Follow the moving goal posts

Mitt Romney’s private-equity firm never tried to create jobs; it simply wasn’t the point of Bain Capital’s work. The goal was to generate wealth for Romney’s investors, not create jobs. Indeed, as Romney often found, the way to maximize profit was to frequently engage in mass layoffs.

But Romney is stuck. Voters consider jobs the nation’s top issue, and Romney can’t point to his failures in Massachusetts, so he’s betting his entire campaign on one claim: he was a private-sector job-creator. If that means turning his former firm into something it’s not, so be it.

The awkwardness, and fundamental dishonesty, behind the claim leads Romney to keep changing his story. How many jobs did he “create” at Bain? It depends on when you ask him.

In October, it was “tens of thousands of jobs.”

On Jan. 3, it was “over 100,000 new jobs.”

On Jan. 11, it was back “tens of thousands jobs.”

On Jan. 13, it was down to “thousands of jobs.”

And last night, Romney started throwing around a whole new number.

“You look at places like Staples, Bright Horizons, that steel company I talked about, the Sports Authority. They alone added 120,000 jobs as of today.”

This is wildly misleading. For one thing, Romney is only counting success stories, and simply choosing to ignore all of the mass layoffs. This is a bit like a coach saying his team is undefeated, just so long as you overlook the team’s losses. Or as Paul Krugman recently put it, “By that standard, everyone who’s spent a lot of time with slot machines is a big winner, since only the pluses count.”

For another, Romney is counting jobs “as of today.” He left his vulture-capitalist firm in 1999. By Romney’s reasoning, if my local Staples hires a clerk this morning, it’s evidence of his success as a “job creator,” thanks to his work more than a decade ago.

And while we’re at it, let’s also note that some of Romney’s successes came as a result of taxpayer subsidies Romney now claims to oppose, and in some instances, Bain Capital wasn’t the only private-equity firm involved with the enterprises.

I realize the dubious claims are at the very heart of Romney’s entire campaign, but there’s simply no reason for anyone to take them seriously.