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LAMBRO: Obama’s economic fantasy land

Government ‘investment’ good, while private capital is bad, bad, bad

President Obama's anti-capitalism attacks on Mitt Romney's long career as an investor who bankrolled businesses and created jobs isn't playing well in some Democratic circles.

Indeed, the Democratic backlash Obama's campaign has been getting about its ads attacking Bain Capital, Mr. Romney's successful venture investment firm, is the political equivalent of a "man bites dog" story.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a close ally of Mr. Obama and a rising star in the Democratic Party, called Mr. Obama's ads "nauseating to the American people."

Former Tennessee Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., another party leader who once headed the centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council, said he agreed "with the core of" Mr. Booker's remarks defending Bain Capital's numerous success stories.

"Private equity's not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances," Mr. Ford said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Even one of Mr. Obama's own economic advisers winced at the sorry spectacle of the president's campaign trying to argue that Mr. Romney's private capital-investment company has been bad for the economy.

"I don't think there's anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about," said Steven Rattner, who was the Obama administration's car czar and one of the president's economic advisers.

To the contrary, what Mr. Rattner and others seem to be suggesting is that Mr. Obama ought to be embarrassed by ads that are attacking private investment that is the mother's milk of business expansion and job creation.

"I have to just say from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity [investment]," Mr. Booker said on Sunday's "Meet The Press" when host David Gregory asked him about Mr. Obama's ad.

The TV ad singles out one of Bain Capital's investments in an Indiana steel company that ended up laying off 250 workers, but says nothing of dozens of companies Bain invested in that ended up creating thousands of jobs.

In the ad, a laid-off worker at the plant calls Mr. Romney a "job destroyer."

Mr. Booker suggested this kind of sleazy distortion is both dishonest and reprehensible.

"If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses," Mr. Booker said. "And this [Obama's attack ad], to me, I'm very uncomfortable with."

"This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity," he said.

Soon after Mr. Booker condemned the ad, the president's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod must have come down on him like a ton of bricks: Shortly after that, Mr. Booker released a hastily made YouTube statement to "clarify" his remarks and reiterate his support for Mr. Obama, though he stood by his earlier comments.

Speaking at the end of the NATO summit in Chicago, Mr. Obama responded with a confused statement that said private equity investing in the economy was "not always going to be a good thing for businesses or communities or workers."

His position grew even more entangled as he talked with reporters, saying, "When you're president, as opposed to the head of a private-equity firm ... your job is to think about how those communities can start creating clusters so that they can attract new businesses." Huh?

In Mr. Obama's government-centered world, private venture capital is OK up to a point, as long as the investors don't make too much money and aren't too successful. Profit's OK, but only up to a point.

He wants the middle class to do well, but does not see the role that people with risk-taking capital play in building job opportunities for economic advancement at all income levels.

His anti-capitalism ad focuses on one of Bain Capital's failures as though that proves that Bain Capital's investments were not a good thing for the overall economy. But failure can be a byproduct of risk-taking, which is what made our country the greatest economy in the world.

Henry Ford's first car company went out of business in 1908 before he invented the manufacturing assembly line that put automobiles within the reach of average Americans.

R.H. Macy weathered repeated failure in his retail career before he succeeded. The majority of all new businesses fail. But most try again, and many succeed.

Mr. Obama should know something about failure. Several of the "clean energy" firms he invested in went bankrupt. But in his case, the taxpayers had to pick up the tab. When a private equity firm's investment fails, it usually comes out of the investors' pockets.

One of Mr. Obama's biggest bankruptcies - the solar-panel company Solyndra - cost taxpayers half a billion dollars.

This election is going to be decided by the economy and by the jobs picture, both of which remain weak. The Gallup Poll has Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney in a dead heat, and the Washington Post poll has them even on who can best fix the economy.

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a state-by-state report on the nation's high unemployment levels. The national news media ignored the story, but BLS said that "just 16 states have seen job growth since President Obama took office," Investors Business Daily reported.

"The remaining states have lost a combined 1.4 million jobs since January 2009. Even 34 months after the recession officially ended in June 2009, there are still 11 states that have fewer people working now than at the start of the recovery," IBD said.

In the meantime, Mr. Obama really thinks he can win a second term by trying to persuade enough Americans that more private investment in our economy is "not always going to be good for business" or new job creation.

Think about that, for a moment.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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