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“Illogical Reasoning”: Mitt’s Utterly Empty Massachusetts Boasts

The Obama campaign has been criticizing Mitt Romney’s record as Massachusetts governor, and the presumptive Republican nominee is now responding with an ad of his own. Romney certainly has a right (and, from a strategic standpoint, an obligation) to rebut his opponent’s attacks, but the defense he offers is a textbook demonstration of how to make something out of nothing.

The spot makes three specific boasts about Romney’s term as governor, which ran from 2003 to 2007. The first involves job creation:

“As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney had the best jobs record in a decade.”

That sounds impressive, but look a little closer. In the decade before Romney’s tenure, Massachusetts had three other governors, all Republicans. One of them, Bill Weld, clearly had a better jobs record than him. When Weld came to office in January 1991, the state’s economy really was in a freefall. A major Boston-based bank, the Bank of New England, had just failed and the jobless rate was 7.4 percent and climbing fast. Within a few months it reached 9.7 percent, then began falling as the economy – in the state and nationally – revived. Weld left office at the end of July ’97 (to pursue an ill-fated bid to become ambassador to Mexico) with the jobless rate at just 4.1 percent.

His successor, Paul Cellucci, oversaw a further decline, with the rate plummeting to just above 2 percent in 2000. But the economy began sagging, and the number started to rise again. On April 10, 2001, he resigned to become George W. Bush’s ambassador to Canada. If you use the data from March ’01, Cellucci’s last full month on the job, he left the state with a jobless rate of 3.1 percent. If you use the April ’01 data, the figure was 3.3 percent. Either way, it’s comparable to the 0.9 percent drop that Romney presided over from ’03 to ’07.

The only governor in the decade before Romney’s arrival with a clearly worse jobs record was his immediate successor, Jane Swift, who served as acting governor from April ’01 to January ’03. During that time, unemployment climbed to 5.6 percent, which is where it stood when Romney was sworn-in.

So what Romney’s “best governor in a decade” boast actually means is that he had a better jobs record than Cellucci and Swift. And the reality is that there wasn’t a dramatic difference between his jobs record and Cellucci’s. So really, Romney is just bragging that he was better than Swift, who served less than half a term.

Then there’s this:

“He balanced every budget without raising taxes.”

This is only true in a very literal sense. Romney didn’t raise the income or sales taxes, but his first budget did impose more than $500 million in new fees that directly hit middle class residents. At the time they were enacted, the National Conference of State Legislatures noted that no other state had relied so heavily on fees to balance its books. Not that this is news: Obama’s campaign has been playing up Romney’s fee spree, and his Republican opponents threw it in his face during both of his presidential runs.

The ad’s final claim is that Romney achieved balanced budgets “by bringing parties together to cut through gridlock.” Again, this means a lot less than it sounds like. A balanced budget is required in Massachusetts and the state’s legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic. The only way for Romney to meet his constitutional duties was to sign a balanced budget approved by Democrats.

What Romney is banking on, of course, is that swing voters aren’t aware of this context, or don’t care about it even if they are. His entire strategy depends on economic anxiety leading voters to look for reasons to throw out Obama and to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, even if those reasons aren’t logical. From that standpoint, this ad might work just fine.

By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, June 8, 2012

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Diluting The Facts”: Critique Of Obama Jobs Record Puts Romney In A Bind

If there’s one thing Mitt Romney cannot stand, it’s when President Obama blames the economic situation he inherited from former president George W. Bush for the country’s current gloomy challenges.

“What he’s very good at is finding other people to blame,” Mr. Romney said at a fund-raiser in San Diego recently. At an event in Michigan, he mocked Mr. Obama for trying to evade responsibility for the economy by blaming “his predecessor, the Congress, the one percent, oil companies, and A.T.M.s.”

So it was interesting to hear Mr. Romney’s own aides over the weekend try to explain some of the less flattering statistics from Mr. Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts.

“He inherited a $3-billion projected deficit,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney, explained on Fox News Sunday.

Mr. Gillespie said it was unfair to judge Mr. Romney’s record on job creation by including all four years of his tenure. He said the statistic that Mr. Romney was 47th in job creation during his time in office was calculated by “diluting it with the first year in office, when he came into office, and it was 50th in job creation.”

Essentially, he was arguing that Mr. Romney’s first year, in 2003, shouldn’t be counted.

Eric Fehrnstrom, another top aide to Mr. Romney, also blamed the situation that the governor inherited — paradoxically, from Republican governors who occupied the Statehouse for the previous 12 years.

“When Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic basket house,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “If you throw D.C. into the mix, we were 51 out of 51.”

Mr. Obama’s team was incredulous. On a conference call with reporters, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president’s campaign, accused Mr. Romney’s campaign of “breathtaking hypocrisy” for using the same excuse that their candidate has been hammering the president for.

“Their answer to all of this was. ‘Well you really can’t include his first year because you know he inherited a really tough economic situation,’ ” Mr. Axelrod said. “They’ve painted themselves into a corner here. And now that double standard is clear and they’re going to have to explain it to the American people.”

In fact, the most serious attacks from Mr. Romney involve exactly the kind of focus on Mr. Obama’s first year in office that the Republican advisers were trying to avoid.

Mr. Romney frequently says that Mr. Obama has presided over an economy that has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. In a recent news release, the Republican campaign said, “Under President Obama, the nation has lost 552,000 jobs.”

But that statistic includes Mr. Obama’s first year in office, and especially the months of February, March and April, when monthly job losses from the economic collapse were at 700,000 or higher.

Just ignoring February of 2009, before any of Mr. Obama’s policies — including the economic stimulus — had been put into place, would wipe away all 552,000 lost jobs, giving the president a record of creating 172,000 jobs.

If Mr. Romney’s team were to ignore Mr. Obama’s first year in office — as Mr. Gillespie suggested should be done for Mr. Romney’s first year as governor — then the president would have added about 3.7 million jobs to the economy.

Of course, Mr. Romney’s campaign is unlikely to change its rhetoric or strategy. His bid for the White House depends on the idea that Mr. Obama has made the economy worse. Because the country has been adding jobs for nearly two years, Mr. Romney’s argument depends on the steep job losses in Mr. Obama’s first year in office.

But the campaign does need to find a way to defend Mr. Romney’s record as governor against the criticism that the state lagged behind the rest of the country in job creation while he was in office.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is making that charge aggressively. Mr. Axelrod said on Monday that the campaign is spending about $10 million on a television ad that tries to undermine Mr. Romney’s gubernatorial record. The ad is running in nine battleground states.

“When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs,” the narrator in the ad says. “And fell to
47th in job creation. Fourth from the bottom.”

Both campaigns face the same conundrum: their candidate governed in periods following economic slowdowns that weigh down the statistics that might otherwise look rosier.

On Fox News Sunday, Mr. Fehrnstrom urged viewers to look at how Mr. Romney fared at the end of his term, when the economy had fired back up again. By that measure, he said, Massachusetts was not 47th in job creation.

“By the time Mitt Romney left four years later, we were in the middle of the pack,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “We were 30th in the nation in terms of job growth. That’s the trend line that you want to see.”

 

By: Michael Shear, The New York Times, June 5, 2012

June 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We’ve Heard it All Before”: Hey Mitt, You Can’t Cry For Teacher When You Started The Fight

The latest attack from the Obama campaign takes aim on Romney’s rhetoric and record in Massachusetts.

The latest Obama campaign ad—which will air mainly in swing states—continues the attack on Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts: http://youtu.be/oWdZEJW1vWY

This attack goes directly to the heart of Romney’s presidential campaign. The Republican nominee has based his entire on argument on the claim that—by dint of his business experience—he is uniquely qualified to lead the country into a more robust recovery. Indeed, private sector experience has totemic properties in Romney’s narrative; Obama is a failure because he’s “never met a payroll” and “doesn’t understand the economy,” while Romney sees business as the most important qualification a president can have.

But, with a quote from Romney’s gubernatorial campaign—“I know how jobs are created”—the Obama campaign raises a basic question: When Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts he used his business experience as proof he could create jobs for Massachusetts, instead, he led the state to the bottom of the pack for job creation. Now, running for president, he’s using the same arguments. Why should we expect different results this time? This is a play on the familiar trope of the businessperson who talks more than they deliver, and it could be an effective assault on Romney’s perceived competence, especially if paired with continued attacks on Bain Capital.

The Romney campaign has had an interesting and familiar response to this attack. As Pema Levy points out at Talking Points Memo, the Romney team correctly hits Obama for neglecting the extent to which the former governor inherited a bad situation. Here’s Ed Gillespie, a surrogate for the Romney campaign:

“This is what they’re doing, Chris,” Gillespie said. “You take the first year, which is a low base year when the governor came in and took office, because it was 50th in job creation out of all of the states, dead last … and they’re averaging out over the four years. So, they are bringing down the gains of his fourth year in office, which shows the real impact of his policies and diluting it with the first year in office.”

This is exactly what the Romney campaign is doing with regards to Obama’s economic record. By blaming Obama for job losses that occurred before his policies passed or took effect, the Romney team is able to say that the United States lost jobs under his tenure. But if you count from when Obama’s policies took effect, then you end up with more than two years of private sector job growth.

This situation is similar to the one that developed last year, when the Romney team hammered Obama with a deeply misleading ad that took the president’s words out of context. When Democrats responded with their own set of context-free attacks, the Romney campaign cried foul. In other words, if the Romney campaign insists on using misleading attacks, then it has to expect that the same treatment in response. You can’t cry for teacher when you’re the one who started the fight.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, June 4, 2012

June 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitt Romney Contradicts Own Spokesman On 100k Jobs Claim

Mitt Romney doubled down in Saturday night’s debate on his claim that he created a 100,000 jobs while in the private sector and in the process contradicted recent remarks on the subject from his own campaign spokesperson.

Under persistent questioning from debate moderators, Romney denied that the 100,000 figure can only be reached if one does not count layoffs and other job losses he was responsible for during his time at the corporate management company, Bain Capital.

The talking point, a regular on the campaign trail for Romney, has been well-dissected in recent days. As Brian Beutler wrote last week,

Romney makes two different, but implicitly entwined claims: That while working in corporate management he created over 100,000 jobs and that — by comparison — Obama his presided over millions of job losses.This is a false juxtaposition, based on two false claims. And so far, precious few reporters have pressed Romney or his campaign about it.

That changed big time Saturday when debate moderator George Stephanopolous asked Romney to justify the claim early in the debate. Here’s the question:

There have been questions about that caluclation of the 100,000 jobs, so if you could explain a little more, I’ve read some analysts who look at it and say that you’re counting the jobs that were created, but not the jobs that were taken away. Is that accurate?

Here’s where things get a little complicated. Last week, Romney advisor Eric Ferhnstrom told the Washington Post  Romney’s claim that he created 100,000 jobs “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,” the Post wrote.

On the debate stage tonight, Romney said something totally different:

It includes the net of both. I’m a good enough numbers guy to make sure I got both sides of that. The simple ones, some of the biggest, for instance, there’s a steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana. Thousands of jobs there. Bright Horizons Childrens Centers, Sports Authority, about 15,000 jobs there. Staples alone, 90,000 employees. That’s a business we helped start from the ground up.

So Romney’s adviser told the Post the the number comes from the jobs that exist at the companies  now, not the jobs that were created specifically while he was at Bain, and that they didn’t take into account the other side of the ledger. But on stage Romney said the opposite: that he actually did create 100,000 net jobs in total while at Bain, even factoring in Bain’s layoffs.

Democrats noticed the difference. While the debate was still underway, the DNC pushed out a release to reporters under the subject line, “Romney’s so-called job creation record at Bain continues to evolve.” Separately, the Associated Press went up with a fact-check article moments after the debate concluded.

So this one is going to stick around.

Update: TPM asked Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom about the seeming contradiction between his and Romney’s assessment of the 100k jobs figure. He said that it holds up regardless of whether it includes layoffs at other companies.

“The Bain record has been scrutinized extensively going back to 1994 when Mitt Romney first ran for office,” he said. “You just look at Bain’s startups like Staples, Sports Authority, Bright Horizons, you come up with a jobs figure in excess of 100,000. Now there’s about five or six companies that get written about endlessly that experienced layoffs. Go ahead and deduct those from the number, you still come up with over 100,000 jobs.”

Asked whether the campaign would provide revised numbers that demonstrate that net job gains were in excess of 100,000 even with layoffs included, Fehrnstrom responded, “I just gave you my analysis.”

By: Benjy Sarlin and Evan McMorris-Santoro, Talking Points Memo, January 7, 2012

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romney Camp Admits That Its Bain Job Creation Number Is Bogus

Mitt Romney, last night’s Iowa caucus winner, has been on the campaign trail claiming that the private equity firm he ran, known as Bain Capital, was responsible for creating loads of jobs. Romney responded to criticism about his time at Bain by saying, “I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs.”

When a group of Romney backers ran an ad making the same claim, they were unable to back up the number with data. And as it turns out, the Romney camp can’t either, as it admitted that the statistic is nothing but cherry-picked job growth from a few companies that did well after they were bought by Bain:

[Romney spokesman Eric] 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. (Indeed, Romney made his comments in response to a former employee of American Pad & Paper Co. who says he lost his job after Bain Capital took it private.)

Bain Capital has been responsible for thousands of layoffs at companies it bankrupted, such as American Pad & Paper, Dade International, and LIVE Entertainment, which Romney’s stat completely leaves out. He’s also taking credit for jobs created long after he left the firm to launch his political career. To sum it up, the stat Romney uses is incredibly dishonest, like much of his jobs rhetoric.

One of Romney’s Bain business partners has said that he “never thought of what I do for a living as job creation.” “The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors,” he added. And Bain has certainly done that, maximizing earnings “by firing workers, seeking government subsidies, and flipping companies quickly for large profits.” Due to a lucrative retirement deal, Romney is still making millions from Bain, as he goes across the country calling himself “middle class” and joking about being “unemployed.”

 

By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, January 4, 2012

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Jobs, Unemployed | , , , , | Leave a comment

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