Question of the Week: Is It the Role of PE Firms to Create Jobs?

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So Anderson Cooper did a little takedown of Mitt Romney on his CNN program on Tuesday.

The former Massachusetts governor and co-founder of Bain Capital, now running for the Republican presidential nomination, had just rolled out his 160-page job plan, in advance of President Obama’s own jobs-promoting speech planned for today before a joint session of Congress.

Romney bills himself as a job creator, although he passes off his private equity background with a brief reference that he “led a financial services business from startup to global prominence.”

Cooper, the TV anchorman, seemed skeptical. On his “Keeping Them Honest” segment, Cooper questioned Romney’s claim to have created “tens of thousands of jobs,” asking whether Bain’s support of the office supply company Staples, for instance, meant that Romney could claim all 90,000 of the retail chain’s jobs, or only some portion of them. Cooper also noted that LBOs often lead to layoffs. Such factors can make job-counting a slippery subject.

This is where you come in, dear reader. Is the buyout business getting a raw deal simply because some transactions fail or result in layoffs? Should the industry do a better job of creating jobs in the communities where it owns companies? Or is this whole debate beside the point of earning top returns for investors, job creation or not?

Steve Bills is a senior editor at Buyouts Magazine. Any opinions expressed here are entirely his own. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Bills. Follow Buyouts tweets @Buyouts. For information on how to subscribe, contact Greg Winterton at greg.winterton@thomsonreuters.com.