Details, Please

Mitt Romney has been campaigning on the premise that he has a better grasp of economic issues than President Obama.  Basically, his premise has been “I’m a business guy, I know about money; therefore you should hire me to fix the economy.”  Admittedly, he looks like the Central Casting version of a businessman in a suit, and that’s likely to persuade some voters.

But Romney has provided few details, other than supporting deregulation and similarly returning to the Bush-era economic policies that drove us into the deep recession that we’re still trying to dig our way out of.  He’s offered plenty of vague platitudes about knowing how to fix the economy, but he offers as proof of his ability only his questionable record at Bain Capital.

He claims that his time at Bain was as a job creator, though his record in the private sector consists largely of shutting down companies and siphoning money out of them for himself and his cronies.  The number of jobs that he claims to have created seems to vacillate from day to day, state to state, speech to speech.

When challenged in any way on the very record that he holds up as his primary qualification, he whines that he is the victim of “character assassination.”   According to Romney and his campaign, it’s somehow off-limits to infer that Romney and Bain were part of the byzantine investment banking structure that was responsible for the collapse of the economy and yet which remains completely unpunished.

Oddly, Romney similarly doesn’t want anyone to talk about his record in the public sector, which logically would have more bearing on his qualifications for the job that he is seeking.  Maybe that’s because his jobs record as governor of Massachusetts consists of helping his state plunge to the position of 47th out of 50 states in job creation.

The fact remains that Romney hasn’t described with any specificity how he will create any jobs.  If GOP history is any indicator, they’re seemingly only intent on reducing the size of government, which only reduces the number of jobs.  Mitt and his team are still spouting the Reagan era ideology of supply-side trickle-down economics, even though there is not a scrap of evidence that such economic policy has ever provided any benefit to anyone except those who are already prosperous.

Obama has taken the cesspool of an economy that he inherited upon taking office and he has made it significantly better.  Unemployment was at >10%; job losses were mounting.  Unemployment has been moving consistently downward and is currently at 8.1%.  Job creation is significantly up.

Blue collar job numbers are worse than the overall job numbers.  Yet Republicans in Congress have blocked attempts at creating more jobs in this sector when the Obama administration proposed infrastructure programs that would have employed the unemployed as well as dealt with the nation’s crumbling bridges, roads, and other infrastructure.

More than 5,000,000 jobs have been added since Obama took office, despite a reduction of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs that various state Republican legislatures have been championing.  Obama has managed to show overall job growth in spite of that decline in public sector jobs.

So, in order to cast a vote for Mitt Romney, isn’t it fair to require Romney and his campaign to provide specific assurances not only for how he’s going to create jobs but also for how he’s going to do better than Obama has done?  Sounds fair to me.

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Today’s Numbers

[column col=”1/3″]

The number of cents per gallon that gasoline has dropped since this time last month.[/column]

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The number of cents per gallon that gasoline has dropped since this date last year.[/column]

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The number of Republicans who previously blamed Barack Obama for rising gas prices who sent Barack Obama a note of congratulations or thanks for now lowering them.[/column]


* This number is not official, but it’s a pretty safe bet.

Mitt’s Business Acumen

Back in January, before Mitt Romney was the presumptive Republican nominee, I posted a tweet about the applicability of his business skills to the role of President:

I also published a more detailed (and only slightly less snarky) post on this blog on the same subject. While I was being just a tad sarcastic to make a point, my basic premise was deadly serious.

The Obama campaign today released a six-minute video that makes the same point a little more concretely, detailing the real-world consequences of Romney’s business philosophy while at Bain Capital:

There are lots of us in the middle class who are relieved (a) that Obama and his team are now campaigning in earnest, and (b) that they’re taking on this issue head-on.

Romney and his surrogates have been claiming that they don’t want to talk about social issues like women’s health and marriage equality (even though they’re usually the ones who are bring those subjects up). They keep claiming that their campaign forte is the economy.

Judging by today’s campaign video, it looks like Obama is welcoming that challenge.

Jobs Numbers and Politics

Today’s unemployment numbers – a reduction of the unemployment rate to 8.1% and an increase in new jobs of about 115,000 – are modest overall improvements to our economic situation.

In spite of continued gradual improvement in the unemployment numbers and regular, if sometimes disappointing, job growth, the Obama administration has been under constant fire from the right about jobs.  The refrain from the GOP is essentially “we’d make this recovery happen faster.”  To date, they’ve offered no new ideas about how they’d do that.  It’s just the same old drumbeats about deregulation, lowering tax rates, and shrinking the size of government.  They choose to ignore the fact that it is those very policies are primary causes of our current financial woes.

There’s another theory about why this recovery hasn’t been stronger, and I predict we’ll see this manifest even more over the next 6 months leading up to the election.

There are currently a couple of powerful incentives for companies not to hire new employees.

If you’re at the helm of a Fortune 500 company and you’ve gotten accustomed to staff reductions, thereby offloading responsibilities onto the employees who have managed to maintain their jobs, you already may be operating under the mistaken belief that you can do more with less.  Never mind that this calculus is unsustainable over the long haul and that employees are likely to jump ship as soon as the economy turns around.  Never mind that employees burn out when run into the ground.

But the bigger incentive not to hire is more political in nature.  There can be no argument that, although both parties are beholden to big business, the Republican party is much more likely to appeal to corporations.  What corporation wouldn’t want the promise of less regulation and lower taxes?  The main goal of corporations isn’t to take care of its employees or to do good in the world or to be good citizens.  Corporations are in business to make money, for their executives and for their stockholders.

So, it’s in the best interest of corporations to hold off on their hiring until after the election.  By doing so, they can increase the chances that there will be a Republican administration by helping to prove that the current Democratic administration isn’t doing a good enough job.  And even if Obama is re-elected, there seems to be no particular downside to the corporations, because any pent-up demand can still be addressed with new hiring.

If there’s good news that one can deduce from this, it seems to be that we can expect better employment numbers after the election, no matter who wins.

Read more from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

No Thanks, BofA

Last week Bank of America announced it would be charging customers a monthly fee to use its debit cards to use their own money to make purchases.  Today, Citibank announced it would be increasing its fees for its checking accounts. The news media are buzzing and the public seems to be bristling at these developments.  This should come as no surprise.

By way of background, let’s take a trip down big-bank memory lane. Continue reading…