Mitt Romney seems to think his strongest issue in a general-election race against President Obama is jobs. I’d argue he has that backwards.
In an interview with TIME Magazine’s Mark Halperin, Romney said, “I know that the Democrats will try and make this a campaign about Bain Capital…. 25 million people are out of work because of Barack Obama. And so I’ll compare my experience in the private sector where, net-net, we created over 100,000 jobs.”
“I’ll compare that record with his record, where he has not created any new jobs.”
This detachment from reality fascinates me, so let’s unwrap the argument.
First, the confused former governor believes 25 million people are out of work “because of Barack Obama.” If Romney can explain why Obama is to blame for a recession that began in 2007, I’d love to hear it. For that matter, the economy lost 3.6 million jobs in 2008 — the year before the president took office. How exactly is Obama responsible for that, too?
Second, Romney now claims to have created “over 100,000 jobs” at his vulture-capitalist firm. Romney also appears to have made this number up out of whole cloth. Indeed, two 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.
Third, it’s remarkable that Romney is only willing to compare his “experience in the private sector.” What about when Romney was willing to put his experience to work in the public sector, during his one term as governor of Massachusetts? Romney doesn’t want to talk about it for a reason — his state’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.
And fourth, Obama “has not created any new jobs”? The ease with which Romney lies continues to be disconcerting.
With one month remaining this year, the U.S. private sector has now added 1.67 million jobs in 2011, well ahead of last year’s private-sector total of 1.2 million, and the best year for businesses since 2006. Since March 2010, American businesses have created 2.9 million jobs.
I’d encourage Romney to consider this chart showing private-sector job growth by month since the Great Recession began…
…and this chart showing private-sector job growth by year over the last two decades (and 2011 isn’t over yet).
Reporters really need to brush up on this stuff. When Romney lies to their face — which seems to happen just about every day — they should be able to push back with reality.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 23, 2011
To use the adverbs of which he is so fond, it is magnificently, fundamentally, literally ironic that Newt Gingrich, the master of slasher political rhetoric, is busy mewling over those meanie attack ads being run against him.
And to employ Mitt Romney’s favorite piece of management-consultant speak, with regards to those terrible, horrible nasty outside groups, it’s a bit rich for the former Massachusetts governor to bemoan their existence and assert that there’s absolutely, positively nothing he could do to get them to stop.
How dumb do they think we are?
Gingrich has long been a leading advocate and practitioner of the full-throated political attack. His current ads may be all warm and Christmas cozy, with syrupy music in the background, but his lifelong modus operandi has been to demonize opponents, not simply differ with them.
In “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” a guide produced by Gingrich’s GOPAC political action committee, fellow Republicans are advised, “Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. . . . Remember that creating a difference helps you.” Among the Gingrich-suggested words: “radical,” “pathetic,” “sick,” “traitors,” “steal,” “corrupt” and “disgrace.”
Gingrich didn’t stop at hurling words — he launched a first salvo in the ethics wars that ended up consuming him when he filed a complaint against then-House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Tex.
He was also a pioneer in the use of outside groups to buttress his political prospects. See GOPAC, above, and the investigation that ended up with Gingrich agreeing to a reprimand and a $300,000 fine.
So forgive me if I have a hard time generating any sympathy for the now put-upon candidate when he whines about the onslaught of negative attack ads being run by outside groups supporting Romney and others.
“I object to negative smear campaigns,” asserted Gingrich, master of the negative smear campaign. Boo-hoo-hoo.
Not that Romney deserves any sympathy, either. The explosion of super PACs, Romney said on MSNBC the other day, has been “a disaster” that “has made a mockery of our political campaign season.”
Really? I don’t recall Romney having anything critical to say about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which ushered in the era of super PACs permitted to make unlimited expenditures on behalf of favored candidates. In fact, Romney told the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald’s editorial board last month of the justices’ ruling: “I think their decision was a correct decision. I support their decision. I wish we could find a way to get money out of politics. I haven’t found a way to do that.”
More to the point, if Romney believes that super PACs are such a problematic development, could he explain what, precisely, he was doing speaking at events sponsored by Restore Our Future, the super PAC run by former Romney aides and now responsible for the barrage of negative advertising against Gingrich.
“We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs,” Romney said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Well, showing up at their events is a rather odd way to achieve this.
Then there is Romney’s phony claim that he can’t say anything to disavow the super PAC advertising for fear of being sent to “the big house” — as in, “My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the big house.”
Oh, please. It’s illegal for the Romney campaign to coordinate with the Romney-backing super PAC, but those rules are porous enough to have allowed, for example, Romney to speak at a Restore Our Future event.
But the question posed to Romney was merely whether he would call on the super PAC, as Gingrich had demanded, to stop the negative advertising. “I’m not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form,” he claimed. But nothing — nada, zilch — would prevent Romney from disavowing the advertising or calling on the super PAC to cut it out. Which, of course, he won’t.
This may sound a bit harsh, but, really, these two candidates deserve each other.
By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 22, 2011
Suppose that President Obama were to say the following: “Mitt Romney believes that corporations are people, and he believes that only corporations and the wealthy should have any rights. He wants to reduce middle-class Americans to serfs, forced to accept whatever wages corporations choose to pay, no matter how low.”
How would this statement be received? I believe, and hope, that it would be almost universally condemned, by liberals as well as conservatives. Mr. Romney did once say that corporations are people, but he didn’t mean it literally; he supports policies that would be good for corporations and the wealthy and bad for the middle class, but that’s a long way from saying that he wants to introduce feudalism.
But now consider what Mr. Romney actually said on Tuesday: “President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others.”
And in an interview the same day, Mr. Romney declared that the president “is going to put free enterprise on trial.”
This is every bit as bad as my imaginary Obama statement. Mr. Obama has never said anything suggesting that he holds such views, and, in fact, he goes out of his way to praise free enterprise and say that there’s nothing wrong with getting rich. His actual policy proposals do involve a rise in taxes on high-income Americans, but only back to their levels of the 1990s. And no matter how much the former Massachusetts governor may deny it, the Affordable Care Act established a national health system essentially identical to the one he himself established at a state level in 2006.
Over all, Mr. Obama’s positions on economic policy resemble those that moderate Republicans used to espouse. Yet Mr. Romney portrays the president as the second coming of Fidel Castro and seems confident that he will pay no price for making stuff up.
Welcome to post-truth politics.
Why does Mr. Romney think he can get away with this kind of thing? Well, he has already gotten away with a series of equally fraudulent attacks. In fact, he has based pretty much his whole campaign around a strategy of attacking Mr. Obama for doing things that the president hasn’t done and believing things he doesn’t believe.
For example, in October Mr. Romney pledged that as president, “I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts.” That line presumably plays well with Republican audiences, but what is he talking about? The defense budget has continued to grow steadily since Mr. Obama took office.
Then there’s Mr. Romney’s frequent suggestion that the president has gone around the world “apologizing for America.” This is a popular theme on the right — but the so-called Obama apology tour is a complete fabrication, assembled by taking quotes out of context.
As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has pointed out, there’s a common theme to these whoppers and a number of other things Mr. Romney has said: the strategy is clearly to portray the president as a suspect character, someone who doesn’t share American values. And since Mr. Obama has done and said nothing to justify this portrait, Mr. Romney just invents stuff to make his case.
But won’t there be some blowback? Won’t Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I’m afraid he may be right.
Oh, Mr. Romney will probably be called on some falsehoods. But, if past experience is any guide, most of the news media will feel as though their reporting must be “balanced,” which means that every time they point out that a Republican lied they have to match it with a comparable accusation against a Democrat — even if what the Democrat said was actually true or, at worst, a minor misstatement.
This isn’t an abstract speculation. Politifact, the project that is supposed to enforce truth in politics, has declared Democratic claims that Republicans voted to end Medicare its “Lie of the Year.” It did so even though Republicans did indeed vote to dismantle Medicare as we know it and replace it with a voucher scheme that would still be called “Medicare,” but would look nothing like the current program — and would no longer guarantee affordable care.
So here’s my forecast for next year: If Mr. Romney is in fact the Republican presidential nominee, he will make wildly false claims about Mr. Obama and, occasionally, get some flack for doing so. But news organizations will compensate by treating it as a comparable offense when, say, the president misstates the income share of the top 1 percent by a percentage point or two.
The end result will be no real penalty for running an utterly fraudulent campaign. As I said, welcome to post-truth politics.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 22, 2011
Mitt Romney Relied On Corporate Welfare: How Bain Capital Leveraged Government Assistance To Boost Profits
During the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has lashed out at the Obama administration’s taxpayer subsidized grants to clean energy start-up companies. “The U.S. government shouldn’t be playing venture capitalist,” wrote Romney in October. “The very process invites cronyism and outright corruption.” But public records show that Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, repeatedly persuaded the government to play venture capitalist when it came to its own portfolio of companies.
News outlets have recently focused attention on Romney’s history as a businessman at Bain, which he founded in 1984. What hasn’t been reported, or fully explained by the candidate, is how Romney often got ahead in the private sector by using government help.
The likely GOP nominee made much of his estimated $250 million fortune buying companies, reorganizing them, and selling them for a profit. Though Romney, whose only government experience is his one term as Massachusetts governor, is quick to claim that he turned around investments using sound management and data-driven strategies, he does not mention one aspect of his success. Bain Capital owned companies that padded their profits using millions in public subsidies. In other cases, firms owned by Bain employed K Street lobbying firms to pursue lucrative government programs.
Consider two of Romney’s first major investments: office supply company Staples Inc. and photo album manufacturer Holson Co. Both persuaded state officials to subsidize their growth.
Shortly after Bain took control of Holson in 1987, executives pushed for the company to expand in the South. Officials from the firm had negotiated with Gov. Carroll Campbell, a Republican, to extend $200,000 in utility support for a new Holson plant in the city of Gaffney. The local city council also approved a $5 million bond for construction, after meeting with representatives from Holson. Five years after South Carolina’s taxpayers had helped finance the factory, Bain chose to sell Holson’s Gaffney facility for $2.8 million. Romney’s firm reaped the profits on the taxpayers’ expenditure.
The history of Staples, a company that Bain grew from a single store, is a hallmark of the Romney record. Staples’ rapid growth, however, drew on substantial state subsidies.
In 1996, Tom Stemberg, a close Romney business partner leading Staples, met with Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, to negotiate a package of taxpayer sweeteners to build a new distribution center in Hagerstown. The Glendening administration, using a “Sunny Day” fund of discretionary development money, awarded Staples $2.3 million in grants and low interest loans. The following year, as Glendening prepared for his reelection campaign, top Staples executives maxed out in donations. Stemberg and his colleagues gave a total of $16,000.
A similar story played out in Connecticut, where Staples landed a deal in which taxpayers subsidized over $6 million in low-interest loans for the company to construct a distribution center in Killingly in 1998.
The federal government also played a pivotal role in Romney’s ascendant path through corporate America.
GS Industries, a steel company purchased by Bain in the early ’90s, faced fiscal problems as Bain withdrew large dividends and management fees. Under Bain’s leadership, the steelmaker hired the K Street lobbying firm of Wiley Rein to seek government support. In 1998-99 the firm paid $140,000 for a lobbying team that included former Democratic Rep. Jim Slattery. GS Industries eventually won a federal loan guarantee, but before the loan could be delivered, the company fell to bankruptcy in 2001. Bain’s executives still made $50 million from their involvement with the firm.
In 1999, Romney departed Bain to take over as the chief executive officer of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The experience, turning an organization in disarray and deeply in the red into a popular event that actually earned over $100 million in profits, is portrayed as yet another example of the candidate’s private sector management skills. Yet the turnaround was achieved in part through the use of professional influence peddling. Under Romney’s management, the Olympic organizing committee spent over $3.3 million on Beltway lobbyists to secure federal funding for the 2004 Winter games.
Olympics lobbyists from firms like Patton Boggs and King & Spalding helped secure federal grants for communications equipment, educational money and public transportation. Millions of dollars were procured from federal officials, who wanted to allay safety concerns in the aftermath of 9/11.
As the New York Times reported earlier this week, Romney’s has continued to earn a windfall from Bain. When he left the firm, he signed a severance package that allowed him to share in the company’s profits in perpetuity. The arrangement might come back to haunt the candidate, given Bain’s increased reliance on lobbyists over the last five years.
Starting in 2007, Bain Capital began retaining various lobbying firms to pressure lawmakers to keep open a loophole that allows much of the earnings by private equity managers to be taxed as capital gains rather than the top income bracket of 35 percent. Given Romney’s profit-sharing retirement deal, the campaign to extend the loophole, which still hasn’t been closed, likely boosted the candidate’s fortune. (Romney has refused to release his tax return, leaving questions about his income.)
As Romney pillories Obama for using the government to fix problems in society (health reform, the auto bailout, etc.), he invites a closer examination of his own career. A balanced view of the Romney record shows he has never had any qualms about government help when it came to his own bottom line. Whether through hiring insider lobbyists or funneling taxpayer subsidies to his companies, government assistance has been part and parcel to the rise of Romney.
By: Lee Fang, Salon, December 21, 2011