During a campaign stop today, Mitt Romney suggested that “the message” to take away from Gov. Scott Walker's recall victory in Wisconsin is that the United States doesn't “need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.” The media largely ignored this comment in favor of amplifying Republican attacks on President Obama's remarks about private sector job growth.
Romney Distorted Obama's Comments, Suggested U.S. Doesn't Need More Firefighters, Police, Teachers
Romney: Obama “Says We Need More Firemen, More Policemen, More Teachers. Did He Not Get The Message Of Wisconsin?” From a June 8 CNN broadcast of a Romney campaign speech in Iowa:
ROMNEY: For the president of the United States to stand up and say that private sector is doing fine is gonna go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who's out of touch. And we're gonna take back this country and we're gonna get America working again.
And his answer for economic vitality by the way was of course pushing aside the private sector, which he said is doing fine; instead, he wants to add more to government. He wants another stimulus. He wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?
The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people. [CNN, 6/8/12 via The Raw Story]
MSNBC's Steve Benen: Romney's Comment “Is Arguably One Of The More Important Things” He Has Said. Reporting on Romney's comments, MSNBC's Steve Benen wrote:
If anyone's looking for more meaningful quotes from presidential candidates, Mitt Romney's line today on public-sector jobs is arguably one of the more important things the Republican has said in a very long time.
Let's be clear about this: Romney is rejecting the idea of saving the jobs of cops, firefighters, and teachers. He sees this as an applause line. The Republican nominee for president believes we can “help the American people” by laying off, not just public-sector workers in general, but specifically cops, firefighters, and teachers. [MSNBC.com, The Maddow Blog, 6/8/12]
Wash. Post's Greg Sargent Highlighted Romney's Hypocrisy: “Romney Takes Care To Show Great Sympathy With First Responders.” The Washington Post's Greg Sargent wrote:
When Republicans attack public workers, they often take care to exempt cops and firefighters, because they are culturally sympathetic figures, and muddle the message that government workers are parasites who are destroying the economic conditions of ordinary Americans.
But today Mitt Romney got a good deal more specific, claiming we do not need to hire more cops or firefighters specifically, which would, he said, cut against the interests of the American people. He also specifically named teachers.
One of the components of the American Jobs Act that Obama continues to demand that Republicans pass would invest $35 billion in federal funds to keep cops, firefighters, and teachers on the job. Republicans, Romney included, oppose this plan. Central to their argument against this type of investment is to keep the focus on public sector workers as a class, arguing that they are bilking the taxpayer and are to blame for the economic plight of struggling Americans. As Romney recently put it: “We have 145,000 more government workers under this president. Let's send them home and put you back to work.”
At the same time, however, Romney takes care to show great sympathy with first responders. As Jonathan Chait has noted, Romney has spoken movingly of the financial plight of firefighters under Obama, even though they belong to the parasitic class that he is trying to scapegoate for the economic misery of other Americans. Since teachers are associated with the education of our children, Republicans generally refrain from attacking them directly and instead target teachers union bosses. And in his quest for the female vote, Romney has spoken sympathetically about women bearing the brunt of the Obama economy, even though many of them are teachers, and hence, public workers, too. [The Washington Post, The Plum Line, 6/8/12]
Obama Was Drawing Contrast Between Private Sector And Public Sector Job Growth
Obama: Private Sector Job Growth Is “Doing Fine.” While discussing the economy in a press conference on June 8, Obama drew a contrast between job growth in the private sector -- which, as Obama said, has added about 4.3 million jobs in the past 27 months -- and the public sector, which has lost 550,000 jobs over the same period, saying, “The private sector is doing fine” :
OBAMA: The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government -- oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.
And so, if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is, how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry. Because the recipes that they're promoting are basically the kinds of policies that would add weakness to the economy, would result in further layoffs, would not provide relief in the housing market, and would result, I think most economists estimate, in lower growth and fewer jobs, not more. [WhiteHouse.gov, 6/8/12]
Obama Also Urged Congress To Pass Jobs Bill “In Light Of The Headwinds That We're Facing.” During the press conference, Obama also renewed his call that Congress pass a jobs bill:
OBAMA: Last September, I sent Congress a detailed jobs plan full of the kind of bipartisan ideas that would have put more Americans back to work. It had broad support from the American people. It was fully paid for. If Congress had passed it in full, we'd be on track to have a million more Americans working this year. The unemployment rate would be lower. Our economy would be stronger.
Of course, Congress refused to pass this jobs plan in full. They did act on a few parts of the bill -- most significantly the payroll tax cut that's putting more money in every working person's paycheck right now. And I appreciate them taking that action. But they left most of the jobs plan just sitting there. And in light of the headwinds that we're facing right now, I urge them to reconsider. Because there's steps we can take right now to put more people back to work. They're not just my ideas; they're not just Democratic ideas -- they're ideas that independent, nonpartisan economists believe would make a real difference in our economy. [WhiteHouse.gov, 6/8/12]
Indeed, Private Sector Jobs Are Higher Than When Obama Took Office
AP: “Obama Was Correct That The Job Picture In The Private Sector Is Brighter Than In The Public Sector.” As the Associated Press reported:
[W]hile “doing fine” is in the eye of the beholder, Obama was correct that the job picture in the private sector is brighter than in the public sector. Since the recession officially ended in June 2009, private companies have added 3.1 million jobs. Largely because of cuts at the state and local level, governments have slashed 601,000 jobs over the same period. According to the government, corporate profits have risen 58 percent since mid-2009.
Even so, by historical standards, private job gains in the last three months have been weak after such a deep recession. [Associated Press, 6/8/12]
The Atlantic: “You Can Expect To Hear The President's Remark Widely Mocked, But He's Mostly Correct.” In a post bearing the subhead, “You can expect to hear the president's remark widely mocked, but he's mostly correct,” The Atlantic reported that “Obama isn't totally off base” with his comments that private sector job growth “is doing fine.” The post included this chart, with data from the Saint Louis Fed, to illustrate Obama's point:
[The Atlantic, 6/8/12]
Wall Street Journal: “The Number Of Private-Sector Jobs In The U.S. Economy Is Now Higher Than The Month [Obama] Took Office.” From The Wall Street Journal:
Friday's disappointing employment report showed slowing momentum in the labor market since the start of the year. But President Barack Obama, who officially launches his reelection campaign Saturday, overcame one threshold: the number of private-sector jobs in the U.S. economy is now higher than the month he took office.
With the latest report, total private payrolls are now higher than they were in January 2009. The latest count put private-sector jobs at about 111 million in April (reported as 111.02 million), or 35,000 jobs more than the January 2009 level. Private payrolls as of April were up 760,000 from Obama's first full month in office in February 2009. [The Wall Street Journal, Real Time Economics, 5/4/12]
AFP: “The 500 Largest US Companies Piled Up Record Profits Last Year, Despite A Lackluster Economy.” As Agence France-Presse reported:
The 500 largest US companies piled up record profits last year, despite a lackluster economy, and energy giant ExxonMobil ousted Wal-Mart as the biggest revenue maker, Fortune magazine said Monday.
The combined earnings of the Fortune 500 corporations rose 16 percent from 2010 to a record high of $825 billion in 2011, the magazine said.
“Given the sluggish recovery and a strapped consumer, you'd expect to see corporate America trudging along, not racing for glory,” Fortune's senior editor-at-large, said.
“In fact, the Fortune 500 are thriving as a group. Unlike the US economy, they've shown quicksilver agility, rapidly shifting their product mix and producing more goods at little new cost.”
The previous record of $785 billion was set in 2006, amid robust economic growth and before the subprime mortgage crisis in the housing market touched off global financial turmoil. [Agence France-Presse, 6/7/12]
But Media See Controversy Over Obama's Comments While Ignoring Romney's Attack On Public Workers
Fox News Repeatedly Aired Romney's Attacks On Obama, But Omitted Public Worker Comments. Fox News' Special Report extensively covered Obama's private sector comments and even aired Romney's criticism that Obama is “out of touch” in three separate reports during the broadcast. But on each occasion, Fox News omitted Romney's comments where he suggested that the United States doesn't need more firefighters, police, and teachers. The omission was particularly glaring during a report by chief campaign correspondent Carl Cameron, who noted Romney's criticism of Obama “for again proposing more government spending as a solution” :
CAMERON: Romney denounced the president for again proposing more government spending as a solution.
ROMNEY [video clip]: Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.
CAMERON: And the GOP is now pushing a new attack video of lousy economic headlines with the president saying the private sector is doing fine. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/8/12]
ABC News: “Republicans Ran With Just Those Two Words: 'Doing Fine.' ” In a report on Obama's comments, ABC News chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper noted Republican attacks on Obama, including from House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor. ABC also aired a snippet of Romney's criticism but omitted his public workers comments:
TAPPER: But the president's warning may have gotten lost once he said this about the U.S. economy, "[W]e've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine." He was trying to make a discrete point about just the private sector not including government jobs or construction.
But Republicans ran with just those two words, “doing fine,” as if the president were oblivious to the crisis being felt here at home. It was a coordinated attack.
ROMNEY [video clip]: Is he really that out of touch? [ABC News, World News with Dianne Sawyer, 6/8/12]
CBS News Aired Significant Portion Of Romney's Comments, But Edited Out His Public Worker Remarks. From CBS News:
SCOTT PELLEY (anchor): President Obama and Mitt Romney got into a debate today though they were about a 1,000 miles apart. The president at the White House, Mr. Romney in Iowa. The subject was jobs and the condition of the economy. Here's Anthony Mason.
[begin video clip]
MASON: The war of words over the economy began when the president said this. "[W]e've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine."
ROMNEY: He said the private sector is doing fine. Is he really that out of touch?
MASON: In fact, the president's numbers are accurate. While recent job growth has been weak, over the past 27 months, the economy's added an average of 158,000 jobs each month -- a passable number, economists say, that at least keeps up with population growth.
ROMNEY: Has there ever been an American president who is so far from reality as to believe in an America where 23 million American are out of work?
MASON: Here, Romney is correct. More than 23 million Americans are unemployed, can't get full-time work, or have stopped looking.
ROMNEY: Median income in America has dropped by 10 percent over the last four years.
MASON: But here his math is off. According to the most recent government data we could find, median household income has declined since the beginning of the recession from nearly $53,000 to $49,000. But that's a drop of 6.4 percent, not 10 percent as Romney claimed. Still, the president made a point of later clarifying his remarks.
OBAMA: So let me be as clear as I can be: The economy needs to be strengthened, that's why I had a press conference.
[end video clip]
MASON: In effect, both men were right. The economy has been creating jobs, just not fast enough in part because governments have been laying off employees. So is the private sector doing fine? Not if you're still looking for work. [CBS News, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, 6/8/11]