For months, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has falsely claimed that President Obama "did not cause this recession, but he made it worse." This week, Romney charged that Obama "started off by blaming George Bush, and that worked for a while but, you know, after three and a half years that wears kind of thin."
Governor Romney might want to rethink his strategy of accusing President Obama of playing the blame game on the economy. After all, on Wednesday his campaign defended his dismal record in Massachusetts by protesting Mitt "took office at a time when the state was losing thousands of jobs every month." And as it turns out, Eric Fehrnstrom and Team Romney have been claiming Mitt inherited a Bay State recession for years.
As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explained, "In the same release attacking Obama over "net" job loss, the Romney camp also defends Romney's jobs record as Governor of Massachusetts by pointing out ... that Romney inherited a state economy that was losing jobs when he took office. Seriously." As the Romney campaign explained Mitt's Massachusetts mess:
Governor Romney Inherited An Economy That Was Losing Jobs Each Month And Left Office With An Economy That Was Adding Jobs Each Month. After taking office at a time when the state was losing thousands of jobs every month, Governor Romney's focus on fiscal responsibility helped create an environment where job growth returned to Massachusetts. Job growth increased throughout his term and the state added over 40,000 payroll jobs during his final year in office --the best year of job growth in Massachusetts over the past decade. Household employment grew by nearly 50,000 under Governor Romney and the unemployment rate declined to well under 5%.As we'll see, that record is nothing to crow about, and not only because Mitt Romney left office with Massachusetts having 148,000 fewer jobs than in its pre-recession peak in February 2001.
First, a little history. When Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, the collapsing U.S. economy had contracted by a shocking 8.9 percent the previous quarter. 820,000 Americans lost their jobs that month; all told 2.2 million jobs disappeared in the three months before the February 2009 passage of the stimulus.
In comparison, Mitt Romney hit a speed bump when he became Governor in January 2003. While the first Bush recession which began in March 2001 officially ended eight months later that November, in Massachusetts the economy was still struggling. As Salon reported earlier this year:
By the time he took office in January 2003, the Massachusetts unemployment rate rose to 5.8 percent from 5.3 percent a year earlier, and 66,000 fewer people had jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.But in a further irony, Mitt Romney was an advocate of government action - stimulus - to prime the economic pump during tenure as a "severely conservative" governor in Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. As Salon recounted in "The Stimulus Plan Romney Forgot," Governor Romney hoped to improve the Bay State's dismal 47th ranking for job creation:
[T]he governor went big. In February 2005, Romney unveiled a sweeping $600 million stimulus package to kick-start the economy and create 20,000 jobs over five years...Most controversial: Romney wanted to spend $37 million to create new jobs by offering employers $30,000 for each new person they hired.Echoing the same language the Obama administration would later use in defense of its response to the Bush recession, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom pitched the Romney stimulus in advance of Romney's January 2006 State of the State address:
"When we came into office, the state was losing jobs by the thousands every month," said Fehrnstrom at the time. "Today we are adding jobs, and the unemployment rate is almost a full point lower [than] it was when we took office. But we have more work to do."But with less than six months left in office in July 2006, Mitt Romney still had more work to do. As the Boston Globe reported at the time:
Massachusetts employers added 4,400 jobs last month, finally erasing the so-called "jobs deficit" of Governor Mitt Romney. The state unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent.As it turned out, compared to other states during the same period, Massachusetts wasn't turning around, but standing still. "By the end of his four years in office," FactCheck.org revealed in 2008, "Massachusetts had squeezed out a net gain in payroll jobs of just 1 percent, compared with job growth of 5.3 percent for the nation as a whole." As Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of the Center for Market Studies at Northeastern University detailed in July 2007, Romney's was "one of the worst in the country."
It took nearly four years, but Massachusetts now has more payroll jobs -- 700 -- than when Romney took office in January 2003, according to data reported by the Department of Workforce Development. The state, however, still has 150,000 fewer jobs than at the pre-recession peak of early 2001...
"State revenues are surging, jobs are up and people are feeling more confident about the Massachusetts economy," said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's spokesman. "This is a dramatic turnaround from the dark days of the economic and fiscal crisis that Governor Romney faced when he took office three and a half years ago."
On all key labor market measures, the state not only lagged behind the country as a whole, but often ranked at or near the bottom of the state distribution. Formal payroll employment in the state in 2006 was still 16,000 or 0.5 percent below its average level in 2002, the year immediately prior to the start of the Romney administration. Massachusetts ranked third lowest on this key job generation measure and would have ranked second lowest if Hurricane Katrina had not devastated the Louisiana economy.Economic devastation is an accurate description of Barack Obama's inheritance from George W. Bush. But as the numbers and the overwhelming consensus of economists - including John McCain's 2008 brain trust - show, President Obama saved the United States from "Great Depression 2.0" and put the nation on the path to recovery. As for the former Massachusetts Governor, FactCheck.org concluded "Romney's job record provides little to boast about."