Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Romney continues to lie about his record, and Obama's, on jobs

If we tried to keep up with all the lies, distortions, and prevarications being churned out by the Republican nomination campaigns, there wouldn't be time for anything else. (No, neither Republicans nor right-wingers have a monopoly on that sort of thing; but let's not try to pretend that there is anything like moral equivalence on this score.) However, since Mitt Romney is probably going to wind up being the Republican nominee for President (though that's by no means a done deal), and since a central theme of his campaign is that he's businessman who knows how to "create jobs," it's worth taking the trouble to point out that two of the central claims made by Romney and his campaign in this connection happen to be fraudulent.

As Greg Sargent argued yesterday, probably correctly:
It is now beyond doubt that Mitt Romney will be resting his case against Obama on two core claims.

The first: At Bain Capital, Romney created over 100,000 jobs, which proves he has the job-creation experience to turn the economy around.

The second: Under the Obama presidency, the country has actually lost jobs, which proves his record is a failure.
Sargent quotes a statement by Romney on Fox News in which Romney, once again, summed up this alleged contrast:
This is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is 2 million jobs that he lost as President. [....] 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.
[Update: Sure enough, Romney repeated these claims in the New Hampshire debate on Saturday, January 7. examined Romney's claims a few days before the debate and rated them, generously, as "unproven" and "misleading", respectively.]

=> Let's take these two claims in order. During Romney's time as head of the private-equity firm Bain Capital, he and the firm were certainly successful in making huge amounts of money for themselves. In the process, did they really create "over 100,000 new jobs"? That's dubious, to say the least.

No one is quite sure about the overall figures yet, but it seems plausible that, on balance, Bain Capital's operations may have led to a net loss of jobs rather than a net gain. At all events, neither Romney nor his campaign have ever offered any solid evidence to support this claim of "over 100,000 new jobs".

Well, now that someone has squeezed a little information out of the Romney campaign, this claim turns out to be quite dishonest. Greg Sargent again:
Post writer Glenn Kesler pressed Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom to justify the 100,000 jobs assertion, and he offers this:
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.
Got that? 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.
=> As Sargent just noted, it's clear that Romney's complementary claim that Obama "lost" 2 million jobs as President is also quite dishonest. Paul Krugman does an excellent job of spelling out how dishonest it is, so we can just leave that to him (below). Krugman's graphs are especially illuminating.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. A friend writes to add a significant point that is often overlooked:
The fact that Romney doesn’t have real numbers about job creation tells you something important (and obvious, if you think about it): Businessmen are not in the business of job creation [JW: i.e., when they do create jobs, that's a by-product of their pursuit of other goals, like maximizing profit, which can often entail job elimination instead], so they don’t track how well they are doing at it and their experience doesn’t equip them well to understand how it’s done. In economics generally, jobs are a cost and added costs are bad.
Paul Krugman (The Conscience of a Liberal)
January 3, 2012
Obama, Romney, Jobs

Greg Sargent is rightly outraged by Romney’s claim that Obama is a job destroyer:
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 hemorraghing 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.
I think this benefits from a figure:

Does this look to you like a president who “lost jobs”, or like a president who inherited an economy in free fall? You can accuse Obama of not doing enough to promote recovery — and I have (although the biggest villain here was Romney’s own party). But to claim that Obama caused the job loss is indefensible.

By the way, that wiggle in the upward climb represents the temporary hiring of Census workers.

Now, if you wanted a more credible case of a president who presided over job losses at this point in his administration, how about this?

And the truth is that I did give Bush a hard time over his job record — although I’m pretty sure I never accused him of destroying jobs, or even of bearing responsibility for the recession that began on his watch.