JONATHAN COHN JANUARY 10, 2012
Forget Mitt Romney’s verbal gaffes for a moment. Something more important has happened in the last few days. The linchpin of Romney’s most powerful argument has turned out to be bogus.
I’m talking about Romney’s claim about job creation – specifically, that Obama lost 2 million jobs as president while Romney, as a leader of Bain Capital, created 100,000 jobs. It’s taken a few weeks, and what seems like a few hundred posts by the indefatigable Greg Sargent, to get the media to focus on this claim. But now they are. And it turns out to be even more laughable than it appeared upon initial inspection.
Here's the story, in case you haven't read it elsewhere:
From the get-go, Romney's argument was weak. Among the many flaws: Romney calculates the Obama era job losses by using, as a baseline, the employment rate as of January, 2009, when Obama first took office. That’s absurd. The economy was in free-fall when Obama took over. But job losses slowed, then turned into job gains, once the Recovery Act kicked in. Job growth was slower than it could have been, with the right policies. But the shift is obvious if you look at a graph like the one Paul Krugman has supplied. (See above.) Keep in mind, as Krugman has pointed out, that when Republicans talk about President Bush’s jobs records, they typically use as a baseline June 2003, the low point of his term but also seventeen months into it.
Still, that was only part of the story. The real whopper turns out to be the 100,000 figure, which the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler picked apart. At Kessler’s request, the Romney campaign supplied the source for that claim. Was it a calculation from respected economists? A report from an investment or management consulting firm? Uh, no. It was three newspaper clips, reporting jobs gains from the companies that Bain had taken over. No effort was made to calculate offsetting jobs losses. And did I mention that the job gain figures were recent, from long after Romney had left Bain?
Sargent puts it all together:
Romney is only counting jobs gained at companies restructured at Bain during and after his years there — and is notfactoring 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 the charts drawn up by Steve Benen and Paul Krugman show, if you apply to Obama the metric Romney is applying to himself, around 2.3 million jobs were created on Obama’s watch.
Of course, comparing how a president managed the economy and how an investor managed firms is apples and oranges. And while Romney frequently says “helped create” rather than “create,” that qualification hardly accounts for the misleading nature of the comparison. Kessler says the Romney jobs claim does not “pass the laugh test.” He's right.