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Private Equity: Hero or Villain?

Now that it’s become a campaign issue, it’s worth asking: Is private equity good for America?

Private equity is a rapacious destroyer of the middle class. No, it renews American industry by infusing old companies with capital and ideas.

Well, which is it? You won’t get the answer from the campaign trail, where Mitt Romney is getting kicked around for his private equity credentials even by fellow Republicans. (Rick Perry called Romney’s old firm, Bain Capital, “vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick.”) Romney’s argument against Barack Obama hinges on the former Massachusetts governor’s record in the private sector, which is why he insists that he helped create 100,000 jobs at Bain. The rhetorical fog machine is at full throttle, and nothing resembling a straightforward answer is likely to emerge from any candidate’s mouth between now and Election Day.