MANCHESTER, NH — “You have to ask the question, is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of people and then walk off with the money?”
Who said it — Elizabeth Warren? Dennis Kucinich? Noam Chomsky?
Not quite, that was Newt Gingrich talking to reporters at an energy company in Manchester on Monday about his new effort to paint Mitt Romney as a greedy one-percenter who finds “clever legal ways” to go about “looting a company” while screwing over its workers.
Gingrich’s argument against Romney over Bain’s history of downsizing has become increasingly similar to the Occupy Wall Street crowd’s criticism of the financial system, let alone national Democrats. Compare his latest attacks to, say, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is spearheading the party’s current anti-Romney effort.
“Mitt Romney, I think, is more of a job cremator than a job creator,” Schultz told TPM recently. “He was a corporate buyout specialist at Bain Capital. He dismantled companies. He cut jobs. He forced companies into bankruptcy and he outsourced jobs and sent jobs overseas.”
The former Speaker is making the case that, in contrast to good old fashioned businesses who make stuff, Romney and his ilk have instead gamed the system to create a soulless machine that profits from the misery of others. Whereas Republicans used to merely whisper that Bain was an electability problem for Romney, Gingrich and other candidates are now openly making the case that the invisible hand has failed to stop corporate raiders from hurting American workers — even as they condemn President Obama as a radical socialist for his rhetoric on Wall Street.
“I am totally for capitalism, I am for free markets,” Gingrich assured reporters on Monday. “Nobody objects to Bill Gates being extraordinarily rich, they provide a service.” What he instead is concerned about is when an investor receives “six-to-one returns, and the company goes bankrupt.”
And that’s just the candidate himself. Previews of a new film produced by a pro-Newt Super PAC that will air in South Carolina are as brutal as they come about Romney’s brand of management.
“Capitalism made America great - free markets, innovation, hard work - the building blocks of the American Dream,” the narrator of the film intones. “But in the wrong hands some of those dreams can turn into nightmares.”
Gingrich defended his new negative tack to reporters on Monday, saying Super PAC spending by Romney supporters left him little choice but to go on the offensive. He insisted that his brutal new anti-Romney line wasn’t kneecapping his party’s general election chances.
“If somebody’s going to crumble, they better crumble before the nomination,” he said.
Rick Perry has been running hard against Wall Street in recent days as well. One Iowa ad said Romney “made millions buying companies and laying off workers” and Perry himself went after the frontrunner in South Carolina for talking about how he was once worried about receiving a “pink slip” himself.
“I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company Bain Capital with all the jobs that they killed, I’m sure he was worried that he’d run out of pink slips,” he said, per CNN.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.