By Andy Kroll
When he's not repeatedly—and incorrectly—blaming President Obama for making the economic recession "worse" and "last longer," GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is trumpeting his own job-creating bona fides. He explains that the jobless rate in Massachusetts, where he served as governor from 2003 to 2007, declined by nearly one percent during his time in office, from 5.6 to 4.7 percent. "The governor before me lost jobs; the governor after me has lost jobs; we actually created jobs," he said recently.
But as the Los Angeles Times reports today, Romney's job-creation record is not at all as he portrays it. In fact, when Romney ran Massachusetts, the Bay State's job creation rate ranked dead last in the nation. And the percentage increase in jobs under Romney earned Massachusetts the ranking of 47th in the nation. Only Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana were worse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even the dip in Massachusetts' unemployment rate turns out to not reflect Romney's deft economic leadership but rather an exodus of workers out of the state during his tenure—222,000 of them in a four-year period ending in July 2006, according to researchers at Northeastern University.
Granted, Romney did inherit a troubled state economy from his predecessor, and he did manage to close a $2-billion budget deficit his first year in the governor's mansion. So what happened with jobs? Massachusetts politicos blame Romney's eye for national politics on his muddled jobs record, the Times notes:
"Romney's record of economic stewardship fell short of expectations," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed group that provides research on fiscal and economic matters. In remarks echoed by others, Widmer said Romney fell particularly short in his promise to recruit employers to the state.
The top finance advisor to two prior Republican governors said Romney was distracted by political ambition in the final years of his term.
"The real tragedy of Romney's governorship is that he did not utilize his full capacity as governor," said Stephen P. Crosby, who served in the Cabinet of two previous Republican governors and advised the transition of Romney's Democratic successor. Crosby, dean of the University of Massachusetts' McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, praised Romney's leadership and business acumen but said he never delivered on promises to lure jobs to the state.
"He took his eye off the ball," Crosby said.