This morning, Creswell steals his construction: “Underfunding was done,” she explains.

What did Romney do at Bain? Creswell had 1200 words to answer this question. Instead, she burned away the bulk of her space discussing a general question, then rushed past the conduct described in that ad and that Reuters report. In fact, according to Reuters, Mitt Romney underfunded that pension fund, by some $44 million, even as Bain was taking large profits and fees from the steel mill. And while Creswell mentions the federal bailout, she doesn’t waste your time with the bad news about those (750) workers:

Readers, can we talk? Those workers lost large chunks of their pensions even after the federal bailout occurred! That happened because Mitt Romney underfunded their pension fund, even as he was taking large sums out of their struggling company.

That’s what Reuters reported, four months ago. Creswell didn’t want you disturbed.

Why would someone create a “news report” like the one Creswell gives us today? Let us offer a speculation:

At upper-class news orgs like the Times, people don’t care about looted steel workers. Darlings, please! They’re yokels, yahoos, tea-baggers, rubes. They aren’t fine upstanding folk like the captains of equity firms.

What do they care about at the New York Times? They care about the way an Irish setter got transported on a summer vacation. They care so much that they’re willing to make up silly shit about it and repeat it for five years.

But they plainly don’t care about steel mill workers! People! Kansas City! How gauche!

The mainstream press—and the liberal world—care very little for people like these. Back in 2009, Rachel Maddow showered such people with two weeks of amusing dick jokes. Just last month, her millionaire colleagues lied and lied, in disgraceful ways, about a cadre of working-class cops.

What did Romney do at Bain? Darlings! He did the best he could! That is the subtext of Creswell’s “report”—and it’s built on upper-class contempt for the lower order.

This attitude is widely broadcast these days. More on this problem tomorrow.

Creswell bestows the last word: Here’s how an upper-class newspaper functions:

Creswell finally got around to Romney’s conduct in paragraph 24. When she did, she devoted two paragraphs to his conduct—although his name went unsaid.

She forgot to say that he underfunded those pensions. She soft-soaped the results.

She didn’t describe the human cost—if you think “those people” are human. She let it seem that the federal government made that underfunding right—the underfunding that seems to have happened all by itself.

She devoted two grafs to this snow job. But darlings! Good men have been slandered and scorned! Creswell decided to give the last word to the people who actually looted those pensions. This was the stirring paragraph which closed her pseudo-report:
CRESWELL (continuing directly): ''Mitt Romney retired from Bain Capital over 13 years ago,'' Bain said in a statement, ''but we understand that in a political campaign our exemplary 28-year record will be distorted and complex business situations will be portrayed in a simplistic way.''
Darlings! Will Bain be portrayed in a simplistic way? For sure! Julie Creswell just did!

Tomorrow: We “liberals” loathe workers and cops


  1. But, the Times says they have insightful articles and the best journalism in the world. They wouldn't lie about that, would they?

    Thanks to Mr Somerby, while I can't say I like what I read about a lot of red staters, I do try to see their point of view, and how the media misleads us or just plain leaves us ignorant.

    As Anonymous said yesterday, it might take another Great Depression to turn things around, but WW3 wouldn't be anything like WW2.

  2. So what was wrong with Obama's Ad?

    1. Nothing, except to those on the left who are afraid to go against the monied interests.

      It's a case of Democrats trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    2. So, an Obama Ad that features the message " Romney looted a pension fund, but don't forget, we're no better!" is a sure fire winner, just the thing to put the progressive cause over the top. Between the (supposed) choice of MSNBC's rube hustling cynicism and those who would have Obama run on "vote for me, I'm just as corrupt as them and my record sucks!" it sounds a bit like the Tom Waits song: "two dead ends, and you still have to choose."

    3. The Obama ad message is "Romney looted a pension fund, but don't forget, [Obama's] no better!"??

      You need to give us the transcript, Greg.

      That's monumental incompetence.

      Or, you're making shit up.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Or, I'm following the logic of the post and the thread. You say Obama's ad was bad, it made you sick. I ask why. You say because He (or the Dems, or I might just not be getting this wrong) are not trying to achieve economic fair play either. I say, "so a good ad (that would not make you sick) would admit that Obama's not trying to achieve economic fair play either? Or else just not going after Romney on Bain in the first place? You really think that would be a winning plan for the Dems? This seems to be the take of David Sirota in his latest article, and often the progressive view in general. But it doesn't sound like a very good TV campaign ad to me.
      See if you can explain yourself instead of just snarking.

    6. getting it right, it should rightly say...

    7. OK, so you admit you're making shit up. That's a good start.

      Now where here does Somerby say something that justified your original question: "So what was wrong with Obama's Ad?"

      Any sane reader would have come away thinking that Somerby had said nothing negative about Obama's ad, only about the reactions to it.

    8. Please reread the post and try again...

    9. Greg, perhaps I can help you out if you are at all interested in following along with what's actually being said.

      You read the following passage from the post [my emphasis]:

      >>>>> Let’s start with a bit of background. Creswell is responding to a nauseating, very disappointing ad by Obama. In a press release announcing the ad, the Obama campaign said the following:

      "After purchasing [GST Steel], Mitt Romney and his partners loaded it with debt, closed the Kansas City plant and walked away with a healthy profit, leaving hundreds of employees out of work with their pensions in jeopardy.”

      I[f] anything, that statement is soft. But that represents the state of play which led to Creswell’s report.

      Please note: Obama’s ad doesn’t make a statement about private equity in general. Instead, Obama’s ad makes a statement about Mitt Romney’s conduct at Bain. But the modern upper-class press corps is loaded with folk who defer to powerful upper-end interests.

      You took that to mean that Bob Somerby, himself, was nauseated and disappointed with the Obama campaign's ad. Most of us who have been reading this blog this week are well aware that Mayor Cory Booker, whom you may know to have been a Stanford and Oxford school chum and recent television show guest of author Rachel Maddow, was on Meet the Press this past Sunday speaking on behalf of himself -- er no.

      Scratch that, Booker was speaking as the show's guest Democrat or, more precisely, according to the way the mayor described himself and his role during the MTP segment, "I talk to the White House quite often. I'm a surrogate for the Obama campaign."

      Here's a New Jersey reporter's summary of Booker's MTP comments [my emphasis]:

      >>>>>Booker’s controversial comments came on "Meet The Press" Sunday when he compared the president’s attack on private equity to attacks on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity, stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues."

      The Romney campaign today put out a web ad, starring Booker.

      When Somerby wrote that Obama's ad was nauseating and disappointing he was using Booker's characterization of the ad. Somerby then says he, himself, unlike Booker, thought the Obama campaign "press release announcing the ad" was "[if] anything" softer than it should have been.

  3. How much more do you need to know? Are ANY reporters for the Times married to laid off steelworkers?

    Julie Creswell was named legal reporter for The New York Times Business Day section in Feb. 2006. Ms. Creswell joined The Times in May 2005 as a banking reporter for the same section.
    Previously, she was a writer for Fortune Magazine since March 1998. Before that, Ms. Creswell worked for Dow Jones Newswires since 1994 as a reporter for Money Management Alert and Dow Jones Capital Markets Report, newswires covering the mutual fund industry and debt markets, respectively.
    Ms. Creswell was born Nov. 28, 1969 and grew up in Blencoe, Iowa. She graduated with a B.A. in journalism from the University of Iowa in 1992.
    Ms. Creswell lives with her husband, a Wall Street equity analyst, and their son, Bryan.

  4. So... wait. Earlier Bob was ripping into a lengthy discussion on an MSNBC program about Bain's interventions leading to job losses. That was bad, or something, because it didn't focus on this particular nit about pensions. Sometimes businesses just go under, Bob explained. Why wasn't _that_, Bob's dismissal of an entire and obvious line of inquiry about the effects of Bain on jobs, evidence of a callous attitude, or of would-be liberals showing contempt for working people? What are the rules here, and is there any way for someone other than Bob Somerby to do it properly?

  5. I find the use of the loaded term "looted" to be disingenuous, at the very least. If I owe you money and then fail to pay you, have you been "looted"?

    1. Yes, you idiot.

    2. You obviously haven't the faintest idea of what "looting" is. In order to be "looted", you have to have something and then that something needs to be taken from you. What exactly did you have that I took from you?

      If you say I took your money, you're the idiot. You never had any money, all you had was a promise.

    3. They had a pension plan, they thought they had rights to a pension based on the contributions to the plan, and then they found out Bain had failed to pay in its promised $44 million but instead had used that money to pay tens of millions to Bain management and investors. You call that "not looting"?

      Under most circumstances, a promise to pay money is legally enforceable, which means the money is legally yours. That's what your bank account is, but it appears you never thought of that. Who doesn't have the faintest idea here?

    4. "If I owe you money and then fail to pay you.."

      "What exactly did you have that I took from you?"

      You set up the premise yourself idiot.
      It's not my fault if you don't understand it.

      *You* said you owe me.

      If you then don't pay me what you owe, then you looted from me what you owe me.

      You owed me. You said so. You had a debt to me.
      If you don't pay it, you stole from me.

    5. You chuckleheads still don't get it. It must be government schooling raising it's ugly head once again. "Looting" is the act of taking something from someone else. When I don't pay you money, I can't be "looting, because you never had any money for me to take. Bain can't be "looting" the pension fund because there wasn't any money to take.

      Why is this simple point so difficult for you to understand. I'm NOT saying I don't owe you money or that Bain shouldn't have put money in the pension fund. But when I don't pay you, I'm not taking money you already had. When I'm finished not paying you, I don't have more money than I had to start with. It's a simple concept, folks.

      Certainly, when I don't pay you when I owe you money, that is a crime. But the crime being committed is NOT "theft" or "stealing" because I did not take from you money that you already had. Once again, for the simple minded, "looting" is taking something from somebody else, it is *NOT* the non-payment of a debt owed. That is something entirely different.

    6. The pension plan is not "me," it's the pension plan. The pension plan is looted when money promised to the pension plan (and indirectly to me as the legal beneficiary under the pension plan) is not paid. When the pension plan that owed me is looted, I am looted. How simple-minded (and poorly educated) do you have to be not to get this? "Looted" is not some technical term of art, it's an idea. It's not "different" at all, much less "entirely different."

  6. "If I owe you money and fail to pay you, have you been looted."

    Yes, of course.

    But If you're an apologist for the looter, you'll see it differently, as Toby is at great pains to do above.