Politics

06.22.12

Bain and Outsourcing

The big and well-reported piece in The Washington Post today on Bain Capital's role in outsourcing jobs in the 1990s is getting a lot of buzz. It seems that Bain had a hand in sending telephone customer support overseas, so next time you're on hold for 25 minutes with your computer manufacturer (that marvelous private sector at work again!) and then get on the phone with someone whose English requires a little more effort on your part than you'd prefer to invest, you have Mittens partly to thank.

David Axelrod is apparently already using the phrase "outsourcer in chief." That's so corny, that [blank] in chief formulation, unless it's funny, like prancing-horse-owner-in-chief or something. It's a little insulting to people's intelligence to talk like that. The Democrats too readily go for soundbites that are shtiky.

Nevertheless there is ammunition here for the White House, and there's a subtext here about the judgments of the political class versus the judgments of regular people. Three or whatever weeks ago, the political class decided that Bain attacks were dead, because Cory Booker and a couple of other went off-message. So Bain was a big pffft.

But there's another side to the story. There was evidence in early June--not open-shut evidence, but decent evidence--that the Bain attacks were working. Polls were showing that people were hardly great admirers of private-equity firms, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown urged the White House to keep the Bain patter alive.

The Romney camp has now responded to the Post article by noting the distinction between outsourcing (moving jobs overseas and out of the company altogether) to offshoring (overseas but still within the company). Ah, that's so much better! So an Ohioan who lost her job to an Indian has nothing to worry about, if the Indian works for the old company--which is still technically an "American" job, you see.

You can always tell whether something has hit home by the quality of the response. On that basis, I'd call the Post piece at least a ground-rule double. And we're still going to be hearing plenty about Bain in the fall (although, as I've said many times, the main Obama attacks have to be about Romney's reactionary economic plans). I bet the Obama campaign would like to offshore Booker for about three months starting in August.