Why is Romney doing such a lousy job defending his record at Bain Capital?

Posted by on Jan 07, 2012 at 4:45 pm

One of Mitt Romney’s campaign slogans is “Obama isn’t working.”  (It’s a play off the Tory “Labour isn’t working” ad from the 1979 U.K. elections that swept Margaret Thatcher into power.) And even if the national unemployment rate should drift down to 8 percent or so by Election Day, the president would still be forced to explain away an anemic job creation record.

But what about Romney’s job creation record? During his time as governor, Massachusetts had net job growth of 1.4 percent, as USA Today has noted. That was slower than the national average of 5.3 percent with only Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio notching slower gains. That’s bad.

Yet the unemployment rate also fell sharply to 4.5 percent from 5.8 percent. That’s good.

“When Mitt came into office, the state was losing jobs every month. When he left office, the economy was generating new jobs by the thousands,” is how Romney’s website vaguely describes his jobs record as governor. But you can go to the U.S. Labor Department and see the data for yourself.  From January 2003 when Romney took office through December 2007, the Massachusetts economy added 61,042 jobs.

Then there’s Romney’s job creation record at Bain Capital. What was the net affect of his firm’s venture capital and private equity investments? Romney likes the nice, round number of “over 100,000″  jobs created. This is what he told Time magazine in December: ”And so I’ll compare my experience in the private sector where, net-net, we created over 100,000 jobs. We created over 100,000 jobs.” And this is what Romney told Fox last month: “And I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs.”

Now recall how Republicans have mocked Obama for his methodologically suspect “jobs saved or created” metric. (In fact, the administration has even replaced “jobs” with “work opportunities.”) Surely Team Romney arrived at that “over 100,000″ number via some rigorous and methodologically sound calculation that takes into account Bain investments that panned out and those that didn’t. As Romney himself said when he announced his presidential candidacy, “Sometimes I was successful and helped create jobs, other times I was not.” And given Romney’s financial acumen and that of his brainiac policy team, that “over 100,000″ number should be bullet proof.

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