“Worsening Jobs Crisis”: America’s Middle Class Is Burning To The Ground, While Washington Fiddles With Scandal Nonsense
At last, some excellent economic news for folks long-mired in the stagnant labor market!
At least, those were the headlines recently trumpeted across the country. “Jobs Spring Back,” exclaimed a typical headline or report that companies added a better than expected 165,000 private-sector jobs in April. Wow — the thunderous, three-year boom of prosperity that has rained riches on Wall Street is finally beginning to shower on our streets, right?
Well, as dry-land farmers can tell you, thunder ain’t rain. Read beneath the joyful headlines hailing April’s uptick in job numbers, and you’ll see the parched truth.
For example, more than a third of working-age Americans are either out of work or have given up on finding a job. Also, last month’s hiring increase was almost entirely for receptionists, waiters, clerks, temp workers, car-rental agents and other low-wage positions with no benefits or upwardly mobile possibilities. On the other hand, manufacturing — generally the source of good, middle-class jobs — did not add workers in April and has cut some 10,000 jobs in the last year.
Especially problematic was the continued rise in underemployment — people wanting full-time work, but having to take part-time and temporary jobs. Underemployment is also pounding college graduates. While they’ve been more successful than non-grads at landing jobs, they’re not getting jobs that fit their career goals or even require the degrees they spent money and time to obtain. Indeed, many of those rental agents and restaurant employees you encounter hold four-year degrees, forcing everyone else to scramble for the few, even lower-paid jobs further down the skill ladder.
Meanwhile, the next graduating class is already beginning to flood into the labor market from colleges and high schools with nowhere to go.
In May, another headline shouted: “Stock Market Soars.” It expressed delight that the Dow Jones Average topped 15,000 for the first time in its history.
Yet this index of Wall Street wealth gives a totally false picture of our nation’s true economic health. Yes, the privileged few are doing extremely well. But the workaday many are struggling — and falling further and further behind as the jobs market sinks steadily from mere recession down into depression.
The monthly unemployment reports don’t tell the depths of misery that’s out here in the real world, beyond the view of Wall Street and Washington elites. For example, President Obama hailed the news that unemployment dipped to 7.5 percent in April. Unstated, though, was the stark reality that this good-news dip was not due to a jump in job offerings, but to a bad-news labor market so weak and discouraging that more and more Americans are dropping out of it or never entering it.
More than a third of our working-age population is no longer even in the job market, and only 58.6 percent of us are employed. Put the opposite way, 41 percent of the potential workforce is not working — about 102 million people. One more statistic, and it’s a chiller: More than one out of five American families report that, last year, not a single family member had a job.
Our people are trapped in a jobs crisis that is sucking the economic vitality out of our nation, but our leaders refuse even to acknowledge it, much less cope with it. In fact, corporate chieftains are deliberately exacerbating the crisis by hoarding trillions of dollars that ought to be rushed into job-creating expansions, and politicians keep adding to the casualties by gleefully eliminating the middle-class jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police and other valuable public employees.
America’s middle class is burning to the ground, while Washington fiddles with nonsense and Wall Street feathers its own nest. It’s disgraceful.
By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, May 15, 2013
“The Incredible Shrinking Issue”: Lack Of Jobs, Not The Deficit, Is The Actual Scandal That Congress Should Be Trying To Grapple
Republicans gleeful over the recent slew of scandals afflicting the Obama administration – some imagined and some worthy of the name – should be thanking their lucky stars that they have new issues to wield as political cudgels. After all, their favorite of the last few years, the federal deficit, is getting smaller and smaller and smaller.
The Congressional Budget Office – Washington’s nonpartisan number crunchers – released new projections Tuesday showing that the deficit will fall to $642 billion this fiscal year, a 24 percent drop in its projection from just a few months ago. The improvement is primarily due to increasing revenue and fewer expected outlays to government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
If this holds, it will be the smallest the deficit has been since President Barack Obama took office. As a percentage of the economy, the deficit will have been cut by more than half over Obama’s first five years, from 10.1 percent in 2009 to 4 percent in 2013.
And the incredible shrinking deficit doesn’t stop there, falling to 2.1 percent of gross domestic product by 2015, which, as the New York Times David Leonhardt noted, is “a level many economists consider healthy.” (For comparison’s sake, the much-ballyhooed Simpson-Bowles budget plan called for a deficit in 2015 of 2.3 percent of GDP.) It’s also worth noting that the CBO assumes perpetual levels of both war spending in Afghanistan and aid for Hurricane Sandy victims, so the projections for future years will certainly be lower than they appear now.
This report is one more piece of evidence showing that the economic discussion that has gripped Washington recently is absurdly backwards. The short-term deficit is barely a problem, while the long-term issue for the nation’s finances remains, as everyone has known for years, spiraling health care costs (but there’s reason to believe they are also coming down).
What the dropping deficit has not done is spark the sort of economic growth or job creation that will bring down America’s still-too-high unemployment rate; lack of jobs, not the deficit, is the actual crisis with which Congress should be trying to grapple. In fact, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Jared Bernstein notes, the deficit is coming down too fast considering the country’s current economic doldrums:
The deficit is falling quickly when it shouldn’t be and rising later when it shouldn’t be.
Certainly, if facts drove the day, this update would be a fire hose for the hair-on-fire austerity crowd re: the near-term deficit. The patient is checking out of the hospital while Drs Cantor, Ryan, and McConnell are still preparing for major surgery.
Considering that Republicans on the House Budget Committee claim that the CBO report “provided a fresh reminder of Washington’s out-of-control spending,” chances seem slim that those pushing austerity will change their tune anytime soon. So perhaps the silver lining in lawmakers focusing on what they see as today’s hottest “scandal-gate” is that it will distract them from doing any more to undermine the economic recovery or to cut a deficit that doesn’t need to be cut anymore.
By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, May 14, 2013
Well, I had hoped for better news fare, but the BLS Truthers are kind of blotting out the sun at the moment, infecting a lot of people who should know better right along with the crazy people and the stone hacks. I’ll just quote Greg Sargent here on the possibility that this frantic effort–born, I suspect, of over-reaction to the first presidential debate, which had conservatives cackling with insane glee before the first poll came in–could actually backfire. After citing other examples of the “closed conservative information feedback loop,” Greg says this:
This latest — unemployment trutherism — strikes me as having the potential to be a bit more damaging to Romney. It’s very likely that these claims are now going to break through to the nightly news, drawing still more attention to the dropping unemployment rate.
Of course, there’s always the danger that news outlets will cover this stuff in a he-said-she-said manner, reporting on the assertions of the unemployment truthers without calling them out, thus injecting them into the discourse. But that seems unlikely. This is really out there stuff, and hopefully the networks will say so outright. If so, it’s hard to see how it’s helpful to Romney for undecided voters to be treated to the sight of fury and panic about improving economic news among those who want him to be elected president.
On top of that, of course, if the freak-out is about the BLS report distracting attention from Mitt’s Triumphant Vanquishing of the Evil Obama, then the crazy-talk is a much bigger distraction: like turning on the local news and watching the weatherman have a nervous breakdown because his forecast turned out to be wrong.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 5, 2012
It was funny at first.
The young men in business suits, gingerly picking their way among the millwrights, machinists and pipefitters at Kansas City’s Worldwide Grinding Systems steel mill. Gaping up at the cranes that swung 10-foot cast iron buckets through the air. Jumping at the thunder from the melt shop’s electric-arc furnace as it turned scrap metal into lava.
“They looked like a bunch of high school kids to me. A bunch of Wall Street preppies,” says Jim Linson, an electronics repairman who worked at the plant for 40 years. “They came in, they were in awe.”
Apparently they liked what they saw. Soon after, in October 1993, Bain Capital, co-founded by Mitt Romney, became majority shareholder in a steel mill that had been operating since 1888.
It was a gamble. The old mill, renamed GS Technologies, needed expensive updating, and demand for its products was susceptible to cycles in the mining industry and commodities markets.
Less than a decade later, the mill was padlocked and some 750 people lost their jobs. Workers were denied the severance pay and health insurance they’d been promised, and their pension benefits were cut by as much as $400 a month.
What’s more, a federal government insurance agency had to pony up $44 million to bail out the company’s underfunded pension plan. Nevertheless, Bain profited on the deal, receiving $12 million on its $8 million initial investment and at least $4.5 million in consulting fees.
In his campaign for president, Romney has championed free markets and vowed to shrink the role of government. The Republican has argued that his business acumen makes him the best candidate to fix the nation’s economy and bring down the stubbornly high unemployment rate. Romney’s opponents point to his business career as evidence that he is willing to cut jobs and benefits.
The story of Bain’s failed investment in the Kansas City mill offers a perspective on a largely overlooked chapter in Romney’s business record: His firm’s brush with a U.S. bailout.
His supporters say the pension gap at the Kansas City mill was an unforeseen consequence of a falling stock market and adverse market conditions. But records show that the mill’s Bain-backed management was confronted several times about the fund’s shortfall, which, in the end, required an infusion of funds from the federal Pension Benefits Guarantee Corp.
Romney’s career at Bain included both successes and failures. That is not unusual in the private equity business, where investors buy troubled companies and try to turn them around, often through aggressive use of debt.
“Bain Capital invested in many businesses,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a written statement. “While not every business was successful, the firm had an excellent overall track record and created jobs with well-known companies like Staples, Dominos Pizza and Sports Authority.”
Bain showed a remarkable knack for turning a profit. A prospectus from the year 2000 obtained by the Los Angeles Times shows that the buyout firm delivered an average annual return on investment of 88 percent between its founding in 1984 and the end of 1999.
Romney headed the firm for that entire period, except for a hiatus in 1990 to 1992, when he returned to Bain Capital’s sister consulting firm, Bain & Co. In 1999 he left the business to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
The steel company declared bankruptcy in 2001. Romney continued receiving dividends from Bain after his departure. He accumulated a personal fortune of between $190 million and $250 million, according to campaign disclosure forms.
Steven Kaplan, a University of Chicago professor of entrepreneurship and finance, describes Bain’s track record under Romney as “fantastic,” even if some ventures ended in failure.
“You don’t do this by just squeezing out costs. Those kinds of returns only come from growth,” he said. “Yes, they had some bad investments, I guess in the same way presidents make some bad calls.”
Overall, Bain made at least $12 million on the steel company it created by merging the Kansas City mill with another in South Carolina before the new entity declared bankruptcy in 2001. Bain also collected an additional $900,000 a year through 1999 for management consulting services, public filings show.
Some analysts say Bain should not be blamed for the company’s failure, noting that a wave of cheap imports forced nearly half of the U.S. steel industry into bankruptcy during that period. Another company set up around the same time, in which Bain took a minority stake, Steel Dynamics in Fort Wayne, Indiana, thrived.
“GS and Steel Dynamics were about as different as it gets,” industry analyst Michelle Applebaum said. GS’s core products were vulnerable to competition while Steel Dynamics became “one of the country’s lowest-cost manufacturers of steel sheet,” a product with more staying power. Steel Dynamics was also a non-union shop.
Former company executives say they were generally satisfied with Bain’s leadership, but they say the firm would have been better equipped to weather tough times had it not been saddled with such a heavy debt load.
They also fault Bain for putting inexperienced managers in place and spurning a buyout offer from a competitor. Workers say efforts to cut corners often backfired, driving costs higher.
The Kansas City millworkers, meanwhile, are still fuming, after being left with no health benefits and a reduced pension check.
“Romney cost me lots and lots of sleepless nights and lots and lots of money,” said Ed Stanger, who worked at the plant for nearly 30 years.
A GOOD LIVING
Since opening in 1888 as The Kansas City Bolt and Nut Co., the steelworks that sprawl along the Blue River valley in the city’s northeast corner provided a steady and prestigious living for thousands of men. It was hard, dirty, dangerous work. The plant kept two surgeons on site in case of accidents, and death on the job was not unknown.
When summer temperatures would top 100 degrees, workers wore long johns under their protective suits so their sweat could offer some relief.
Still, it wasn’t easy to get a job at the mill. The pay was good, lifting countless families into the middle class. Workers bought houses and cars and sent their kids to college.
“Hard work is supposed to pay off,” said John Cottrell, who spent decades working with molten metal. White burn marks crisscross his massive forearms, and years of asbestos exposure have left him short of breath. Sitting at his kitchen table in the working class suburb of Independence, he looks a decade older than his 64 years.
At its peak in 1970, the Kansas City plant, then owned by Armco Steel Corp, employed 4,500 people. Poor market conditions forced a wave of layoffs in the early 1980s and led the company to prune its product line. By the early 1990s, the plant focused on two items: wire for products such as mattress springs and tires; and high-carbon balls and rods used by the mining industry to pulverize rocks.
It was around that time that the mill workers started noticing the kids in suits.
Armco wanted to sell its Kansas City plant to concentrate on other aspects of its business. Jack Stutz and a few of the other Armco managers were looking for backers to help them buy it. They spoke to GE Capital, which, in turn, contacted Bain Capital because it had earned a sterling reputation for turning companies around.
The risks were obvious. The mill’s equipment was out of date and it faced stiff competition from Nucor Corp, which also made grinding balls.
Nevertheless, Bain and its partners decided to buy the mill for $75 million. Bain put up about $8 million to gain majority control of the company, renamed GS Technologies Inc. GE Capital, former Armco executives and Leggett & Platt, a major customer for the mill’s wire rods, chipped in the rest of the equity.
As part of the deal, Armco agreed to cover employee pension obligations if the plant closed within five years — a $120 million liability, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
THE BIG DIVIDEND
Bain got its money back quickly. The new company issued $125 million in bonds and paid Bain a $36.1 million dividend in 1994.
“Paying distributions with debt is not uncommon,” said Campbell Harvey, a finance professor at Duke University. “The only thing that strikes me as a bit unusual is the size of the dividend. There would be logic in them saving some cash for a downturn.”
Looking back on the dividend payout, Stutz and another former GS Technologies officer, Mario Concha, believe it weakened the mill’s financial position.
“At the time they paid that dividend, they felt that the financials justified it,” Stutz said.
GS announced plans for a $98 million plant modernization and Kansas City officials agreed to a tax break worth about $3 million, according to press accounts.
In 1995 Bain merged GS with another wire rod maker in Georgetown, South Carolina, to form one of the largest mini-mill steel producers in the U.S. The new company issued another $125 million in bonds to pay for the merger. Bain doubled down, reinvesting $16.5 million of its earlier dividend.
The new company, dubbed GS Industries Inc., would have annual revenues of $1 billion and employ 3,800 people.
Already, though, there were warning signs that the company was not on a sustainable course. Concerned about the level of debt, which totaled $378 million in 1995 on operating income less than a tenth of that amount, the merged company’s new CEO, Roger Regelbrugge, negotiated a clause in his contract that would allow him to retire at the end of 1997.
Regelbrugge said he was concerned that the company would have to go through a painful restructuring if it had not sold shares through an initial public offering (IPO) by then.
Regelbrugge had done one restructuring in the 1980s at the South Carolina mill, laying off workers and haggling with creditors. He did not want to go through that painful process again.
“Unless we had plans to go public at that time, I did not want to carry that debt load ad infinitum,” he said.
Over the next two years, GS Industries completed its upgrade of the Kansas City plant and laid the groundwork for an IPO to pay down some of the debt.
Meanwhile, managers struggled to forge a cohesive whole from two companies that made similar products but had different corporate cultures, different manufacturing processes and different labor contracts.
“I guess the two cultures never really got together,” Stutz said.
In 1997, with Armco’s pension guarantees set to expire in one year, the United Steelworkers local at the Kansas City plant was worried that GS was not setting aside enough money to cover pension obligations and other benefits in the event of a shutdown.
David Foster, the negotiator for the union, said labor talks were typically more tense at companies owned by private equity firms because the high level of debt left managers with less flexibility.
Contract talks foundered and the union went on strike in April 1997. The first standoff since 1959 quickly turned nasty. Workers shot bottle rockets at security guards, tossed nails in the roadways to flatten the tires of nonunion trucks and pounded on the windows of vehicles as they left the plant.
After 10 weeks, the two sides reached a deal that boosted pensions and ensured that workers would get health and life insurance in the event of a shutdown.
The workers put down their picket signs, but the equipment upgrades weren’t delivering productivity gains as quickly as hoped. At the end of 1997, Regelbrugge decided to retire rather than stick around for an IPO that wasn’t going to materialize.
Shortly after that, an industry competitor offered “a whole lot of money” to buy GS, according to Regelbrugge, but Bain turned it down. A company insider said the suitor was the global behemoth Mittal Steel Company, but added that no formal offer was ever made.
As GS Industries sought to cut costs, it hired line managers with no experience in the steel industry, workers said. One had worked at Walmart; many others came straight out of the military.
“He would come up with some of the stupidest damn ideas that you ever seen,” the former steelworker Linson said of one supervisor, a retired Air Force colonel.
Paperwork proliferated. Cost-cutting efforts backfired. Managers skimped on purchases of everything from earplugs to spare motors and scaled back routine maintenance. Machines began to break down more often, and with parts no longer in stock a replacement could take days to arrive.
Labor costs spiked as managers revamped work schedules with little understanding of how the plant actually operated. Linson says he picked up an entire shift of overtime each week because his managers didn’t realize that a furnace needed a full eight hours to heat up to operating temperature.
“That didn’t work to their advantage,” he said. “I made a lot of money.”
Daily life at the plant was also growing more dangerous. Veteran crane operator Ed Mossman says he was ordered to pick up a load of steel that was 50 percent above the recommended weight limit – a prospect that could have toppled the crane and sent Mossman plunging to his death. When he refused, he says, he was fired after putting in 29 years at the mill.
“The first 15 years, I had the best job in the United States, as far as I was concerned,” Mossman said. “The last five years down there got to be pure hell.”
Meanwhile, a wave of cheap imports from Asia drove steel prices down sharply, while costs for natural gas and electricity rose. The Asian financial crisis lowered demand for mined metals, which hit the company’s grinding-ball business.
The company, along with other steelmakers, successfully petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission for tariff rate quotas on imported wire rods and also entered the federal loan guarantee program for troubled steel companies — two remedies at odds with a free-market stance. Romney now says it was a mistake for the government to try to protect the steel industry.
Nevertheless, net losses at the company grew to $52.9 million in 1999 from $16.1 million in 1997, while operating income dropped to $9.6 million from $37.9 million over the same period — not enough to sustain the firm’s debt and obligations for long.
THE BLAME GAME
Charles Bradford, an analyst at Bradford Research, blames the union, in part, for the failure of GS Industries to survive in the new global marketplace.
“If you look at the steel companies that went under at the time, all of them were unionized,” he said. “I’m not saying this was the only factor — these firms faced other headwinds such as cheap labor and a strong dollar … but the unions held them back.”
Union officials blame the Bain managers for saddling the company with too much debt for a capital-intensive, cyclical industry such as steel. “They look at ways to try to leverage the financial resources of the company during an uptick in the markets, stream money out of it and leave wreckage behind them,” said the union’s Foster.
Regelbrugge blames his successor, Mark Essig, for installing senior managers who did not know the business. “I have no question that the company would have survived under different management,” he said. Essig did not return calls seeking comment.
A spokesman for Bain Capital said: “Over $100 million and many thousands of hours were invested in GSI to upgrade its facilities and make the company more competitive during a 7-year period when the industry came under enormous pressure and 44 U.S. steel companies went into bankruptcy. In the same period, we worked to turn around GSI, we helped launch and grow an innovative business called Steel Dynamics that is today a $6 billion global leader…. Our focus remains on building great companies and improving their operations.”
GS Industries declared bankruptcy on February 7, 2001, and said it would shut down the Kansas City plant, eliminating 750 jobs. In a press release, the company said the bankruptcy was triggered in part by “the critical need to restructure the company’s liabilities.”
Workers soon found out what that meant. In April, GS said it was shedding the guarantees it had promised its workers in the event of a plant closure – the severance pay, health insurance, life insurance and pension supplements that had been negotiated during the 1997 strike.
Workers could buy health insurance through the company’s plan, but the company would no longer share its costs. For many who were struggling with asbestosis or other ailments contracted during their years of work, the cost was prohibitive.
“The wife and I, we just held our breath and prayed a lot,” said Stanger, the ex-millworker. He was quoted a price of $1,800 per month – more than his pension payment.
The U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, which insures company retirement plans, determined in 2002 that GS had underfunded its pension by $44 million. The federal agency, funded by corporate levies, stepped in to cover the basic pension payments, but not the supplement the union had negotiated as a hedge against the plant’s closure.
For Joe Soptic, who worked at the plant for 28 years, that meant a loss of $283 per month, about 22 percent of his pension. Others lost up to $400 per month, according to documents supplied by the union.
Comparatively, the GS bailout was one of the pension guarantor’s smaller hits. The federal fund swung from a $7.7 billion surplus to a $3.6 billion deficit that year as it struggled to cover bankruptcies in the steel and transportation industries. The failure of LTV Steel, for example, cost the agency $1.9 billion.
The agency’s woes prompted Congress in 2006 to require companies to contribute more toward their pensions. Press accounts said this change accelerated the shift away from pension plans toward 401(k)s and other defined-contribution retirement plans that offer less security for workers.
Many of the older workers at the Kansas City mill were just a few years away from Social Security and Medicare, but younger workers didn’t have that safety net. Even with $600,000 earmarked by the U.S. Labor Department for job retraining, many had trouble finding work.
“They give you a year’s worth of training, you’re 50-something years old, nobody wants to hire you,” said Steve Morrow, who retrained in the field of heating and air conditioning.
After nearly 30 years as a steelworker, Joe Soptic found a job as a school custodian. The $24,000 salary was roughly one-third of his former pay, and the health plan did not cover his wife, Ranae.
When Ranae started losing weight, “I tried to get her to the doctor and she wouldn’t go,” Soptic said. She ended up in the county hospital with pneumonia, where doctors discovered her advanced lung cancer. She died two weeks later.
Soptic was left with nearly $30,000 in medical bills. He drained a $12,000 savings account and the hospital wrote off the balance.
“I worked hard all my life and played by the rules, and they allowed this to happen,” Soptic said.
By: Andrew Sullivan and Greg Roumeliotis, Reuters, January 6, 2012
America’s recovery from recession has been so slow that it mostly doesn’t seem like a recovery at all, especially on the jobs front. So, in a better world, President Obama would face a challenger offering a serious critique of his job-creation policies, and proposing a serious alternative.
Instead, he’ll almost surely face Mitt Romney.
Mr. Romney claims that Mr. Obama has been a job destroyer, while he was a job-creating businessman. For example, he told Fox News: “This is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is two million jobs that he lost as president.” He went on to declare, of his time at the private equity firm Bain Capital, “I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs.”
But his claims about the Obama record border on dishonesty, and his claims about his own record are well across that border.
Start with the Obama record. It’s true that 1.9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than when Mr. Obama took office. But the president inherited an economy in free fall, and can’t be held responsible for job losses during his first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect. So how much of that Obama job loss took place in, say, the first half of 2009?
The answer is: more than all of it. The economy lost 3.1 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2009 and has since gained 1.2 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s nothing like Mr. Romney’s portrait of job destruction.
Incidentally, the previous administration’s claims of job growth always started not from Inauguration Day but from August 2003, when Bush-era employment hit its low point. By that standard, Mr. Obama could say that he has created 2.5 million jobs since February 2010.
So Mr. Romney’s claims about the Obama job record aren’t literally false, but they are deeply misleading. Still, the real fun comes when we look at what Mr. Romney says about himself. Where does that claim of creating 100,000 jobs come from?
Well, Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post got an answer from the Romney campaign. It’s the sum of job gains at three companies that Mr. Romney “helped to start or grow”: Staples, The Sports Authority and Domino’s.
Mr. Kessler immediately pointed out two problems with this tally. It’s “based on current employment figures, not the period when Romney worked at Bain,” and it “does not include job losses from other companies with which Bain Capital was involved.” Either problem, by itself, makes nonsense of the whole claim.
On the point about using current employment, consider Staples, which has more than twice as many stores now as it did back in 1999, when Mr. Romney left Bain. Can he claim credit for everything good that has happened to the company in the past 12 years? In particular, can he claim credit for the company’s successful shift from focusing on price to focusing on customer service (“That was easy”), which took place long after he had left the business world?
Then there’s the bit about looking only at Bain-connected companies that added jobs, ignoring those that reduced their work forces or went out of business. Hey, if pluses count but minuses don’t, everyone who spends a day playing the slot machines comes out way ahead!
In any case, it makes no sense to look at changes in one company’s work force and say that this measures job creation for America as a whole.
Suppose, for example, that your chain of office-supply stores gains market share at the expense of rivals. You employ more people; your rivals employ fewer. What’s the overall effect on U.S. employment? One thing’s for sure: it’s a lot less than the number of workers your company added.
Better yet, suppose that you expand in part not by beating your competitors, but by buying them. Now their employees are your employees. Have you created jobs?
The point is that Mr. Romney’s claims about being a job creator would be nonsense even if he were being honest about the numbers, which he isn’t.
At this point, some readers may ask whether it isn’t equally wrong to say that Mr. Romney destroyed jobs. Yes, it is. The real complaint about Mr. Romney and his colleagues isn’t that they destroyed jobs, but that they destroyed good jobs.
When the dust settled after the companies that Bain restructured were downsized — or, as happened all too often, went bankrupt — total U.S. employment was probably about the same as it would have been in any case. But the jobs that were lost paid more and had better benefits than the jobs that replaced them. Mr. Romney and those like him didn’t destroy jobs, but they did enrich themselves while helping to destroy the American middle class.
And that reality is, of course, what all the blather and misdirection about job-creating businessmen and job-destroying Democrats is meant to obscure.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 5, 2012