Archives for: August 2012, 10
It is entirely accurate. Truth surrounds and imbibes it. It practically glows in the dark, it is so honest.
And it is as unfair as a truthful presentation can be.
The independent pro-Obama ad is much more direct and accusatory than the Obama campaign itself apparently wants to be. Former steelworker Joe Soptic looks into the camera and tells his story.
Bain Capital bought out the company that employed him. He had been, for years, a loyal employee of GST Steel here in Missouri. It was a profitable enterprise and could have kept going. But the pension and health fund was a tempting target. Bain Capital fired the workers and liquidated the fund that had been built up over the years, transferring the accumulated money to Bain accounts. Pledges were broken, promises unraveled, but it was all quite legal.
Soptic's wife eventually died of cancer. The cancer was discovered when she contracted pneumonia and was forced to go to the hospital. Joe feels she minimized her illness, the pneumonia she knew about, because of the cost of a hospital visit.
The man speaks softly. There is no rage. No anger is visible. He comes across as a very sad man, a man who had everything taken from him. He seems to be in mourning.
He looks into the camera. "I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone." He pauses. "And furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned."
The criticisms have varied. Mitt left Bain in 1999, and wasn't even there when the takeover and health and pension raid took place. The woman had gotten sick and died a full six years later. The ad made it seem as if Mitt Romney was directly responsible for the tragedy.
All of the criticisms have focused on what defenders of Governor Romney feel was an unfair exaggeration of his connection to the misfortunes of Joe Soptic and his wife.
The criticisms have been largely misapplied, I think. The ad is truthful. Clearly, Joe has an opinion. He feels that the connection between Mitt Romney the death of Mrs. Soptic is very real. His opinion is not beyond challenge, but it is not indefensible.
If Bain had not raided the company and destroyed the pension fund, it is a pretty good bet that Joe Soptic would have continued working there. His insurance coverage would have been intact. His wife would not have hesitated to seek treatment just as soon as symptoms became apparent to her. The six year gap means nothing. Years without coverage is a sad fact of life for those cast adrift and on their own. Six years is not exceptional.
An Obama spokesperson has been attacked for saying she was previously unaware of Soptic's story. After all, he had appeared in an Obama approved ad a few months before. Seems to me this is a bum rap. In the previous appearance, he had complained about the loss of benefits without the additional personal details. He was one of dozens of people. It seems clear the independent anti-Romney ad caught the Obama campaign by surprise.
So Joe Soptic's presentation of the facts behind his opinion strike me as sound. His opinion is apparent. He doesn't even have to voice it. His calm narration leads the typical viewer to the same opinion. The ad is damaging only to the extent that the connection is believable on the basis of the facts presented. Those facts are true.
Any time an executive fires hundreds of people, it is reasonable to anticipate that some will become ill in the future. And it is indisputable that those with insurance coverage live longer than those without it. When an executive makes the additional decision to terminate benefits and coverage that those same employees depend on, it is quite predictable that some will die who otherwise would not have died.
Which leaves the other timeline. Mitt Romney says he left Bain Capital in 1999. He was still the Chief Executive Officer. He still drew a salary. The salary was substantial. Unless he was taking his income for nothing, he was at very least paid for taking responsibility. Policies in place were his policies. The practices were on his watch. He was not without power.
And yet the implied accusation, that Mitt Romney was wrong in what he did, is manifestly unfair. Mitt Romney's responsibility was to produce a return on the investment of those who entrusted their money to him and his group. Whether he did this directly or by proxy is not relevant. He was not in business to provide benefits or to create or safeguard jobs.
"I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned," says Joe Soptic. He is, in all likelihood, literally correct. Mitt Romney was being paid a great deal of money at the time to be unconcerned with anything except profits.
That's the way the free enterprise system works. Everyone works in his own self-interest. Sometimes people are helped. Sometimes they are hurt. On balance more people are helped. More good than evil is created. That is because few people will willingly enter into an association that is calculated to hurt them. Not as employees. Not as investors. Not as consumers.
But inequities do abound. We either want, as a society, to mitigate the harm that happens, those who lose out through no fault of their own, those who are left behind, those who deserve a hand up, or we don't.
That mitigation is not accomplished through business alone. Those entrusted to make a profit are primarily concerned with that profit. Any diversion of corporate resources would be the moral equivalent of corporate theft.
A corporate executive who is concerned with the plight of those hurt by company policies, the eggs broken to make a business omelet, the spouses and children who will sicken or die, or go without education and opportunity as a result of that executive's decisions, that executive has options.
That executive can devote some portion of personal funds to help out. That executive can also give full throated support to governmental intervention designed to help those hurt by collateral damage as the engines of progress go by. Maybe offer support to the Romney spokesperson who suggested that people would be better off if they lived in a jurisdiction that provided health coverage apart from employment.
Maybe make a political contribution.
If the desire to help is strong enough, casting a ballot would surely be in order. Most obviously, an executive with a conscience could make the most crystal clear move.
Vote for Obama.