Home > Economics, Election 2012 > Would Romney Have Done Any Better?

Would Romney Have Done Any Better?

June 5th, 2012


From The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker”:

Take a look at the chart above, which uses seasonally adjusted Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data to show the change in the level of employment during the first 40 months of each man’s tenure as governor or president.

The similarities are actually more striking than the differences. Both men took office as the economy was plunging, but the hole (in percentage terms) turned out to be much deeper for Obama. The jobs picture started to turn around for both men at about the same time, but because Romney’s job deficit was comparatively smaller, he moved into positive territory sooner — though it still took him 36 months.

Of course, Kessler forgets one tiny little detail in his analysis: Romney, aside from having to deal with a tiny disaster instead of an unprecedented clusterfrack, did not have a legislative opposition which was dedicated to sabotaging his work, defeating or watering down his proposals to help the economy, and preventing him from concentrating on his job. I do not believe that any Democrat in the Massachusetts state legislature ever said that their #1 task was to make Romney fail.

Considering that the vast majority of actually useful things one can do as chief executive is controlled by the legislature–who typically escape virtually all responsibility even when they overtly work to hurt the state, as Republicans have–this should be counted as a factor. But maybe I’m just being crazy here.

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  1. Alex
    June 5th, 2012 at 07:52 | #1

    Didn’t the democrats have a majority when Obama first took office?

  2. Luis
    June 5th, 2012 at 08:16 | #2

    Nope. They did by law, but not in practical terms. Republicans abused the filibuster so that in the Senate, 60 votes became the required number to achieve a “majority” for any vote the Republicans didn’t like, and the Democrat’s “supermajority” (a) missed by one member (Al Franken) for about 6 months due to the challenge in Minnesota and (b) was sabotaged by DINOs like Lieberman, not to mention the Blue-dog Democrats. Therefore, even things that did pass, like the stimulus and health care, were massively watered down from what they were originally intended to be.

    Had Obama been given a legislature like Romney had, history would have run a substantially different course.

  3. Troy
    June 5th, 2012 at 13:23 | #3


    is correct. It’s a mistake to take “Democrat” for “Liberal”. Many if not most of the illiberal red-state Democrats got washed out of Congress in 2010. Along with Feingold, alas.

    Also, the death of Kennedy during the August recess delayed things as his replacement wasn’t seated until late September (and he had to leave after the January 2010 special election seated Scott Brown).

    Anyhoo, about the chart, what’s really dumb is that Romney served from 2003 to 2007, right in the heart of the housing bubble that floated the entire economy with trillions and trillions of borrowed money.

    This chart:


    compares the rise of consumer debt (blue) and federal debt (red) from 1990 to now.

    Both graphs are annual change divided by wages (consumer debt) and GDP (fed debt), giving an indication of how much the economy was being powered by debt take-on.

    The nation was borrowing 20% of wages right during the 2003-2007 period:


    (above graph zoomed in to 2001-now)

    That bubble economy dwarfed what Japan did 1986-1989 I think.

    Looking at the biggest picture:


    shows how the debt economy just hit the wall right at the end of 2007:


    (above chart zoomed to 2006-now)

    Pretty obvious how the recession started, eh, and what Obama has had to deal with, an economy basically “busted out” with debt take-on 2001-2008.

  4. Troy
    June 5th, 2012 at 21:45 | #4


    is another good graph showing the link between consumer debt growth and job growth during the Bush years.

    Blue line is year-on-year percent gain in jobs, red line is y-o-y percent gain in consumer debt.

    The 1990s showed a solid gain in jobs, with debt growth trailing job growth.

    Then the dotcom recession hit, but the mortgage credit bubble started pulling the entire economy out of recession in 2002.

    As long as we could borrow a trillion+ of dollars a year, this credit bubble kept job growth going at 2%, but once the home equity ATM started running out of money in 2006, so went job growth.

    Adding in Federal debt growth (green):


    shows how the stimulus and other fiscal intervention stopped the collapse.

    But we’re still in dangerous days, and the idiot electorate has no idea how bad things are going to get this decade and next if we don’t get our act together.

    “A smaller percentage (26%) knows that 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster in the Senate. ”


    How can a representative democracy function when 3 out of 4 people don’t have the first clue what is going on?

  5. Stuart
    June 6th, 2012 at 02:27 | #5

    Of course the entire US economy and the Massachusetts state economy aren’t the same thing at all and it doesn’t make sense to compare them in any context. But sense is the last thing I expect from the Washington Post.

  6. Troy
    June 6th, 2012 at 03:02 | #6

    and it doesn’t make sense to compare them in any context.








    Now, what *is* stupid is thinking a single 4-year term is going to make any difference, at the state or federal level.

    The damage Clintonites and the Republicans did to everything 1995-2000 is still being played out, with the one good thing the Dems did, the 1991-1993 tax rise, completely undone by 2003.


    is the tide that’s been lifting all boats, 1980-now.

    God help us if it ever reverses.

    The Japanese are looking at the barrel of that gun with their 10% tax rise, which, assuming it can collect its revenue without destroying sales, is only 1/4th the way to a balanced budget.

    The Nordic states’ tax burdens are all 45-50% of GDP. Greece’s tax burden is 33% of GDP. Japan’s is 28% and the US is 27%.

    Just getting the US back to Greek levels of probity is another trillion in taxes, IIRC ~2.5X the Bush tax cuts.

  7. Troy
    June 6th, 2012 at 05:31 | #7

    Curiously, I re-did my chart of MA GDP vs US GDP:


    and to be fair to Romney one has to admit there was a divergence in his state economy after he took over.

    wait, I was reading that wrong (no snark, I really was reading that wrong) — I see MA (red) actually lost ground wrt the rest of the country 2003-2007 (blue).


    Now, as I said above it’d be unfair to blame Romney, for all I know maybe his admin cracked down on the mortgage bubble and prevented households to abuse their balance sheets like so much of the country was doing.

    But of course, such rational analysis has no part in politicking. BS is the stock in trade.

  8. Stuart
    June 6th, 2012 at 06:06 | #8

    Just because people do the comparisons doesn’t mean it means anything. It’s like comparing being head of a 19-person small subsidiary of a corporation to being head of the whole shebang. Sure the numbers are related but they aren’t meaningful in how that person would do if promoted to the top. Governer and President are not the same job.

  9. Troy
    June 8th, 2012 at 15:59 | #9

    One thing that struck me is that Obama’s going to be judged by the full recession:


    not just what happened on his watch.

    This graph shows we’re still 5M jobs down (!), and the truth is even worse than that since this measure is mis-named, it double-counts people with 2 jobs, so the true number of people out of work is higher (eg. two people losing their f/t jobs but one getting 2 p/t jobs results in no-change by this measure).

    The good news is the map:


    isn’t looking too bad for your birthday.

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