A recent column about Buffets confirmed some people's worst perceptions of private equity. "Vulture capitalists" was a common refrain in the comments and emails that poured in following the column's appearance.

So, here's a counter-take on private equity that goes 180 degrees in the other direction. In this world, private equity is a purifying agent that makes the American economy stronger. To justify that position, author Reihan Salam trots out the sainted Steve Jobs:

Here's the problem with that analogy: Jobs was in it for the long run. He didn't take a salary, just stock options. He didn't pay himself a series of special dividends that drained the company of cash even as he piled on debt, payments that either caused or hastened his company's insolvency.

That was a central allegation in the lawsuit that Buffets' bankruptcy trustee's filed against Caxton-Isema. It's probably the reason why the firm agreed to cough up almost $23 million to settle the case.

I don't think anyone begrudges an investor who takes a risk on a failing company, fixes it and flips it for a huge profit. And there are many private equity firms, local and national, that operate this way.

But we've seen other examples like Buffets, where a private equity firm walks away with big profits after mismanaging a healthy firm, or a private equity firm reaps big profits even as it fails to fix around a firm that it bought.

Venture capitalists lose money when they invest in startups that fail. Private equity investors have figured out ways to make money whether or not a company fails.