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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The blockbuster sequel to one of 2008’s most successful movies is about to collide with the blockbuster sequel to one of 2008’s least successful presidential campaigns.

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final movie in his Batman trilogy, will hit theaters on July 19th — right in the middle of the presidential campaign — and if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination as expected, he will likely be dogged by some uncomfortable comparisons between his business record and Nolan’s movie.

For starters, the villain of “The Dark Knight Rises” is named “Bane,” while the private equity firm that Romney founded is named “Bain.” They are pronounced the same way. Given the fact that some opening night screenings of Nolan’s movie are already sold out, one can expect a lot of pop culture buzz about an evil Bane — precisely what Romney doesn’t need after months of being slammed for “vulture capitalism” during his time at Bain Capital.

Tom Hardy, the actor who portrays Bane, describes his character as “Brutal. He’s a big dude who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and oriented fighting style.” Replace “dude” with “firm” and “fighting style” with “business strategy,” and Hardy could’ve easily been describing Bain.

The similarities don’t end there; the trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises,” which was partially filmed just blocks away from Zuccotti Park, is full of Occupy Wall Street themes.

The preview depicts police and military battling on the steps of a City Hall-like building, and angry rioters smashing valuables in a mansion. At one point the character Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway) whispers to Batman’s billionaire alter-ego Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale), “Do you think this can last? There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne. And you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

If the movie featured a scene where someone directs Bruce Wayne to cut the “pious baloney,” as Newt Gingrich dubbed Mitt Romney’s protestations that he wasn’t a politician, it could practically be renamed “When Bruce Wayne Came To Town.”

Given that Bane was announced as the new Batman villain four months before Romney officially announced his presidential candidacy, it’s highly unlikely that Nolan was intentionally attempting to take a shot at Romney. Still, the parallel between Romney’s campaign and “The Dark Knight Rises” will be a fun subplot to watch during the summer dog days of the presidential race.

 

  • Common Sense Patriot

    This article is a cheap shot, draped in entertainment populism. I spent a great deal of the past 40 years as a management consultant, fixing problems of companies losing money or going bankrupt. The fact is, when they are spending more money than they have coming in, they are going to go bust. In almsot every case, I found that staffing costs were one of the major reasons for the company’s problems. Instead of facing problems squarely and making the hard decisions, management will time and time again no fire poor performers and will not change processes that are inefficient and ineffective. In some cases, unions add to the problem by focusing solely on how much money they can get and how many benefits they can get from the company, rather than on the real benefit to their employeee – helping the company make money, expand, and create more jobs. In the case of Bain Capital, most fo the companies they bought would have gone broke anyway and everyone would have been out of a job. I’m not a big fan of Romney, nor of the 1% of Americans that control 50% of the wealth, including control of most companies and therefore most jobs. I think they are selfish, greedy, and ruthless. I think they ignore their public responsibilities they owe because they are given special status as a corporation, which brings with it a host of benefits granted by law, without which they would not be able to make the money they do. So, they owe something to the public, i.e., their employees and their country, to pay emplyees well and look after their economic interest. They should share the wealth. But that doesn’t mean they have to put up with lazy or incompetent employees, or even good ones who are not needed. And here’s a secret – most executives don’t have a clue as to what the real problems are or how to solve them. That’s why they hired me. But allI usually did was talk to the employees, who almsot always knew what the problems were and how to fix them, including who was productive and who was not – not just among non-management workers but among management and executives, too. I’d just take their ideas, add some of my expertise, and write up recommendations that management was prone to praise as being brilliant. In fact, they could have had most of those solution for free if they had just listened to their employees. But back to Bain and Romney. To make a company profitable, you have to keep employee costs under control, because it’s usually one of the largest costs a company has. If they are working efficiently and effectively, then fine – they deserve the money they are making. But if there are too many of them or they are doing things poorly, or management has them organzied wrong, then there is no choice but to cut staff and reorganzie both staff and processes. I did it and turned around many companies. I don’t like seeing employees lose their jobs, and I tried always to find a way to keep as many as possible by showing them how to measure productivity and increase it, how to eliminate inefficiencies and unneeded processes. That was in the long term interest of the employees, who got to keep good paying jobs. Romney took the usual executive look and outsourced jobs or just cut staff, when the way I worked was much better. Still, in the end, had he and Bain Capitol not done what they did, it would have made no difference – the company would have failed anyway and everyone would have lost their jobs. Capitalism works and free enterprise works – but part of that is the most efficient and effective companies survive and the others do not. There are better answers – hiring a knowledgeable management consultant that can help improve things and lay off only a portion of employees. Working with the union to improve how the company is run instead of just trying to pad employee salaries and benefits. (In the ususal case, unions work against their own member’s interests.) They don’t have to be that way. They can be an effective force for good and give the employees a say so in how the company is run. But those type of unions are few and far between. In the end, what Romney and Bain Capital did was not evil like some comic book or movie character. They just did what was necessary to save the companies or to dismantle them and salvage something from the mess. Oh, yes, and one of the big things that usually needs to be done is cut drastically the incomes of top executives, hwo are vastly overpaid. I worked with top executives, including CEOs and Chairmen of the Board. What I found is that they are not all that smart. They are often out of touch with how the company really works and don’t have a clue about how to fix the problems, so the resort to the easy way out by slashing employees and outsourcing jobs. One problem is their huge incentives to increase the value of their stock options, sell off and take the money and run. Executive compensation needs to be drastically changed. Stock options, while they sounded like a good idea, are just one way to make it easy for them to enrich themselves while ignoring what’s best for the company. But in the end, failing companies are going to go belly up and someone coming in and scooping them up and making drastic changes, including laying off employees or outsourcing jobs, is neither immoral nor evil. There is a better way, but let’s not blame Romney and men like him for the failures of others who put the companies in the positions they were in long before they came on the scene.