We have our policy differences with Mr. Romney, but by any reasonable measure Bain Capital has been a net job and wealth creator. Founded in 1984 as an offshoot of the Bain consulting company, Bain Capital's business is a combination of private equity and venture capital. The latter means taking a flyer on start-ups that may or may not pan out, something that neither Mr. Gingrich nor Mr. Obama seem to find offensive when those investments are made by Silicon Valley firms in "clean energy."
One Bain investment during Mr. Romney's tenure was to back an entrepreneur who was convinced he could provide savings for small-business owners if they were willing to shop at a store instead of taking deliveries. Today, the Staples chain of business-supply stores employs 90,000 people.
Bain also backed a start-up called Bright Horizons that now manages child-care centers for more than 700 corporate clients around the world. Many other venture bets f ailed, but that's capitalism, which is supposed to be a profit and loss system.
The loss part is what seems to trouble the Gingrich-Perry-Obama critics, especially in Bain's private-equity business. Like some 2,300 other such U.S. equity firms, Bain looks to buy companies that are underperforming or undervalued and turn them around.
Far from "looting," this is a vital contribution to capitalism and corporate governance. One of the persistent gripes of the left is that too many CEOs make too much money even as their companies flounder. Private-equity firms target such companies or subsidiaries, replace their management, and try to unlock the underlying value in the enterprise.
Private equity helps to promote dynamic capitalism that creates wealth, rather than dinosaur capitalism of the kind that prevails in Europe and futilely tries to prevent failure. Sometimes this means closing parts of the company and laying off employees, but the overriding goal is to create value, not destroy it.
The larger political point is that Mr. Romney has a good story to tell if he is willing to elevate this ugly rumble into a debate over free enterprise and America's future. Mr. Romney needs to rise above the personal and base his claim to office on a defense of the system of free enterprise that has enriched America over the decades and is now under assault.