What Romney fails to understand about jobs

Mitt Romney addressed one of his biggest vulnerabilities — jobs policy — on Fox News this morning, and made a series of claims his campaign seems awfully excited about:

“This is 2 million jobs that he lost as president. And by the way, when he was overseeing General Motors and Chrysler, how many factories did he close? How many dealerships? How many thousands upon thousands of Americans had to be let go in an effort to try and save those businesses? That’s what we did in our business.

“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.”

It’s worth unpacking this, because this argument is very likely to dictate who will be president of the United States in 2013.

The problem here is that none of what Romney is saying stands up to scrutiny.

First, there’s no comparison between President Obama’s rescue of the American automotive industry and Romney orchestrating leveraged buyouts at his vulture-capitalist firm. Obama wasn’t trying to profit; Romney was trying to make himself and his investors rich.

Second, Romney now claims to have created “over 100,000 jobs” at his vulture-capitalist firm, but he appears to have made this number up out of whole cloth. Keep in mind, just a few 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. Fact-checkers haven’t been able to substantiate the claim in any way.

Third, Romney seems eager to boast about his record in Massachusetts, but that’s a mistake. His administration’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.

As for Romney’s claims about Obama’s jobs record, Greg Sargent had a great take on this.

…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 hemorrhaging 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.

You can debate whether the stimulus underperformed. You can debate whether the stimulus is the reason the economy did add private sector jobs. You can argue that public sector jobs loss should be factored in. But it is not debatable to claim that the overall net jobs loss number Romney cites is a fair measure of the success or failure of Obama’s policies.

I’m going to make this easy on Romney and the journalists who might ask him questions.

Here’s a chart showing private-sector job gains and losses over the last two decades. Blue columns show years in which there’s a Democratic president; red columns show years in which there’s a Republican president. (Note: the 2011 totals do not yet reflect December’s job numbers.)

The “A” marks where we were when the economy crashed, and the “B” marks were we are now. Can anyone explain why Romney thinks “A” is preferable to “B”?

Here’s another chart, showing private-sector job totals by month since the start of the Great Recession.

Again, “A” marks where we were when the economy crashed, and the “B” marks were we are now. Why, exactly, does Romney think “B” is worse than “A”?

Under Obama, the nation’s jobs picture improved rather quickly. We haven’t yet made up for all of the job losses caused by the crash that occurred before Obama took office, but 2011 was the best year for job creation in the last five years, and as these charts show, things are getting better, not worse.

Romney doesn’t have to like it, but he shouldn’t lie about it.