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Mitt Romney set up his debate answer on how he would curb outsourcing and bring jobs back to the United States, beginning with a classic example of Romney statistics and saying, "A half a million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last four years. That’s total over the last four years." Yes, Mitt, and what was happening as Barack Obama became president?

Bar graph of manufacturing employment change January 2008 to September 2012 showing massive losses at the beginning of the period and some recovery starting in 2010.
What's missing from Romney's numbers, of course, is any acknowledgement of the cliff the economy was going off of, losing vast numbers of jobs, when Obama took office. During the official recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, the U.S. economy lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs—many of them under George W. Bush, of course—and though the decline slowed at that point, it didn't stop (PDF). Like everything else about the recession, turning things around took some time. But since January 2010, manufacturing jobs have increased by close to 500,000 jobs.

Not only have we seen some recovery after the initial crash, but Romney's promises have to be seen in the context of recent Republican presidencies.

Bar graph showing manufacturing job change by presidential administration since 1948. Growth of 7 million under Democrats, loss of 9 million under Republicans.
Since 1948, the United States has gained anywhere from 5.4 million to 7 million manufacturing jobs during seven Democratic presidential terms and lost anywhere from 7.3 million to 9 million manufacturing jobs during nine Republican presidential terms. Barack Obama's record on manufacturing jobs is ahead of eight of those nine Republican presidential terms, coming in behind only Ronald Reagan's second term in office.

Mitt Romney wants us to believe that Obama is historically awful on manufacturing. But the facts just don't back that up. Meanwhile, Romney wants us to believe that he would be better for American manufacturing than George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan in his first term, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon or Dwight Eisenhower. For that matter, he wants us to believe he'd be better for American manufacturing than Bill Clinton in his second term. But his own record as a businessman is one of outsourcing American manufacturing jobs to other countries with low wages and weak workplace protections, and he has offered no plan, beside getting tough on one of the countries he is still profiting from offshoring jobs to, China, to improve manufacturing employment here.

On manufacturing, Romney's got nothing, and a selective half-truth about Obama's record and a lot of tough talk he'd never follow through on won't change that.

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