Romney’s Bain figures don’t add up
During Saturday night’s debate, Mitt Romney repeated his oft-made claim that his time at Bain Capital led to the creation of more than 100,000 jobs. George Stephanopoulos, one of the debate’s moderators, asked whether that number counted both jobs that were created and jobs that were lost. Romney’s answer was dismissive — and untrue. “It includes the net of both. I’m a good enough numbers guy to make sure I got both sides of that.”
The Romney campaign has repeatedly explained how they arrived at the 100,000 jobs figure. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, for instance, got Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom on the record. “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.”
The American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis also asked the Romney campaign for details on their jobs number. “Here’s what the Romney campaign e-mailed me when I asked for some substantiation of the claim,” wrote Pethokoukis:
Whatever you want to say about Romney’s time at Bain, the number he is providing to reporters, the number Stephanopoulos was asking about, the number Romney is using publicly, is not net-net. It takes three successful companies of the hundreds Romney was involved with and uses their employment totals now — long after Romney finished working with them. Even Pethokoukis, a Romney-friendly conservative, concludes, “That’s not going to cut it.”
It would be the equivalent of explaining President Ronald Reagan’s record by choosing the two best-performing states and then attributing their growth from 1980-2011 to Reagan’s presidency. That’s not, as Romney said at another point in the debate, “net-net.” That’s not even net.
But imagine you could get a perfect count of the jobs created and destroyed during Romney’s tenure at Bain, and you could get perfect clarity on Romney’s level of responsibility for each and every one of those jobs. You still wouldn’t have learned much of value. Romney’s record at Bain Capital is not comparable to Barack Obama’s record as President of the United States.
Romney was running a private-equity firm that specialized in leveraged buy-outs. Obama is president of the largest economy on earth during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. However Romney performed, however Obama is performing, the two jobs simply aren’t comparable. Romney is not being elected to issue debt, purchase private companies and try to return a profit for the taxpayer. He might be very good at doing all of that, but as president, that won't be his job. It won’t even be close to his job.
Romney’s record in Massachusetts is more comparable, but again, not quite there: Romney managed a state during a healthy economy. If Obama is responsible for every lost job in America between January of 2009 and November of 2012, then the jobs created in Massachusetts properly belong to George W. Bush, who was president during Romney’s governorship.
That’s not to say Romney wouldn’t be a better president than Obama. It’s just to say that the right question isn’t what Romney did at Bain, or even what Romney did in Massachusetts. It’s what Romney would have done as president beginning in January 2009.