Mitt Romney on Jobs
Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent
It's true that during a campaign event on Jan. 7, 2012, Romney remarked: "My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the [Consumer Price Index] or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time." But just two months later, Romney hedged on that position, saying that in the midst of a recovery, "the way to deal with the minimum wage is this. Every two years we should look at what's happened to inflation. Right now, there's probably not a need to raise the minimum wage.
ROMNEY: The small businesses we're talking about, with regards to 97% of the businesses are not taxed at the 35% tax rate, they're taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses that are in the last 3% of businesses happen to employ half of all the people who work in small business. Those are the businesses that employ one quarter of all the workers in America. And your plan is to take their tax rate from 35% to 40%. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has said that will cost 700,000 jobs. I don't want to cost jobs. My priority is jobs.
A: My plan has five major parts, and I know you don't want me to go into detail on all five. I'd take over the whole show. But let me describe what they are.
The President has disappointed America because he hasn't led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.
I learned the real lessons about how America works from experience. When I was 37, I helped start a small company. That business we started with 10 people has now grown into a great American success story.
ROMNEY: I wrote in my Op-Ed piece, look, these companies need to go through managed bankruptcy. And the head of the UAW said "We can't; the industry will disappear if that happens." And the politicians, Barack Obama's people, "oh no, we can't go through managed bankruptcy." They wrote $17 billion in checks to the auto companies in 6 months. Then they finally realized I was right. They finally put them through managed bankruptcy. Those monies they put in beforehand--it was wasted money. And because they put that money in, the president gave the companies to the UAW, they were part of the reason the companies were in trouble. Giving these companies to the UAW was wrong
This week, Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it," adding "My energy is going to be devoted to helping middle-income people. They're the folks that are really struggling right now."
Romney has broached the subject of the poor repeatedly on the campaign trail but until this week had been more careful in his choice of words. "I worry about the very poor and I want to make sure that our safety net is there," Romney said in New Hampshire in December, says the middle class are "the people I'm really concerned about right now."
ROMNEY: Let's go back and talk about, first, what you do to get the economy going. We've spoken about our tax code that's out of alignment with other nations. We've spoken about the fact that regulation is overwhelming us, that we need to become energy-secure. We have to open up markets, and we have to crack down on China when they cheat. But I'd like to talk about something else that President Obama has been doing. He's been practicing crony capitalism. And if you want to get America going again, you've got to stop the spread of crony capitalism. He gives General Motors to the UAW. He takes $500 million and sticks it into Solyndra. He stacks the labor stooges on the NLRB, so they can say no to Boeing and take care of their friends in the labor movement. This president is biggest impediment to job growth in this country, and we have to replace Barack Obama to get America working again.
ROMNEY: You never want to see an enterprise go bankrupt. And you never want to see anyone lose a job. At the time I was at Bain, the business was still going and didn't go bankrupt. What the company did, is they had one paper company and then they bought another one down the road and they said, we don't need to have, in an industry that's shrinking, two different plants making the same product, so let's consolidate the two plants together. And all the people in the plant that was closed were offered jobs in the new plant. They were union workers. They didn't all want that non-union plant work rule setting.
ROMNEY: Well, the carpenters union, for instance, trains their workers to be more effective on the job, and when they compete against non-union workers, why they do that on a fair basis. If that happens, that's a positive contribution. But let me just say this with regards to unions: Right-to-work legislation makes a lot of sense for New Hampshire and for the nation. But also, let's not forget the government unions and the impact they're having. If we're going to finally pull back the extraordinary political power government unions are exerting in this country, we're going to have to say that people who work for the government, government workers, should have their compensation tied to that which exists in the private sector. People who are government servants, public servants, should not be paid more than the taxpayers who are paying for it.
PERRY: We need to get focused on that 9% unemployment in this country. It's the reason I laid out a plan this last week to get this energy that's under our feet. We've got 300 years of resources right under our feet in this country. 1.2 million jobs could be put to work.
ROMNEY: He's absolutely right about getting energy independence & taking advantage of our natural resources here. But there are also a lot of good jobs we need in manufacturing, and high-tech jobs, and good service jobs, technology of all kinds. America produces an economy that's very, very broad. And that's why our policy to make America the most attractive place in the world for investment. Job growth encompasses more than just energy. It includes that, but also tax policy, regulatory policy, trade policy, education, training and balancing the federal budget, and that starts with repealing Obamacare.
ROMNEY: Terrific state. Some wonderful things that Texas has going for it that the nation could learn from. Zero income tax. That's a pretty good thing. Right to work state. Republican legislature, Republican supreme court. By the way, a lot of oil as well.
Q: So does Gov. Perry deserve any credit for all those jobs?
ROMNEY: Oh, sure. But look, I think Governor Perry would agree with me that if you're dealt four aces that doesn't make you necessarily a great poker player. And four aces--and the four aces that are terrific aces are the ones the nation should learn from, the ones I described, zero income tax, low regulation, right to work state, oil in the ground and a Republican legislature. Those things are terrific. And by the way, there has been great growth in Texas: Under Ann Richards, job growth was under 2.5% a year, under George Bush 3% a year, under Rick Perry it's been 1% a year.
A: Well, not terribly accurate.
Q: Bain Capital, a company you helped to form, among other things, often buys up companies, strips them down, gets them ready resells them at a net job loss to American workers.
A: You know, that might be how some people would like to characterize what we did, but in fact, we started businesses at Bain Capital, and when we acquired businesses, in each case we tried to make them bigger, make them more successful and grow. The idea that somehow you can strip things down and it makes them more valuable is not a real effective investment strategy. We tried to make these businesses more successful. By the way, they didn't all work. But during the years I was there, we added tens of thousands of jobs to the businesses we helped support. That experience, succeeding, failing, competing around the world, is what gives me the capacity to help get this economy going again.
ROMNEY: Oh, absolutely. People are convinced that we're going to go into another recession. I sure hope we don't. People are worried about whether they can make their bills at the end of the month A lot of folks have stopped looking for work. We have a crisis in confidence in part because we have an absence of leadership.
I put together an outline of what it takes to get America back on the right track. It's a whole series of changes that have to occur, from energy policy, to tax policy, regulatory policy, changes in our trade policies.
We've got to change the way we're structured economically if we want to get people back to work in this country and keep America as we've always been, this extraordinary job machine. We can be the best place in the world to be in the middle class again, with jobs plentiful for our kids and for each one of us that are looking for those jobs today. I know how to do that. And that's why I'm in this race.
Romney said, "At the end of four years we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7%. That's a record I think the president would like to see. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country."
THE FACTS: To be sure, 4.7% unemployment would be a welcome figure nationally. But Romney started from a much better position than Pres. Obama did. Unemployment was only 5.6% when Romney took office in 2003, meaning it came down by less than 1 percentage point when he left office in 2007. Obama inherited a national unemployment rate of 7.8%.
PERRY: Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.
ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, governor.
PERRY: That's not correct.
ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.
THE FACTS: Perry was at least in the ballpark. Democratic Gov. Dukakis saw Massachusetts employment grow by 500,000 jobs during his two divided terms, 1975 to 1979, and 1983 to 1991, a rate of more than 41,000 jobs a year.
Romney, governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, saw employment grow from 3.23 million to 3.29 million, growth of about 60,000 jobs, or a rate of 15,000 a year. That means Dukakis' job growth rate was nearly three times Romney's.
A: Absolutely. Let me tell you how the real economy works. When I was at Bain Capital, we invested in about 100 different companies. Not all of them worked. I know there are some people in Washington that doesn't understand how the free economy works. They think if you invest in a business, it's always going to go well. And they don't always go well. In those 100 businesses we invested in, tens of thousands of jobs, net-net, were created. I understand how the economy works. And, by the way, as the governor of Massachusetts, when I came in, jobs were being lost. We turned that around. Our unemployment was below the federal level three of the four years I was in office.
A: Unemployment benefits, I think they've gone on a long, long time. But I would rather see a reform of our unemployment system, to allow people to have a personal account which they're able to draw from as opposed to having endless unemployment benefits. Let's reform the system, make the system work better by giving people responsibility for their own employment opportunities and having that account, rather than doling out year after year more money from an unemployment system.
Q: Would you sign a bill to extend unemployment insurance if you were president right now?
A: If I were president right now, I would go to Congress with a new system for unemployment, which would have specific accounts from which people could withdraw their own funds. And I would not put in place a continuation of the current plan
Romney is right about the January unemployment numbers: the US added 36,000 jobs and Canada gained 69,000. But it's not true that there are more Americans who are unemployed than Canadians who are employed.
As of January, there were 13.9 million Americans out of work; and 17.2 million Canadians employed. During his CPAC speech, Romney said there were 15 million unemployed Americans. That's wrong, but even if it were correct, it would be less than the 17.2 million employed Canadians.
The Romney campaign pointed to the number of Americans who are underemployed--including those who are in part-time positions while still looking for full-time work. But Romney spoke of Americans "out of work," and those who are underemployed are not out of work.
Romney Feb. 11: "Pres. Obama has stood watch over the greatest job loss in modern American history. And that, my friends, is one inconvenient truth that will haunt this president throughout history."
During the recent recession there were more jobs lost under Bush than Obama. Employment declined by nearly 8.4 million between its most recent peak in Dec. 2007 and when the job slump bottomed out two years later, in Dec. 2009. Of those lost jobs, 4.4 million disappeared while Bush was president, and just under 4 million vanished during Obama's first year. Now, the Bush total includes the devastating loss of 779,000 jobs in Jan. 2009--Bush's last month in office and Obama's first. We included Jan. 2009 in the Bush column.
I did a quick calculation. A firefighter who was hired at 20 years of age would retire at 45, then be paid for the remaining 30 years of life expectancy. The state would actually pay this person more during retirement than during their employment years. It made no sense--not just the money, but also the notion that a public employee could retire at 45 with a full pension. I declined to offer my support for "25-75." It would have been easy to say yes and win the union's support because the cost to the state wouldn't have become significant until many years after I'd left office.
A: I’ll take exception with the Boston Globe. Massachusetts is a high-tech state, and a capital goods state. And that’s a sector of the economy that responds very slowly to turnarounds. And by about 2.5 years into my administration, we were able to turn that job decline around and we started adding jobs.
Q: During the four years you were governor, jobs grew nationally by a rate of 5.5%, but in Massachusetts they grew by 0.5%, and that was the fourth worst record.
A: I came into a state that had no pipeline, no sales force that called on companies and encouraged them to come into the state. There was no activity of any significance to bring jobs to the state. And we went to work, legislature and I, to try and change that. It took us a while to get all the incentives in place.
A: Perhaps. But the reality is this: I’m not going to give up on any jobs. And I recognize that of course industries change. I’ve been in the business world 25 years. Senator McCain has never been in the business world. There are many, many industries, such as the automotive industry, that politicians in Washington simply write off. And they say, well, there’s nothing that can be done about Michigan. So I’m not going to be pessimistic about the future. I’m not willing to write off the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are still in the automobile industry and say they’re all going away. I’m going to fight for them and do what I did in the private sector: Take action.
A: First, let’s get the record straight. Could we be headed for a recession? Absolutely. Do we have to be headed for a recession? Absolutely not. Recessions hurt working families. They hurt people across this country. And so this is something we’re going to have to address in a very aggressive way.
Q: Given your record in Massachusetts, which had the third lowest job growth of any state during the years you were governor, why should voters trust you to handle a slowdown?
A: I’m very proud of the fact that after many months of declining job growth, I took over the state and helped turn that around. And in my years as governor, we kept adding jobs every single month after we saw that turnaround. The pipeline for new jobs coming into our state was in single digits when I came into office. When I left, it was over 200. And some of the biggest employers are still coming into the state. Every month since I’ve left, we keep on adding jobs
A: I believe in domestic supports for our agriculture industry. I don’t want to see our food supply be in the same kind of a jeopardy situation that our energy supply is in. And clearly there’s a responsibility of government to make sure that our farmers are treated on the same basis as farmers in Europe & other markets that we compete with. The WTO talks [may] find a way to bring down subsidies around the world, & that’ll be good news.
A: There are some good unions and some not so good. The good ones are those that say, “How can we do a better and better job helping our members have better and better skills.”
Q: Can you name a few “good” unions?
A: Yeah, like the Carpenters Union, for instance, does a great job training their members and making them more effective and more efficient, and they get higher compensation as a result of it. There are also bad unions. I’m probably not going to name specific bad unions, but there are bad unions as well, which go too far and who forget that in order for them to be successful, the enterprise that they’re involved with has to also be successful.
That miraculous sounding statistic is way off. It has taken since the end of 1978 for total employment in the US to grow by 50 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But total employment for the 15 core members of the European Union (those who joined before 2004) grew by well over 33 million between 1978 and 2005.
Romney was misquoting an outdated and highly dubious figure, which was used by an author who no longer stands behind it. Romney cited a 2005 article in The American Enterprise magazine, which said, “Since the 1970s America has created some 57 million new jobs, compared to just 4 million in Europe (with most of those in government).” The article’s author told FactCheck.org he wouldn’t use the figure today.
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George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)