Why Romney’s Auto Bailout Ad Undermines His Defense Of Bain Tenure

Mitt Romney hopes to convince the public that he is a wizened business leader from his time running Bain Capital, a private equity firm that claims to help struggling businesses restructure and grow more profitable.

And so it’s surprising to see a new Romney campaign ad challenge President Obama for doing something similar: Investing in and restructuring the auto industry in an effort to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The commercial features a man telling a story of how GM ended his line of credit and shut down his dealership as part of its effort to rebuild after 2009 and is an attempt by the campaign to misrepresent the bailout as a failure that contributed to substantial job loss. Watch it:

This particular dealership laid off some 30 employees, but on the whole, Obama’s decision to bail out the American auto industry preserved at least 170,000 jobs, and has helped grow private sector jobs. At the time, Romney urged the government to “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” meaning that the dealership owner in Romney’s ad and other dealers and manufacturers around the country would have faced devastating consequences and massive job losses had his view prevailed.

What’s more, Romney has repeatedly argued that small job losses are legitimate and even normal in the context of larger corporate restructuring. For instance, when questioned about why people lost jobs when Bain took over a company, Romney maintained that some jobs had to go in order to save the enterprise:

“There are a number of businesses that we helped start, which collectively, you can just look on their Web sites, added well over 100,000 jobs,” Mr. Romney said, specifically citing Staples, Bright Horizons Children’s Center, the Sports Authority, and Steel Dynamics. “And then the press has also reported on businesses that lost employment and that was a few thousand jobs that were lost. In each case where there was job loss, there was an effort on the part of the management team to try and preserve the business and to have a brighter future.”

He added: “The net of the two is pretty clearly well over 100,000 jobs, and the reality is in the private sector, that there are some businesses that are growing and thriving, and we were fortunate enough to be able to be part of that in a small way, and there’s some businesses that have to be cut back in order to survive and try to make them stronger. And sometimes you’re successful at that and sometimes you’re not.”

Ultimately, Bain Capital was far more interested in turning a profit than saving businesses or preserving jobs — in fact some of the companies it invested in ultimately filed for bankruptcy and laid off thousands of employees. Interestingly, Romney has defended this practice, while criticizing Obama for using government funds to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs.