Fact Checker: Did Romney create 100k jobs?

Jan 10, 2012

The Post's fact checker, Glenn Kessler, chatted about whether Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney created 100,000 jobs while at Bain Capital.

Note to readers: Unlike many of our other chat series, Fact Checker will not take place at the same day and time every week. The time of these chats will be determined by what Glenn is working on and current events. Chats in this series will be designated by the words "Fact Checker" in the chat title. Thank you.

Read: Mitt Romney and 100,000 jobs: an untenable figure

Lots of questions so let's get started

Is there any way to determine how many jobs Bain got rid of when Romney was there? How many companies they swept in, took all the money out of and then bankrupted as Newt seems to be saying?

That is a very difficult question. Here are some various examples culled from different reports--3,400 jobs  at KB Toys, 2,500  at Clear Channel Communications, 2,100 workers at DDI Corp, 1,900 positions  at Dade International, 385 jobs at American Pad & Paper--which adds up to more than 10,000. Of course, just because you help create Staples, with its 90,000 jobs, doesn't mean that other jobs are lost (such as people at small mom-and-pop statiionary stores that can no longer compete.)

At the same time, there are cases where clearly Bain made a difference and saved a company in distress. And other cases where they took a gamble and did not work out.  That's the way the business world works. Romney was very successful for his investors but he may have opened up a can of worms with these job claims. 

What are the rules governing campaign ads' assertions? If an ad goes up that is clearly false, can it be taken down?

That's a good question. I am no expert but I think under the free speech doctrine you can pretty much say what you want in political ads. Of course, TV and radio stations are free to refuse to air it. I just saw a report that TV stations are continuing to air Democratic Medicare attack ads even though PolitiFact labeled that "Lie of the Year."

Glenn, I think there's another step that should be taken by someone in journalism regarding Romney, Bain Capital, and their job creation record. The Romney campaign has apparently decided to highlight three success stories: Staples, Sports Authority and Domino's Pizza. Three companies in industries that aren't exactly known for high salaried workers with excellent benefits. Is it possible to compare the average compensation package for a worker at one of the companies shut down or downsized by Bain to the average worker at Domino's, Sports Authority and Staples?

That's an interesting question. I am sure there is data available. This was a point that Ted Kennedy successfully made when Romney ran for the Senate in 1994. Those ads were brutal--and probably unfair!

Here's a link to one of them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyvy3Ze_fqw

As I said, really nasty....

Thank you as always for your always interesting fact-checking analysis. I went to law school in Massachusetts, and getting a job at Bain was the secret (or not so secret) fantasy of many law students. As you already know, a part of Bain's mission (apart from just making oodles of money) was to restructure failing or under-performing companies and thus ensure their future success as on-going concerns. If you had to fire a few hundred people now in order to ensure that, 10 or 20 years down the road, a few thousand people had jobs, that was just part of the pain of restructuring, which -- over all -- would be a win for the company, its investors, and its employees. So, to that extent, I do understand the logic behind Gov. Romney's jobs claims. But, to be honest, I don't see his claims as any different from those of Pres. Obama, when he says that he "saved" X thousands of jobs. Both Obama and Romney are taking a broad-based view of job creation, to include "saving" jobs by keeping the employers up and running. Do you see much distance between the two based on that? Thanks.

This is a very astute analysis that is lost in the political debate. Some of these companies that Bain took over clearly had to restructure. Ironically, Ampad (which you often here about) was hurt by another Bain success--Staples. 

I agree that Romney's claims are not much different than Obama's. The White House has its own strange metric about "saving and creating" jobs. 

Do you think Romney's complaints about his "liking to be able to fire people" being take out of context (clearly) lose some of their potential power due to his campaign's decision to take statements of others out of context? The karma is just so delicious.

Yes, there is a certain irony. But his remarks have been taken out of context, by both Republicand and Democrats. Two wrongs don't make a right....but they can be ironic....

Romney can take credit for creating 100,000 jobs a lot more than Obama can! Romney has been much more sucessful at job creation than the current president.

I think Romney made a mistake with this specific job claim. He clearly was very successful at business and by all accounts was a very good analyst and business consultant. He certainly helped some troubled companies and start-ups. So I would agree he has a good ground-level knowledge was job creation, industry trends and so forth.

Voters will have to decide whether these skills translate well to the world of politics. To some extent, Romney's record as governor in Massachusetts might be a better guide to her potential performance as apresident than anything he did in the business world. But a president--or a governor--does not "create" jobs. A president advocates certain policies, but to a large extent their success or failure is determined by economic forces beyond their control. 

True and false are relatively easy to determine. "Misleading" is much less so. Is there a factor in your decision-making that accounts for the speaker's intent? Seems as if that's pretty difficult, but critical.

I tend to rate more harshly comments made in a prepared speech--or repeatedly--than a single off the cuff remark, because clearly there was a decision to use that particular fact or figure. "100,000 jobs" is a good example. For months, Romney has said "tens of thousands" of jobs, which was vague enough that we originally said we could not come to a definitive conclusion. But in recent weeks, he has switched to "100,000 jobs," and been more open about how that figure was calculated, so we could reach a more definitive conclusion. 

How do the job creation claims of Obama and Romney measure up? How many do they each claim to have created, and how many have they actually created?

I would totally ignore ALL of these claims. Everyone plays games with the numbers. Obama is on track to have the worst job-creation record in the modern presidency but he did after all take office in the middle of a terrible recession. So he counts the jobs created after the freefall ended. And Romney touts his job creation record in Massachusetts, though it wasn't great either--largely because he also governed during a recession.

Seriously, pay no attention to those numbers. It's all noise and fairly meaningless. 

Dear Glenn, Thank you for a thorough and interesting fact check on the 100k claim. The next big question for Mitt Romney has to be WHEN exactly he feared begin laid off and thought he was going to get a pink slip. While the Bain job claims could at least be grounded in the company's support of new entrepreneurs, this claim is as unbelievable as would be a Romney claim of having worried about paying heating bills. Is there any effort to push him to explain when he feared being laid off?

He has since said it was when he was a newbie employee at Bain, just out of MBA school. Who knows, maybe he had a terrifying boss? Or Bain had a bad year and there were signs it might cut back? I cut him some slack on this--everyone is nervous in their first job, even if their Dad or Mom is a millionnaire. 

I would be concerned over the claims that Romney was a "job killer" rather than a "job creator" if it were not for the fact that Obama himself is about to kill a lot of military jobs, including that of my nephew, who was told not to re-up as his job as a comptroller in USAF was about to be eliminated. Nice way to treat the military!

publishing this comment

Would it be fair to say--perhaps even worth the vaunted 4th Pinnochio-that for every big box store job Romney/Bain created there was one or more job lost by Mom and Pop stationary stores and/or pizza shops?

Yes, that is certainly a fair point to make. I have noted that. You can't look at these numbers in isolation. There are always winners and losers. 

When did Newt "Tiffany's" Gingrich become so opposed to rich people making a lot of money?

Yes, it is a bit "rich"....

So let's say net, romney 'lost' jobs. So? What was the alternative? That a company go out of business and have NO jobs available? It's just like the claim of the obama administration (although their claims are worse) that they 'saved' jobs. No way to know for sure (but pretty sure they saved nothing). Why are we all so caught up on this?

Yep, I agree. Romney raised the flag of "100,000 jobs." He should have done what he did in the 2008 campaign--made no such claim at all. 

The genius of the SuperPAC ad system is that the candidate benefiting has plausible deniability for any untruth or slander they contain.

sad but true. 

How does the quality of the jobs created compare to the quality of those eliminated, e.g., in terms of pay, potential for advancement, etc.?

Good question, worthy of a PhD dissertation!

I am astounded that you gave Romney only three noses. His seems well long enough to merit four and then some. Not only does he not count for the jobs lost by his taking businesses overseas but what about the companies who came to Bain and were rejected? Should you not count on those losses in the same vein as he counts for the gains as his? Such businesses might have gotten great employment throughout the US. But Bain only goes where the money is assured and even then he is not always right. The President does not have that opporunity so Romney is coaring apples and oranges in any event. What upsets me is his taking businesses overseas causing the loss of many jobs and then saying he has saved jobs. Quite a long nose.

Assigning the number of Pinocchios is the hardest part of the job. I did not think it rose to the level of Four because, on balance, I would say probably more jobs were created than lost. But we do not have a good handle on the numbers and Romney's way of calculating is certainly suspect. 

Former Governor Romney likes to say in his speeches that Obama's policies made the recession worse. What are the facts? Compared to what? Doing nothing? Has Fact Checker looked into this often spoken charge that Mr. Romney throws out against President Obama?

Yes, I dealt with that since it was part of his announcement speech. The Romney campaign bases this claim on the fact that Obama did not have enough tax relief in his $800 billion stimulus bill. (It was about one-quarter tax cuts.) I found their logic dubious. 

Jobs and more jobs' comment about a nephew about to lose a government job. It seems to me that one man's job loss is another man's tax money savings. Doesn't this feed into your comment that it is hard to measure some claims since they are not "cut and dried."

yes

No Romney fan here, but I understand the desire "fire" a company that isn't providing the service you want in order to "hire" the company that does provide the service. The problem is, Romney was discussing health insurance, and it's the insurance companies who fire their policy holders instead of the reverse, using excuses like "we're not writing that kind of policy anymore." I know - my family experienced it. If I need insurance because of a medical condition, I can't very well fire my insurer and go somewhere else because there's very like no somewhere else to go.

This does seem to be a still-to-be-formed policy proposal. Not sure quite how it would work. 

Thanks for all of the great questions. Sorry I could not get to them all but I will be on NPR's Talk of the Nation this afternoon,talking about fact checking,  so you can try me then too!

In This Chat
Glenn Kessler
Glenn Kessler is an acclaimed diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post and has been recipient of numerous awards, including two shared Pulitzer Prizes. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has reported from dozens of countries and also has covered the White House and Congress. Kessler is the author of The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy. He is a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and lives in McLean, Virginia.
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