Submerged, like soggy tennis shoes, beneath Barack Obama's attacks on Bain Capital lies a too-common presumption about the function of capitalism -- and human nature.
Follow along with the president: "Their priority" -- the priority, he means, of partnerships that buy and clean up other people's companies -- "is to maximize profits. And that's not always going to be good for communities or businesses. ... When you're president ... your job is not simply to maximize profits."
No, I guess we could reply, it's to maximize votes. However, would that lead us away from the topic at hand, which, simply stated, is what's wrong with maximizing profits? Or to put the question another way, you got a better idea, Mac?
Bain Capital -- Mitt Romney's former investment firm -- sought and seeks to "maximize profits" because profit is the great engine of capitalism, the great creator of wealth and jobs. Not to acknowledge this truth ought to be, but unfortunately isn't, to disqualify oneself from aspiration to high electoral office. The assumption with which we're left is that Barack Obama, a reasonably intelligent individual, understands the truth, in question, but won't admit he understands it. And so a country and people laboring to fire up their economy are treated to needless distractions like the Democratic attacks on Bain Capital.
Sadly enough, Democrats have conspicuous Republican company when it comes to bashing equity companies. John McCain levied similar attacks on Bain four years ago, as he contended with Romney for the GOP nomination. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich -- this time around -- played the same, as they thought it, trump card. Both men, self-advertised conservatives, knew better. They played the card anyway.
Denigration of profit is a gambit best left to Democrats. It isn't that Democrats were fitted by nature to resist profit and Republicans weren't. It's that a substantial constituency of voters exists, with no better understanding of economics than the president himself professes in public. Wanting their votes, the president talks their language.
The high political crime of misunderstanding profit proceeds from the feat of misunderstanding the wellsprings of human action. The quest for profit -- money left over after expenses -- is viewed as a low one. A capitalist -- apparently -- ought to be risking his capital for the sheer fun of it.