Political Animal


January 03, 2012 1:35 PM What Romney fails to understand about jobs

By Steve Benen

Mitt Romney addressed one of his biggest vulnerabilities — jobs policy — on Fox News this morning, and made a series of claims his campaign seems awfully excited about:

“This is 2 million jobs that he lost as president. And by the way, when he was overseeing General Motors and Chrysler, how many factories did he close? How many dealerships? How many thousands upon thousands of Americans had to be let go in an effort to try and save those businesses? That’s what we did in our business.

“And I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs. By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president’s created in the entire country. So if the president wants to talk about jobs, and I hope he does, we’ll be comparing my record with his record and he comes up very, very short.”

It’s worth unpacking this, because this argument is very likely to dictate who will be president of the United States in 2013.

The problem here is that none of what Romney is saying stands up to scrutiny.

First, there’s no comparison between President Obama’s rescue of the American automotive industry and Romney orchestrating leveraged buyouts at his vulture-capitalist firm. Obama wasn’t trying to profit; Romney was trying to make himself and his investors rich.

Second, Romney now claims to have created “over 100,000 jobs” at his vulture-capitalist firm, but he appears to have made this number up out of whole cloth. Keep in mind, just a few weeks ago, when Romney’s Super PAC ran an ad claiming he “helped create thousands of jobs” as CEO at Bain, Super PAC officials were asked to back that up with evidence. They refused. Fact-checkers haven’t been able to substantiate the claim in any way.

Third, Romney seems eager to boast about his record in Massachusetts, but that’s a mistake. His administration’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country,” ranking 47th out of 50 states in job growth. It’s one of the reasons Romney left office after one term deeply unpopular, and why his former constituents don’t want him near the White House.

As for Romney’s claims about Obama’s jobs record, Greg Sargent had a great take on this.

…Romney’s claim that two million jobs were lost under the Obama presidency is based on the idea that there’s been a net loss of jobs since he took office. In other words, Romney is taking into account the fact that the economy continued hemorrhaging jobs at a furious rate after Obama took office — before Obama’s stimulus passed. But the figures show that once it became law, monthly job loss declined over time, and turned around in the spring of 2010, after which the private sector added jobs for over 20 straight months, totaling around 2.2 million of them.

You can debate whether the stimulus underperformed. You can debate whether the stimulus is the reason the economy did add private sector jobs. You can argue that public sector jobs loss should be factored in. But it is not debatable to claim that the overall net jobs loss number Romney cites is a fair measure of the success or failure of Obama’s policies.

I’m going to make this easy on Romney and the journalists who might ask him questions.

Here’s a chart showing private-sector job gains and losses over the last two decades. Blue columns show years in which there’s a Democratic president; red columns show years in which there’s a Republican president. (Note: the 2011 totals do not yet reflect December’s job numbers.)

The “A” marks where we were when the economy crashed, and the “B” marks were we are now. Can anyone explain why Romney thinks “A” is preferable to “B”?

Here’s another chart, showing private-sector job totals by month since the start of the Great Recession.

Again, “A” marks where we were when the economy crashed, and the “B” marks were we are now. Why, exactly, does Romney think “B” is worse than “A”?

Under Obama, the nation’s jobs picture improved rather quickly. We haven’t yet made up for all of the job losses caused by the crash that occurred before Obama took office, but 2011 was the best year for job creation in the last five years, and as these charts show, things are getting better, not worse.

Romney doesn’t have to like it, but he shouldn’t lie about it.

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.


Post a comment
  • Burr Deming on January 03, 2012 1:40 PM:

    It isn't enough for the economy to marginally improve. The Obama side must demonstrate that the President's policies caused the upswing, if the upswing continues. Fortunately, that will not be a hard task.

  • Redshift on January 03, 2012 1:44 PM:

    The case for returning Republicans to power, translated into business terms: we fired the old CEO because he was losing massive amounts of money, and the new CEO has returned the company to profitability, but we should fire him and bring back the old guy because the company has too much debt.

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 1:46 PM:

    Jeez, maybe if Mitt told some HUGE whoppers about things the MSM COULD check?

    You know, like claiming he Quarterbacked Utah to an NCAA football championship.

    Or that he was the point guard for those great Celtics championship teams.

    Or the Mickey Mantle retired because he realized he was never going to be as good a Mitt no matter how long he played.

    But JOBS?
    That's hard!

    What are you going to believe - charts, or your own lying ears?"

  • Ray Waldren on January 03, 2012 1:51 PM:

    Of course Romney created millions of jobs, of course those millions of jobs were created out of the wreckage (downsizing) of several million more jobs. The net was a loss.

  • ManOutOfTime on January 03, 2012 2:01 PM:

    Guess how many people work for Staples?

    Never mind that big box office supply retailers have reduced employment in the sector through consolidation: in Repug-ese, it's still "job creation" if the jobs are "created" at a new company whether the jobs at other companies are destroyed or not. Rather like how Rick Perry's Texas "created" jobs by bribing compainies to move them from California and Illinois.

  • Ron Byers on January 03, 2012 2:03 PM:

    Romney has to lie about it, because he has no choice. The main stream media will lie about it as well because if they don't Obama wins in a walk and their ratings won't be nearly as good as if there is a genuine horserace.

    Will Romney be called on this big lie? Not by anybody from any of the main stream media outlets. This is entirley up to us and to the Obama campaign.

  • Bobfr on January 03, 2012 2:07 PM:

    Our4thEstate Bobfr
    @MittRomney You have definitively proven you are incapable of telling the truth. As to jobs - your latest lie exposed - http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2012_01/what_romney_fails_to_understan034497.php


  • suekzoo on January 03, 2012 2:11 PM:

    So Mitt is bragging about creating 100,000 jobs over 15 years at Bain.

    How underwhelming.

  • T2 on January 03, 2012 2:12 PM:

    the Media will say "while Romney may have overestimated the number of jobs he produced as governor, he is correct in saying the first year of Obama's presidency saw the loss of millions of jobs" And that will be that.

  • LiberalGRIT on January 03, 2012 2:15 PM:

    Is it just me, or is Steve's argument not enough? I mean, it's math, it's factual, but on a gut level -- there's a net loss of jobs. So let's say that Romney/the eventual Republican candidate uses this argument and manages to add the qualifier "net jobs" under Obama. They aren't WRONG, per se. How does the President/his supporters argue against that? "It could have been worse" doesn't pack much of a punch, nor does "it's Bush's recession." Neither of then will swing undecided voters, either.

  • kevmo on January 03, 2012 2:33 PM:

    For Romney to take Obama to task over the GE and Chrysler bailouts is SOP for him. How many factories and dealerships were closed? Had Mitt had his way it would have been ALL of them.

  • Ron Byers on January 03, 2012 2:37 PM:

    LiberalGRIT, you have to challenge the Romney claims by asking people if they are doing better now than they were before. The more jobs created in the next 6 months the better. If the economic news is good over the next months, Obama will win.

  • ckelly on January 03, 2012 2:46 PM:

    It's worth repeating the ONE thing that Newt Gingrich and I agree on... "Mitt Romney is a liar".

  • John Sully on January 03, 2012 2:51 PM:

    Hate to say it, but Mitt is right. If you look at the graph, 2009 total jobs loss was about 5,000,000. Since then about 3,000,000 jobs have been created. That amounts to a loss of about 2,000,000 jobs.

  • Redshift on January 03, 2012 2:57 PM:

    Ron Byers: I agree; the thing people tend to forget about the economy and presidential elections is that the effect depends more on people's perception about the direction things are going than their perception of where things are at election time.

    The argument isn't "things could have been worse," it's "things were worse, a lot worse, and we've been making them steadily better, and furthermore, the Republicans all insist the solution is to go back to the exact policies that caused the disaster."

  • Jose Hipants on January 03, 2012 2:57 PM:

    Romney goes unchallenged by the media for lying about Obama's "apology tour". Who's going to call him on this?

  • TheoRealist on January 03, 2012 3:06 PM:

    When he was at Bain, Romney did actually help create thousands of jobs. In India.

  • June on January 03, 2012 3:15 PM:

    @LiberalGRIT -- I believe the answer is simple: We went from a monthly loss of 750,000 jobs when Obama was inaugurated, to current monthly gains of 300,000-400,000 jobs. That's not a "could have been worse" scenario, that's a real-world "did get better" scenario.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 03, 2012 4:38 PM:

    I'm sorry, but since his governership of MA ended what, exactly, beyond diddly squit has Slick Willy done to improve the economic well being of the US of A? This man has been shooting the shit for the past four years, providing his esteemed opinion on events after much twiddling of thumbs while waiting for the most opportunistic moment to change his mind from his previous stance and enter the fray. And I ask this also of all other GOP candidates - what have YOU done to improve this country other than flying off at the mouth and reminding us all that the nation's motto is "In God We Trust".

    I will also venture to strike from the record as irrelevant (for obvious reasons) any reference any jobs he may have created through Bain during the Clintonian boom years.

  • DAY on January 03, 2012 4:46 PM:

    Maybe after "Whore for Hire" Newt drops out, he can get a job with the Obama campaign to savage Mitt. Nobody else seems to have the stomach for it- least of all, the media.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on January 03, 2012 4:50 PM:

    A thousand jobs
    Several thousands of jobs
    A hundred thousand jobs.
    It doesn't matter because Mittzy misspoke.

    It was actually a hundred trillion jobs (I have the figures in front of me...somewhere)

    crapcha: iarydra suffered
    tell me about it

  • AK Liberal on January 03, 2012 5:33 PM:

    Hey, the DNC just shared this post on Facebook. Someone there was thinking.

  • Still Looking on January 03, 2012 6:40 PM:

    Many feel the job stimulus has underperformed because the net number of jobs created has been disappointing. What they fail to consider is that American corporations continue to send tens of thousands of jobs overseas every month and give their fat cat CEO's $10 million bonuses for doing so. At some point stock holders must demand that corporations pay attention to the HUMAN bottom line, not just the profit margin. Until stock holders start dumping stock because the company is dumping jobs, the companies are going to keep doing it.

  • Joe on January 04, 2012 1:33 AM:

    People fail to see that if Obama had not put forth the rescue plan this country, and the rest of the world with it, would be in the gutter. The main issue is not how jobs are being created. The biggest issue is how many jobs were spared, how many families saved from misery by the quick and decisive initiatives this president has taken.

    It is extremely easy for Republicans to open their mouths and spew out poisonous innuendo and inaccurate information. They are good at it. But wait for the presidential debates. There isn't one of them who has the acumen, intelligence and strength Obama has.

  • Peter Burgess on January 15, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Mitt Romney's pride and joy 'Staples' recently opened a new copy store in Manhattan which employs a few people ... good. But a small stationary store nearby that has been in business 30 odd years has now closed and a small copy shop down the block is struggling. The net impact of Staples on jobs is probably negative simply because they are a more 'efficient' retailer. Investors do well with Staples but employees, customers and competitors do not see much advantage!