Friday, October 5, 2012

Romney Finally Recalls He Was Once Governor Of Massachusetts

During the first Presidential debate, I was surprised to see Mitt Romney extol his record as a former single term Governor of this Commonwealth—especially when during much of the past 18 months of this campaign he mentioned the word “Massachusetts” only when unavoidable. Perhaps this former reluctance is because his record as CEO of this state resulted in an approval rating of only 34% when he left office.

This loss of public support can be attributed to the disparity between Romney’s grand economic promises and his record as Governor. Despite coming into office in 2002 professing that his jobs program would be “second to none in the history of the state” jobs program -- much as he now touts that he will create 12 million new jobs -- Romney’s record as a job creator was dismal. During Romney’s 4 year tenure: 1) “…the pace of job growth significantly lagged the nation’s.” [Boston Globe, 9/6/12 at p.A-1.] He created only 31,000 jobs, a 1% rate increase verses the nation’s 5% during the same time period [Globe, 9/6/12]; 2) he oversaw anemic job recovery, the state ranking 47th for job growth [Globe, 10/1/12, confirming this ranking as “accurate”]; 3) new jobs increased a mere 0.8%, the 4th weakest rate in the nation [Globe 5/31/12, citing to Moody’s]; and 14% of manufacturing jobs were lost, making Massachusetts “among the lowest-performing states in the country.” [Globe 5/31/12 citing to A. Sum Northeastern U. study.] Sure seems like Romney’s record as a “job creator” (without even considering his Bain Capital tenure job losses) is just campaign fluff. 

Other economic indicators for financial recovery similarly were disappointing. Unemployment remained higher than the nations’ average, and would have been more so if some 3.5% of workers had not left the Commonwealth to find jobs elsewhere [Globe, 9/5/12]. To create a “balanced” budget, Romney cut state aid to cities and towns, including 4% cuts for schools. This approach to education negatively impacted on the quality of the Commonwealth’s public schools, a main attraction to business growth and stimulus. If Massachusetts’ schools were doing well, as Romney now claims, this was not attributable to the Governor’s support. Romney’s other actions effectively raised taxes on the beleaguered middle class. Not unexpectedly, after the cuts in state aid, financially stressed municipalities responded to the reduced revenue by raising property taxes, on average, about 24%. [Globe, 9/6/12]. The middle-class also paid more “taxes” through sweeping increases in government fees (such as the cost of marriage licenses). [Globe, 9/6/12] If these actions foreshadow Romney’s current plan to “lower taxes” for all (unclear due to his lack of specifics on his proposed economic plan) , the middle class should expect to bear the brunt of the pain.

Finally, Romney claims that he worked effectively with the Democratic controlled legislature, and can do so again. Romney fails to remind voters that he issued some 800 vetoes as Governor, nearly all of which were then overturned. [NPR, 6/13/12] Also, those were different pre- Tea Party times when one party’s leader did not proclaim that his first goal was to defeat the incumbent president and not to govern on behalf of the nation, a promise backed up by constant filibustering and partisan obstruction. 

What should we conclude from Romney’s record as Massachusetts Governor? Reality as shown by the economic facts should make voters question hard Romney’s self-promotion as a turnaround expert and sunny promises of millions of new jobs. Economists tell us that recovery from the “Great Recession”, based on historical experience, will be slow and difficult. We should be wary of claimed quick fixes by political salespeople, especially when not backed up by specifics.

Lois Karfunkel
22 Orchard Crossing
Andover, MA