Romney Passes the Buck

Because Bain Capital did things between 1999 and 2002 that Mitt Romney doesn’t want to defend — such as exporting American jobs — Romney claims that its outsourcing program wasn’t his doing. He says he played no “active role” in deciding on Bain’s investments after 1999. But even if we take Romney at his word, does that mean he bears no responsibility for what his company did?

Romney doesn’t dispute he was the 100-percent owner of Bain Capital in those years. Documents show he also held key management posts between 1999 and 2002. But let’s make believe that all of the government filings you’ve heard about, in which he described himself as the chairman of the board, CEO, president, and managing director, were pretend, and that as Romney now says: “I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999.”

So what? It was his company! He was the sole owner. He drew a $100,000 yearly salary. He profited handsomely from its business practices. And, certainly, as Bain Capital’s sole shareholder, he had total power to control the company.

That means the actions of Bain Capital were his responsibility.

He apparently chose not to exercise his power to micro-manage the company because he was happy with the job his employees at Bain Capital were doing — making a gigantic pile of money for him at the expense of working people whose jobs were sent overseas and whose companies went bankrupt under the weight of Bain-imposed debt. He’s still responsible for what his employees did, particularly because he does not claim the American-job-eroding actions were those of rogue employees.

If your dog gets loose and bites someone, aren’t you responsible, even if you didn’t deliberately unleash the dog? If you own a pizza chain and urge your drivers to make ever-faster deliveries, aren’t you responsible when someone gets run over by one of your drivers? And if you are the 100-percent owner of a multi-hundred-million-dollar enterprise, aren’t you responsible for what it does — regardless of whether you got into the details or instead told the managers to do whatever they’d like so long as the profits roll in?

Romney claims his business experience qualifies him to be president of the United States. That job demands great responsibility. “The buck stops here,” Harry Truman said of his Oval Office desk. The former governor of Massachusetts can’t spurn his responsibility for the darker side of his money-generating enterprise: destroying jobs and companies.

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney who lives in Northern California. He supplements his work as a Silicon Valley intellectual property lawyer with pro bono work on behalf of the underrepresented. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)