My first impression, before I had even checked out the factual basis of this ad, was that it’s ridiculous. Because a business failed and its workers lost their jobs does not create a cause and effect relationship with anyone getting cancer. The idea that Romney, or any investor in a business which is what Bain capital was and is, would want a business to fail is ludicrous. No one invests in a business to watch it fail, they invest because they hope to get a return on their investment, and that implies they want the business to succeed.
But maybe something else occurred here, I thought. Maybe at the time the plant was closed the business was already failing, and Bain Capital did not actually buy the business, but instead bought the plant and equipment for the purpose of deploying it elsewhere. Joseph Schumpeter called this “creative Destruction.” It’s how free markets revive troubled economic assets. If this were the case, the closing of the plant was in the works before Bain Capital even came along. The previous owners would have put the plant and equipment on the block hoping to salvage as much as they could out of a business that was no longer profitable. Bain Capital may just have been the highest bidder, but without Bain Capital the next highest bidder would have made the purchase and the plant would have still closed.
Absent a political motive, would anyone have made a connection between the purchase of equipment offered for sale and one of the laid-off worker’s spouse getting cancer?
But then I checked the supposed “facts” of the ad, which imply that a thriving steel plant was acquired by a vulture capitalist just for the purpose of shutting it down and taking poor old Joe Soptic’s job and health insurance away from him, maybe even hoping it would cause his wife to get cancer and die.
Mr. Soptic states that “a short time after” the plant was close his wife became ill. He says he’s not sure when she became sick but she died 22 days after he took her to the hospital. Records show that she died in 2006. Remember that date.
Bain Capital bought the steel plant where Joe Spotic worked in Kansas City from Armco in 1993. The plant had been on precarious footing and its workers had known for years that their jobs were in danger. New hope came when Bain invested $170 Million in upgrades to the plant. But by February, 2001 the plant still was not profitable and its owners announced that it would have to be closed as part of a bankruptcy reorganization. It closed later that year, in April of 2001.
The Kansas City plant, it turns out, was just one of about 40 steel plants that were closed around that time. Bain did not own those other plants. It was general economic conditions in the U.S. Steel industry that made those plant closures necessary, and generous union contracts with substantial “legacy” costs were a large part of the financial drain making those plants unprofitable. The situation was so bad that even President George W. Bush’s idiotic and counterproductive steel trade barriers designed to protect U.S. Steel plants from foreign competition could not stave off bankruptcies in the U.S. Steel industry.
Joe Soptic’s wife died 5 years after the GST Plant closed. Mitt Romney remained CEO of Bain Capital until 2002, but from sometime in 1999 he was preoccupied with his work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and was not involved in day to day decisions at Bain. Even if he had been involved in the decision to close this steel plant, that was not a decision that could have been avoided given the financial condition of GST Steel at the time.
Soptic’s sob story about losing his insurance is dishonest as well. COBRA would have allowed him to keep his insurance in force for an additional 12 months after the plant closed. Had he found other work in that time he might have had new insurance. The biggest lie of omission in this nasty ad is that Soptic’s wife had her own job and her own insurance for at least 2 years after the plant closure.
Even such an Obama booster as CNN’s “Situation Room” was unable to abide the deception in this ad, and thoroughly debunked it:
My final thought. Joe Soptic has stooped low by allowing his deceased wife’s memory to be used for a sleazy political ad. It was not an honorable thing to do. The Obama campaign, if at long last they have a sense of decency, should denounce it.