The PJ Tatler

Romney Announces Jobs Plan Today...But Is His Jobs Record Worse than Dukakis'?

GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney is rolling out his jobs plan today:

Romney scheduled his jobs speech for maximum general-election-style contrast with President Obama’s address to Congress later this week in an attempt to elevate himself. It also comes on the eve of the first GOP debate scheduled to include the frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with the campaign’s hope that he’ll get to talk about his plan again in front of a national television audience Wednesday night.

“I will introduce a plan consisting of 59 specific proposals — including 10 concrete actions I will take on my first day in office — to turn around America’s economy,” Romney writes in a curtain-raising USA Today op-ed piece. “Each proposal is rooted in the conservative premise that government itself cannot create jobs. At best, government can provide a framework in which economic growth can occur. All too often, however, government gets in the way. The past three years of unparalleled government expansion have retaught that lesson all too well.”

Most of the op-ed is spent on the standard critique of President Obama for too much tax raising and too many regulations, but it will be Romney’s specific policy prescriptions that will be in the spotlight Tuesday.

He previews one such idea:

“I will create the ‘Reagan Economic Zone,’ a partnership among countries committed to free enterprise and free trade. It will serve as a powerful engine for opening markets to our goods and services, and also a mechanism for confronting nations like China that violate trade rules while free-riding on the international system. I will not stand by while China pursues an economic development policy that relies on the unfair treatment of U.S. companies and the theft of their intellectual property. I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender.”

Romney’s plan is 100% guaranteed to be better than Obama’s. I’d stake my reputation on that. But is Romney’s record on jobs when he was Massachusetts governor all that great? Matt Lewis says maybe not.

When Romney took office, there were 3,224,600 nonfarm seasonally adjusted jobs in Massachusetts. When he left office, there were 3,270,400, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (xls).

That means under Romney’s economic policies Massachusetts saw a net gain of only 45,800 jobs; a growth rate of 1.42 percent.  Other estimates vary. For example, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development estimates job growth of 51,400 over that period. But in another analysis by Moody’s Economy.com, the number was lower: only 24,400.

That placed Massachusetts 47th among all states in job creation from January 2003 to January 2007. Nonfarm seasonally adjusted jobs across the United States grew by 5.265 percent throughout the entire U.S.  The Romney economy in Massachusetts significantly underperformed compared to other states in terms of job creation.

The data are even more problematic when Romney’s record is compared to one of his predecessors, Michael Dukakis. On average Dukakis created roughly 45,209 jobs per year while he served as Governor of the Commonwealth, a total of 497,300 net new jobs from 1976 through 1979 and 1983 through 1991, according to Labor and Workforce. Dukakis, of course, attempted to make this “Massachusetts miracle” a centerpiece of his failed presidential campaign in 1988. His TV ads proudly boasted that he “created over 400,000 jobs…”

By contrast, Romney — who is also making job creation a centerpiece of his presidential campaign — created only an average of 12,850 per year between 2003 and 2007.

As Matt notes, Romney can credibly claim that some of the anemic job growth under his watch was due to policies he inherited. Deep blue and union heavy Massachusetts has not been the nation’s economic engine for a very long time, and having the occasional Republican governor doesn’t do much to change that. On the other hand, WI Gov. Scott Walker inherited some very blue and union heavy policies and he has done all he can to change those policies, and his state is prospering now. Romney essentially governed MA from the center-left. What you inherit certainly influences your success, but what you do with what you inherit can have an even greater influence.

Besides, if Romney blames things on his predecessors, he’ll sound too much like the man he’s running to replace.