Political Animal


January 05, 2012 12:40 PM Setting the standards for the jobs debate

By Steve Benen

It has quickly become a standard talking point for Mitt Romney: during his tenure at Bain Capital, he created “over 100,000 new jobs.” Campaign officials have been reluctant to back up the claim, and fact-checkers haven’t been able to substantiate the claim in any way.

But that changed this week, when Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom presented his argument to the Washington Post’s Glenn Kesler.

Fehrnstrom says the 100,000 figure stems from the growth in jobs from three companies that Romney helped to start or grow while at Bain Capital: Staples (a gain of 89,000 jobs), The Sports Authority (15,000 jobs), and Domino’s (7,900 jobs).

This tally obviously does not include job losses from other companies with which Bain Capital was involved — and are based on current employment figures, not the period when Romney worked at Bain.

This is just fascinating. The Romney campaign is not only taking credit for jobs created at these companies after Romney left his firm, the campaign is also choosing to ignore all layoffs when coming up with the figure. Romney and his team are only counting hits, not misses.

This is a bit like a coach saying his team is undefeated, just so long as you overlook the team’s losses. Or as Paul Krugman put it, “By that standard, everyone who’s spent a lot of time with slot machines is a big winner, since only the pluses count.”

But wait, it gets better. Greg Sargent noted that the Romney campaign is also using one standard for counting jobs when it comes to Bain and a completely different standard when it comes to the Obama presidency.

Romney is only counting jobs gained at companies restructured at Bain during and after his years there — and is not factoring in jobs lost — in claiming he created over 100,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, as the Romney camp concedes to Kessler, in making the claim Obama is a job destroyer, Romney is factoring in the jobs that were lost during Obama’s presidency — before Obama’s policies went into effect. In other words, Romney is calculating a “net” number for Obama, and isn’t calculating a net number for himself. Just wow.

It’s remarkable, to be sure, but let’s take this one step further. Let’s agree to play by Romney’s rules, let’s only count his hits, and let’s even allow him to take credit for jobs created at Bain-owned enterprises after Romney had left the firm. And then let’s allow President Obama to do the same thing when examining his jobs record.

According to the Romney campaign, the Republican created 111,900 jobs at Bain, only counting his successes. And if we look back over the last three years, and only count the months in which the economy added jobs, President Obama created 2.79 million jobs overall (the figure is higher if we only look at the private sector).

Here it is in chart form:

Remember, this isn’t playing by my rules, or even Obama’s rules. This is how the comparison would shape up applying Romney’s own standards to both.

Update: There may be some confusion here. Brian Beutler argues, “It’s absurd to compare a President’s and a private equity fund manager’s fake ‘job creation’ accolades.” I’ve some related criticisms this afternoon.

Folks may be missing the point here. Romney has said repeatedly that he created more jobs at Bain and in Massachusetts than Obama has created in three years as president. It’s a standard talking point from Romney and his campaign.

My point isn’t to compare a country to a private equity firm, but rather, to show how foolish it is to accept the jobs debate on Romney’s terms. He’s playing fast and loose with the details in the hopes voters won’t know the difference. It’s absurd and the chart is intended to highlight that absurdity.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2012 12:52 PM:

    And unless our slothful, willfully ignorant, meme-fed MSM wakes the f*ck up, notices and makes a point of this, then who the f*ck will ever know anything about it?

    If a fib-tree falls in a bullsh*t forest, and there's no one around who to cares to notice, does it make a story?

    My guess is - NO!

  • MsJoanne on January 05, 2012 12:53 PM:

    Steve, Steve, Steve...

    You never apply the same standards to a Dem that you do to a GOPer. Ever.

    How else do you prove that them damned hippy liburls are killing the US as they know it.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 05, 2012 1:09 PM:

    Standards! We don't need no damn standards!

    It is insulting to even imply that standards should be applied to white republican men.

    Standards are for wimps and democrats. Real white republican men scoff at standards.

    And yes MsJoanne, them damned hippy liburls and blacks and browns are killing the U.S. that we believe in!

  • Danp on January 05, 2012 1:11 PM:

    And while Romney says the government shouldn't play the role of venture capitalist, the success of Bain was largely due their prolific efforts to lobby the governments for money. For example, they lobbied the Gov of MD to invest a couple million dollars for a plan in Hagerstown, then donated $16000 to the Gov's campaign. If Romney were a man of principle, I might try to argue that he merely wants to be on the other side of that bargaining table.

  • PhillyCooke on January 05, 2012 1:11 PM:

    That's not quite accurate. What you need to do is ignore everyone who was laid off, fired, or left their job during the Obama administration. That number would presumably be MUCH higher than the number you cite. Note, for example, that you get to count all of the Census workers who are no longer employed by the Census because those were jobs created, and you don't EVER take away from the total once a job is created.

  • Highguy on January 05, 2012 1:13 PM:

    Mitt's America stars national big box chaings pushing plastic office supplies out the door and cheap, Chinese made tennis shoes on your feet. Wash that down with a substandard pizza made in 10 minutes and delivered by a pimply teenager beating time guarantee, and voila.... There's a vision.

  • Panjack on January 05, 2012 1:15 PM:

    George Washington created the most jobs of any president: merely compare the jobs at the beginning of his presidency and the number of jobs now to see this.

  • majun on January 05, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Romney will counter that the jobs creation under Obama really took off after Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts, so just like all those Bain Capital jobs that were created after he left are due to his efforts, all the jobs created under Obama are actually the result of Bush era policies.

    And the MSM will report all this as a he said/he said story without any attempt to explain why Romney's claims are complete and utter BS - and Fox News will trumpet the Romney claim without even printing any counter claims by Obama. That is how the game is played. (SIGH.....)

  • arkie on January 05, 2012 2:09 PM:


    Can you divide these numbers by the number of years over which they occurred to show an annual rate? Obama's would be divided by three but I don't know what period Romney's numbers cover.

  • jjm on January 05, 2012 2:17 PM:

    I see that Romney is calling OBAMA a 'crony capitalist' (Daily Kos).

    Obama made his money selling books he himself wrote. [Romney can't even recall with precision what he wrote in his own book--see the $10,000 bet with Perry.] Obama holds most of his money in T-bills, as I understand it. Romney? Millions from vampirizing businesses and hiding his investments (and refusing to release his tax returns).

    I think that I now comprehend Romney. He's actually a robot, manufactured secretly by his dad years ago, that spews out whatever's been inputted into his memory banks. But the input got its wires crossed. Everything he says about Obama was intended to describe himself.

  • m2 on January 05, 2012 2:38 PM:

    Somebody had to package those Grammy winning audio book CDs too. Those are jobs. Not to mention the celebs that announced those Grammies. High paying jobs. Keep counting. And the UPS truck driver that brought it here...

  • SFAW on January 05, 2012 4:03 PM:

    Everything he says about Obama was intended to describe himself.

    Or, as they say, yet another case of Rethuglican projection.

  • exlibra on January 05, 2012 4:05 PM:

    President Obama created 2.79 million jobs overall (the figure is higher if we only look at the private sector). -- Steve Benen

    Which is why it's the higher number you ought to have given. Either we're doing things Romney-style, or we aren't.

  • paul on January 05, 2012 10:27 PM:

    It's even worse than this. Not only does Romney have to fess up and take the hit for all the companies that he and his cronies sent belly up or hollowed out, for counting national job creation he has to deduct the people who lost their jobs at the competitors of his success stories. Consider Staples, for example: it's not as if people buy way more paper or office equipment than they did before the office-supply box store became ascendant, it's just that they buy it at the big boxes instead of at smaller office-supply ans stationery companies. With the result that tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs. From the "logic of the marketplace" point of view this is a perfectly reasonable result, but from an overall employment point of view it doesn't make much sense to call yourself a job creator if the net result of even your successes is that fewer people have jobs in the sectors where you were successful.

  • Epicurus on January 06, 2012 10:22 AM:

    "Absurdity"??? Let's just call a spade a spade; Romney is LYING about his (and the President's) job record(s). He is a duplicitous, mendacious man, who will say ANYTHING to get the GOP nomination. My prediction is that if he succeeds, Obama will decimate him in the debates and in the general. Dog willing...

  • Joel O'Brien on January 07, 2012 8:29 AM:

    How many broadcasting jobs have gone 'poof' since Bain's merger with Clear Channel? Hundreds I'd say.