Political Animal


June 03, 2012 1:11 PM Massachusetts’s Record

By Matthew Zeitlin

Apparently one of the Sunday morning tiffs that made its way out of This Week’s studios and into mainstream circulation is a dispute between dueling advisers over Romney’s Massachusetts job record. Here’s how the Hill summarizes it:

Fehrnstrom on ABC’s This Week said Romney had achieved a 4.7 percent unemployment rate while governor and would gladly compare his record to Obama’s.

“That’s close to full unemployment. What does that mean? It meant anybody who wanted a job had a pretty good chance of finding one. I have no doubt that President Obama would happily trade his 8.2 percent unemployment rate for Mitt Romney’s 4.7 percent,” he said.

Also appearing on ABC, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter continued those attacks saying that Massachusetts fell to “47th out of 50 in jobs creation” under Romney.

“Wages went down when they were going up in the rest of the country. He left his successor with debt and a deficit, and manufacturing jobs left that state at twice the rate as the rest of the country,” she said.

Cutter said that the state was “36 out of 50 states when Gov. Romney took office, and he was 47th when he left.”

Romney’s campaign however says that the governor managed to lower the unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 4.7 percent during his tenure.

I think this entire dispute tells us a lot more about Massachusetts and not that much about Mitt Romney. The first important thing is that, besides this muddled jobs record, Massachusetts was and is and a low-unemployment, high-taxes, high services, well educated state. This has little to do with Mitt Romney one way or the other (with the obvious exception of Romneycare, an aspect of his record that he is not exactly eager to point to). But since Massachusetts wasn’t and isn’t a boom-and-bust homebuilding-or-energy state, it will have an unemployment rate that largely mirrors the country’s, except a little smoother and lower.

And so while it is true, in the words of Brooking Gary Bartless, quoted in Politifact, that “total payroll employment growth lagged far behind the experience of the rest of the country,” right now Massachussetts is doing much better than the rest of the country, and both of those phenomena are more or less Romney-independent.

What would be really useful is less parsing of a not-very-conclusive jobs record, and more discussion of the policies that Romney actually wants to pursue.


  • c u n d gulag on June 03, 2012 2:16 PM:

    If Mitt's record in MA as a Governor, and a "Job Creator," is SOOOOOOOOO GREAT, then why is he barely talking about it?

    If it really was THAT great, why isn't he on every TV and radio station, crowing about his achievements as Governor?

    And then, if his record was SOOOOOOOO Great, why didn't he run for reelection in 2006, and instead decided to 'cut-and-run,' and go run for President in 2008?

    The only difference between him and Sarah Palin, is that at least, though he wasn't around or doing much for the last two years, is that HE at least stayed around the whole 4 years.

    Mitt ain't got nothin'!
    Except attacks.

    The MSM is left to fill-in the blanks to make this a real horse race.
    And boy, the MSM is working overtime, trying to make Mitt look like something he isn't - a "Centrist" masquerading as a hard-core rightie to appeal to the base.
    He's a rich, spoiled, entitled, man, who'll do and say ANYTHING to get elected.
    And will say and do ANYTHING to get reelected.
    HE, Mitt, will be the most conservative, and worst, President, ever.
    All to get reelected to have the only thing he ever wanted in his miserable like besides money - POWER!

  • c u n d gulag on June 03, 2012 2:21 PM:

    Oh, and Mitt's running AWAY from the only real achievement he ever accomplished as Governor of MA - HEALTH CARE!!!

    Much to Mitt's chagrin, Obama's ACA plan was based on Mitt's.

    And Mitt's team doesn't want any Kevin Bacon 'degree's of separation' between him and Obama.
    Especially since it ain't exactly 'six degree's of separation" - and more line ONE!

  • majun on June 03, 2012 3:10 PM:

    The big problem here is that Massachusetts, like some other of the high tax, high services states that invest heavily in education is doing better overall than the low tax, no services states, and nobody wants to talk about that. If they do bring it up the Republicans start screaming about California, the liberal dream state. Of course the conveniently forget Proposition 13 that shackled local governments in terms of raising revenues over a generation ago, as though today's fiscal problems have nothing to do with that monstrosity. But the facts are that states that tend to be thought of as blue states (California being one of a few exceptions) have generally tended to do better in this recession than the states that have been forcing austerity down the throats of the people.

    Whatever success Romney had in MA, whether it was due to his efforts, or just a fact of life in Taxachusetts, it was still due to Romney following policies that he has sworn to reverse on the national stage if elected. Romney can't run on his record in public office since whatever successes he may have had were due entirely to policies he is sworn to oppose now. He will tell one audience that his managerial skills worked well in MA, and avoid speaking of MA to another audience, hoping that YouTube and Facebook and Twitter won't make the inconsistencies viral. So the issue isn't whether Romney is lying, but WHO he is lying to. Under those circumstances I can't imagine his candidacy will inspire the base to get out the vote. Most of the inspiration is going to be negative - those who are just that virulently opposed to Obama.

    If Romney wins, it will racism's biggest victory in the US since the Jim Crow era.

  • fignaz on June 03, 2012 3:32 PM:

    The unemployment rate number Fehrnstrom wants to harp on is meaningless. First of all unemployment was dropping nationwide & second of all-- according to Andrew Sum Professor of Economics at Northeastern University who has studied Romney's economic record -- droves of people stopped looking for work or left the state entirely accounting for the 4.7 number (a drop from the 5.6 unemployment rate Mittens inherited). The only state which had a greater drop in its labor force during Romney's time in office was Louisiana post-Katrina

  • emjayay on June 03, 2012 4:21 PM:

    Speaking of semi moronic political columnists, did anyone read David Brook's latest (5/31/2012 "The Segmentation Century")? I was hoping for some commentary here on it, but I guess WM figured there was no point. Besides, about 99% of the 260 responses at NYT already called him an idiot.

  • emjayay on June 03, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Oooops. The above comment from me was supposed to go one blogpost up.

  • FlipYrWhig on June 03, 2012 6:07 PM:

    Let's for the sake of argument concede Romney's argument. So stipulated: unemployment in MA went down on Romney's watch. What was it that Romney did that produced this effect? Is it something he could do again as President? I want to see some cause and effect logic being brought to bear on these debates. Because it seems to me that the entire rationale for Romney's candidacy is that he has Job Creation superpowers. And thus he doesn't have to _do_ anything so gauche as "build infrastructure" or "invest in education" to create jobs -- they magically appear by being wished into existence.

  • GP on June 04, 2012 9:43 AM:

    I agree that the employment story is a muddled argument, because Mass. employment does tend to follow a softer curve than the national average (and we like it that way).

    It's difficult to talk about the policies that Romney would pursue when the man won't actually talk about them himself. What we see in the history of Mass. is that Romney ignored his purported philosophy and his campaign promises when it came to actual governing. Romney ran up the debt, increased the size of government, and raised revenue by imposing more and more fees on the middle class, all while cutting services. What Romney did *not* do was sweep away all the "waste and corruption" to produce any kind of budget surplus. This is the classic duplicitous big-money Republican bait-and-switch: promise the moon, then sell your grandmother to pay the bills, and still no moon.

    So, how exactly should we talk about what Romney will do as POTUS? Should we listen to his campaign bloviations, or should we let history inform us? There's more to Romney's reign in Mass. than the unemployment figures.

    With Romney, I think we can look forward to more debt, more revenue extraction from low and middle-class people through fees, and a total lack of creative thinking on employment policies. We'll also get the famous Romney chill when dealing with the rest of the government, and a truly uninspiring man to represent us to the world.

  • boatboy_srq on June 04, 2012 10:19 AM:

    Humph. Romney's a mediocre governor and a profit-hungry vulture capitalist. And based on these qualifications, he wants to be pResident.

    These two quotes, taken together, really kill me:

    Wages went down when they were going up in the rest of the country.

    Romney’s campaign however says that the governor managed to lower the unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 4.7 percent during his tenure.

    SO: employment goes up, and wages go down. Sounds like more good jobs evaporating, and sweatshop-equivalent retail/service spots taking their place. Where have we seen this trend before? Walmart, perhaps?

  • Anonymous on June 04, 2012 1:09 PM:

    As I listened to this apples and oranges comparison between jobless rates I thought - woah, Romney was governor when nationwide unemployment was much lower and this Ferhnstrom guy thinks it's OK to compare that to the current situation? Thankfully (though later) the good mayor of Atlanta got that argument smacked down.