Bain & The Democratic Conversation
The recent controversy about the role of companies like Bain Capital is giving Democrats an opportunity to discuss just what, exactly, is the party’s posture on economic issues. It’s an important discussion.
In order to get the party out of the post-Carter wilderness, a decision was made in the ’80s and ’90s to hand the economic reigns of the party to the economically conservative wing. Buoyed by the bull market and generally good economic conditions during the Clinton presidency, the idea took hold that if you combined more traditional Democratic positions with a hands-off approach to the market you had something.
The problem is, this mentality helped get the ball rolling on the lax oversight and deregulation that became accelerated in the Bush years.
Trust me, I know, I used to be a big believer in a lof that Third Way stuff.
Except it doesn’t work. The invisible hand will not magically regulate the market. Left to its own designs, big business will collude and extract profits at the expense of social good. It isn’t (in all cases at least) a matter of evil triumphant, but rather that for big business the incentive from doing harm is better than doing good.
Now you have some Democrats who have learned the wrong lessons of this era. They have so internalized the GOP message that Democrats are bad for business (I’d gladly compare the Dow during Clinton/Obama to the Bush presidency) that they bend over backwards in two directions for big business.
We’ve seen that this week with Ed Rendell and to a lesser extent Cory Booker whining about attacks on Bain, stupidly equating them to race-baiting Jeremiah Wright ads.
Democrats really need to have this conversation. Are they going to be just another rubber stamp for big business like the Republican party is? Or are they going to champion entrepreneurship while also emphasizing the social obligations of business, and at the same time being an aggressive watchdog of big business.
I favor the second choice. To insist that there should be rules of the road that are enforced is not even close to “an attack” on capitalism, or socialism. Big business is great and it provides jobs and is often a driver of our economic growth and stability, but that doesn’t mean you should genuflect in the direction of their corporate headquarters, either.
I think Gov. Rendell and Mayor Booker have been dead wrong in their defenses of Bain business. But you can forgive them if the party has been giving off all manner of mixed signals on a key issue. What do Democrats stand for on economics?
Let’s talk about it and have an answer before November.