Mitt Romney – job exporter, or victim of cheap shot?

    It’s only July, and the mind reels trying to follow the fast-moving controversies in the presidential race – Obama charging that Romney’s firms were “pioneers” of outsourcing American jobs, independent fact-checkers disputing that claim, several publications citing SEC filings showing Romney had ownership interests in Bain Capital years after he’d said he was out, an Obama campaign official raising the prospect Romney may have lied to the SEC, and now Romney demanding an apology from Obama and running an ad (above) suggesting the president is running a slimy campaign.

    For enlightenment, I’d recommend reading this from Politi-Fact.org, which rates Obama’s charge that Romney companies were pioneers of outsourcing “half true.” Part of their quibble is that outsourcing was well-established by the 1990’s, so Romney’s companies weren’t really pioneers in the trend.

    And there’s this from FactCheck.org, which finds that the Obama campaign failed to back up its claim that Romney was a corporate raider who shipped jobs overseas.

    And here’s an interesting observation from the Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch, who concludes Romney lied to somebody about his involvement with Bain Capital, because his declarations on SEC forms and other disclosure statements are contradictory:

    “Romney’s lie about Bain doesn’t strike me as the lie of the century. It’s probably not the biggest lie of the day. But it reminds me — in terms of degree — of Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Romney’s lie about running — or not running — Bain Capital, possibly on federal filings, seems about on the same level as Clinton lying in what should have been an inconsequential civil lawsuit about his personal life.

    But these things gain prominence not for the actual lie, but for the larger truths they seem to speak to.  For Clinton it was the fact that his reckless personal behavior had degraded the presidency and the Oval Office. For Romney, it’s the lengths he seems willing to go to confound, confuse, and obfuscate about his personal financial dealings.”

    I have three observations:

    1. As for the dispute about Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital, it’s possible that Romney had formal authority at Bain Capital from 1999 to 2002 that he chose not to exercise. If he was active in running things, details are bound to emerge in the months ahead.

    2. Whether Romney personally shipped jobs overseas or whether his companies were “pioneers” of outsourcing misses a more fundamental point: that the kind of financial re-structuring Bain Capital engaged in was about maximizing return for investors, not creating or preserving American jobs per se. The real debate is whether such a hard-nosed approach to creating profitable companies is better for the economy and job creation in the long run.

    3. Politically speaking, the longer the campaign focuses on Romney and Bain Capital, the better it is for Obama. But it’s only July, and you have to wonder how many voters are paying attention. It’s a long way to November 6th.

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