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Old 10-15-2012, 10:57 AM  
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Romney's job creation record, dismantled.

By Reagan's own budget director. Brutal.

This piece has been making the rounds on about everybody's blog. So I thought I'd spread the wealth around in DC.

This is a massive piece, though, but it's a thorough, respectful treatment of Romney's record.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newswee...ain-drain.html

Mitt Romney: The Great Deformer
Is Romney really a job creator? Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, takes a scalpel to the claims.
by David Stockman
Oct 15, 2012 1:00 AM EDT

Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation. It has garnered fabulous winnings through leveraged speculation in financial markets that have been perverted and deformed by decades of money printing and Wall Street coddling by the Fed. So Bain’s billions of profits were not rewards for capitalist creation; they were mainly windfalls collected from gambling in markets that were rigged to rise.

Nevertheless, Mitt Romney claims that his essential qualification to be president is grounded in his 15 years as head of Bain Capital, from 1984 through early 1999. According to the campaign’s narrative, it was then that he became immersed in the toils of business enterprise, learning along the way the true secrets of how to grow the economy and create jobs. The fact that Bain’s returns reputedly averaged more than 50 percent annually during this period is purportedly proof of the case—real-world validation that Romney not only was a striking business success but also has been uniquely trained and seasoned for the task of restarting the nation’s sputtering engines of capitalism.

Except Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.

That is the modus operandi of the leveraged-buyout business, and in an honest free-market economy, there wouldn’t be much scope for it because it creates little of economic value. But we have a rigged system—a regime of crony capitalism—where the tax code heavily favors debt and capital gains, and the central bank purposefully enables rampant speculation by propping up the price of financial assets and battering down the cost of leveraged finance.

So the vast outpouring of LBOs in recent decades has been the consequence of bad policy, not the product of capitalist enterprise. I know this from 17 years of experience doing leveraged buyouts at one of the pioneering private-equity houses, Blackstone, and then my own firm. I know the pitfalls of private equity. The whole business was about maximizing debt, extracting cash, cutting head counts, skimping on capital spending, outsourcing production, and dressing up the deal for the earliest, highest-profit exit possible. Occasionally, we did invest in genuine growth companies, but without cheap debt and deep tax subsidies, most deals would not make economic sense.

In truth, LBOs are capitalism’s natural undertakers—vulture investors who feed on failing businesses. Due to bad policy, however, they have now become monsters of the financial midway that strip-mine cash from healthy businesses and recycle it mostly to the top 1 percent.

The waxing and waning of the artificially swollen LBO business has been perfectly correlated with the bubbles and busts emanating from the Fed—so timing is the heart of the business. In that respect, Romney’s tenure says it all: it was almost exactly coterminous with the first great Greenspan bubble, which crested at the turn of the century and ended in the thundering stock-market crash of 2000-02. The credentials that Romney proffers as evidence of his business acumen, in fact, mainly show that he hung around the basket during the greatest bull market in recorded history.

Needless to say, having a trader’s facility for knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em has virtually nothing to do with rectifying the massive fiscal hemorrhage and debt-burdened private economy that are the real issues before the American electorate. Indeed, the next president’s overriding task is restoring national solvency—an undertaking that will involve immense societywide pain, sacrifice, and denial and that will therefore require “fairness” as a defining principle. And that’s why heralding Romney’s record at Bain is so completely perverse. The record is actually all about the utter unfairness of windfall riches obtained under our anti-free market regime of bubble finance.

RIP VAN ROMNEY

When Romney opened the doors to Bain Capital in 1984, the S&P 500 stood at 160. By the time he answered the call to duty in Salt Lake City in early 1999, it had gone parabolic and reached 1270. This meant that had a modern Rip Van Winkle bought the S&P 500 index and held it through the 15 years in question, the annual return (with dividends) would have been a spectacular 17 percent. Bain did considerably better, of course, but the reason wasn’t business acumen.

The secret was leverage, luck, inside baseball, and the peculiar asymmetrical dynamics of the leveraged gambling carried on by private-equity shops. LBO funds are invested as equity at the bottom of a company’s capital structure, which means that the lenders who provide 80 to 90 percent of the capital have no recourse to the private-equity sponsor if deals go bust. Accordingly, LBO funds can lose 1X (one times) their money on failed deals, but make 10X or even 50X on the occasional “home run.” During a period of rising markets, expanding valuation multiples, and abundant credit, the opportunity to “average up” the home runs with the 1X losses is considerable; it can generate a spectacular portfolio outcome.

In a nutshell, that’s the story of Bain Capital during Mitt Romney’s tenure. The Wall Street Journal examined 77 significant deals completed during that period based on fundraising documents from Bain, and the results are a perfect illustration of bull-market asymmetry. Overall, Bain generated an impressive $2.5 billion in investor gains on $1.1 billion in investments. But 10 of Bain’s deals accounted for 75 percent of the investor profits.

Accordingly, Bain’s returns on the overwhelming bulk of the deals—67 out of 77—were actually lower than what a passive S&P 500 indexer would have earned even without the risk of leverage or paying all the private-equity fees. Investor profits amounted to a prosaic 0.7X the original investment on these deals and, based on its average five-year holding period, the annual return would have computed to about 12 percent—well below the 17 percent average return on the S&P in this period.

By contrast, the 10 home runs generated profits of $1.8 billion on investments of only $250 million, yielding a spectacular return of 7X investment. Yet it is this handful of home runs that both make the Romney investment legend and also seal the indictment: they show that Bain Capital was a vehicle for leveraged speculation that was gifted immeasurably by the Greenspan bubble. It was a fortunate place where leverage got lucky, not a higher form of capitalist endeavor or training school for presidential aspirants.

VICTORY FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT

The startling fact is that four of the 10 Bain Capital home runs ended up in bankruptcy, and for an obvious reason: Bain got its money out at the top of the Greenspan boom in the late 1990s and then these companies hit the wall during the 2000-02 downturn, weighed down by the massive load of debt Bain had bequeathed them. In fact, nearly $600 million, or one third of the profits earned by the home-run companies, had been extracted from the hide of these four eventual debt zombies.

The most emblematic among them was a roll-up deal focused on down-in-the-mouth department stores and apparel chains that were falling by the wayside in small-town America due to the arrival of Wal-Mart and the big-box retailers. Bain invested $10 million in 1988 and nine years later took out 18X its money—that is, a $175 million profit.

Fittingly, Stage Stores Inc. was the last deal underwritten by the Drexel-Milken junk-bond machine before its demise. And the $300 million raised for this incipient LBO was exactly the kind of slush fund that Milken’s stable of takeover artists had used to acquire corporate castoffs and other bedraggled pots and pans that got rechristened as “growth” companies.

During the next eight years, Bain slogged it out, accumulating about 300 small Main Street storefronts under such forgettable banners as Royal Palais, Bealls, and Fashion Bar. Yet the company wasn’t making much headway. By 1996, it had paid back none of the Milken debt and was only earning $14 million—exactly what it had generated back in 1992 on half the number of stores.

In the spring of 1997, when Chairman Greenspan decided that “irrational exuberance” was not such a worrisome thing, Bain Capital decided to indulge, too. It caused Stage Stores Inc.—which was already publicly traded—to raise $300 million of new junk bonds and used the proceeds to buy a faltering 250-store chain of family clothing stores called C.R. Anthony.

These 12,000-square-foot cracker-box stores sold mid-market shoes, shirts, and dresses right in Wal-Mart’s wheelhouse. In hot pursuit of “synergies,” Bain promptly rebranded these Anthony stores to the purportedly more compelling Stage and Bealls banners. While the name change did nothing to ward off the grim reaper from Bentonville, it suddenly gave Stage Stores Inc. the “growth” story that Greenspan’s bull market craved. Within five months of this ostensibly “transformative” deal and long before the results of the ritual “synergies” and “rebranding” could be determined, the company’s stock price had doubled. Bain Capital and its partner, Goldman Sachs, quickly unloaded their shares at the aforementioned 18X gain.

As a matter of plain fact, the “transformative” C.R. Anthony deal was a bull-market scam. Almost immediately, results headed south. After growing 4 percent during the year of Bain’s quick 1997 exit, same-store sales turned to a negative 3 percent in 1998 and negative 7 percent in 1999, and were still falling when Stage Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter. The company hemorrhaged $150 million of negative cash flow during 1998-99—that is, during the two years after Bain and Goldman got out of Dodge City.

Bain Capital subsequently claimed the company was “a growing, successful and consistently profitable company during the nine years we owned it” but then immediately ran into “operating problems.” That was a doozy by any other name but typical of the standard private-equity narrative that confuses speculators’ timing with real value creation on the free market. The fact is, the bad inventory and vastly overstated assets that took the company down did not suddenly materialize out of the blue during the 24 months after Bain’s exit: they were actually the result of financial-engineering games from the very beginning.

Worse still, the Stage Stores deal embodied all of the hidden leverage that had become par for the course in the era of bubble finance. When the crunch came, the company had no assets to fall back on because Bain had hocked virtually everything; it sold all the company’s credit-card receivables to a third party, and among its 650 stores it owned exactly three! By my calculation, the capitalized debt embedded in its store leases was nearly $750 million and when added to its disclosed balance-sheet debt, the company’s true debt of was $1.3 billion or a devastating 25X its peak-year free cash flow.

The bankruptcy forced the closure of about 250—or 40 percent—of the company’s stores and the loss of about 5,000 jobs. Yet the moral of the Stage Stores saga is not simply that in this instance Bain Capital was a jobs destroyer, not a jobs creator. The larger point is that it is actually a tale of Wall Street speculators toying with Main Street properties in defiance of sound finance—an anti-Schumpeterian project that used state-subsidized debt to milk cash from stores that would not have otherwise survived on the free market.

Bain’s acclaimed success with another retailer—Staples—is also not what it is touted to be. Tom Stemberg was a visionary entrepreneur who got $5 million of seed money from Bain in 1986 when it was still in the venture-capital business; the Milken-style LBO schemes came later. As it happened, Bain exited the Staples deal after only a few years with a $15 million profit, a rounding error in the scheme of things.

Stemberg made Staples a free-market success, a relentless generator of efficiency in the retail distribution of office supplies. Yet this honest capitalist efficiency, which benefited millions of customers, was achieved by a rampage of job destruction among tens of thousands of Main Street stationery and office-supplies stores and other traditional distributors. These now-defunct operations could not compete with Staples due to their high labor costs per dollar of sales—including upstream labor expense in the traditional, inefficient wholesale and distribution layers that stood behind Main Street retailers.
Ironically, the businesses and jobs that Staples eliminated were the office-supply counterparts of the cracker-box stores selling shoes, shirts, and dresses that Bain kept on artificial life-support at Stage Stores Inc. At length, Wal-Mart eliminated these jobs and replaced them with back-of–the-store automation and front-end part-timers, as did Staples, which now has 40,000 part-time employees out of its approximate 90,000 total head count. The pointless exercise of counting jobs won and lost owing to these epochal shifts on the free market is obviously irrelevant to the job of being president, but the fact that Bain made $15 million from the winner and $175 million from the loser is evidence that it did not make a fortune all on its own. It had considerable help from the Easy Button at the Fed.

[continued....]
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Old 10-15-2012, 12:48 PM   #16
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:17 PM   #17
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I've read a couple of Direckshun's long posts this morning without finding anything particularly informative so I've given up on them. I can't read another unless he starts paying me for my time. If there was anything game-changing in this article, I trust that he'll be back to highlight it. Until then, I'm taking a lunch break.
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:35 PM   #18
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I didn't read the article but Bain Capital wasn't in the market to create jobs. It was in the market to make a profit. Honestly no company is in the market to create jobs therefore no businessman automatically makes a good politician. Romney may or may not become a good president but I personally question if any president can create jobs. The world economy is in such dire straits there is nothing the republican can do to create many jobs in the next four years.
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:41 PM   #19
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I didn't read the article but Bain Capital wasn't in the market to create jobs. It was in the market to make a profit. Honestly no company is in the market to create jobs therefore no businessman automatically makes a good politician. Romney may or may not become a good president but I personally question if any president can create jobs. The world economy is in such dire straits there is nothing the republican can do to create many jobs in the next four years.
No.. no... corporations create jobs. Corporations are people, man! All they need is just freedom from the evil taxes the Democrats make them pay. Nevermind that most of them already find ways to avoid paying most taxes. They're the job CREATORERS!!
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:11 PM   #20
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Panic mode.
Shrug.

It's a damn good read.
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:12 PM   #21
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Full hit and run mode from D today, I see.
Not necessarily.

I love going rounds about most of the stuff I post. I'm not always able to dip in immediately to do so, however.
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:13 PM   #22
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"If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things."

Obama understood that when he said it four years ago. He and the Obots are making it into an art form.

It's obvious that Direckshun is scared to death that Romney is going to win this election. But if he thinks he can change that by posting article after article criticizing Romney, he is sadly mistaken. I suspect he is also sadly mistaken if he thinks he will change anybody's mind around here with this crap.
Oh I'm not scared to death. I don't believe Romney is going to kill America, like conservatives illogically believe about Obama.

But Romney is not shielded off from criticism because he's had a good week. I don't know why you think that he should be?
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:13 PM   #23
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:15 PM   #24
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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I've read a couple of Direckshun's long posts this morning without finding anything particularly informative so I've given up on them. I can't read another unless he starts paying me for my time. If there was anything game-changing in this article, I trust that he'll be back to highlight it. Until then, I'm taking a lunch break.
Alright. Let's do this.

1. So you believe only game-changing information should be shared at this point in the campaign?

2. If you do believe this, define game-changing.

3. If you do not believe this, what level of importance warrants a conversation on a political forum.
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Old 10-15-2012, 10:53 PM   #25
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Alright. Let's do this.

1. So you believe only game-changing information should be shared at this point in the campaign?

2. If you do believe this, define game-changing.

3. If you do not believe this, what level of importance warrants a conversation on a political forum.
It has to at least be an interesting topic or promise some game-changing revolution to be worth the investment of time it takes to read some of these long articles. This one didn't pass that test for me. The one on Romney's tax proposal seemed to have promise but ended up disappointing.
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Old 10-15-2012, 10:58 PM   #26
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It has to at least be an interesting topic or promise some game-changing revolution to be worth the investment of time it takes to read some of these long articles. This one didn't pass that test for me.
Since you're the arbiter of what's interesting, offer me a definition.

Unless you just meant interesting in your opinion, in which case congratulations on postwhoring.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:04 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Since you're the arbiter of what's interesting, offer me a definition.

Unless you just meant interesting in your opinion, in which case congratulations on postwhoring.
Judging by the responses in this thread, it's not just my opinion.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:06 PM   #28
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Judging by the responses in this thread, it's not just my opinion.
Congratulations on postwhoring.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:15 PM   #29
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Congratulations on postwhoring.
Ereckshun has become (more) unhinged.

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