Fact Check

04.16.12

Mitt Romney’s ‘92 Percent’ Lie: There He Goes Again

Romney claims that women suffered almost all of the job losses since Obama took office. Leslie Bennetts on why this particular lie is so insidious—and why it reveals the candidate’s startling stupidity.

And they say Mitt Romney can’t be trusted! Why, the man is as consistent as the sun coming up in the morning.

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Leslie Bennetts on how the GOP exploits family values in exchange for votes.

Mitt Romney can always be counted upon—for intellectual dishonesty.

In the latest example of his egregious lack of intellectual integrity, Romney—desperate to reverse the GOP’s catastrophic loss of popularity among women voters—invented a fictitious Obama administration “war on women” and then claimed as proof the disproportionate job losses suffered by women during the second wave of the recession.

Romney’s misrepresentation of labor-force trends was hardly surprising; we’ve come to expect misleading and untruthful statements from a candidate infamous for denying he ever said things he did say and insisting he didn’t do things he did do.

“The real war on women has been waged by the policies of the Obama administration,” Romney claimed on This Week. “Did you know that of all the jobs lost during the Obama years, 92.3 percent of them are women?”

It’s enough to make you wish that Ronald Reagan were still around to shake his head sorrowfully and say, “There he goes again.”

In the absence of Reagan and his famous line, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner dutifully made the rounds yesterday, trying to explain what was wrong with Romney’s charge. “It’s a ridiculous argument,” Geithner said, noting that the first round of job losses affected mostly men, particularly in construction and manufacturing, while subsequent budget cuts by state and local governments eliminated many jobs held primarily by women, many of them teachers.

The Obama administration was far from alone in rejecting Romney’s claims; virtually every independent analysis dismissed them as “mostly false,” as the nonpartisan fact-check site Politifact put it.

But Romney’s accusations were worse than false; they were the political equivalent of that old joke about the guy who begs the judge for mercy, saying he shouldn’t be convicted of murder because he’s an orphan—while neglecting to mention that he’s an orphan because he killed his parents.

As any debater knows, making your case is about the facts you include, but it’s also about the facts you leave out. And when it comes to the nation’s economic woes, the facts that Romney leaves out include the culpability of Republican policies and office holders for the dismal state of the labor market—particularly when it comes to women.

The facts that Romney leaves out have to do with the culpability of Republican policies.

First of all, most of the catastrophic job losses affecting men actually occurred while President Bush was still in office. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men lost 5,355,000 jobs between December 2007 and June 2009, whereas women lost less than half that number—“only” 2,124,000 jobs.

But after that devastating first hit, men’s job losses slowed, whereas women’s accelerated. Between January 2009 and March 2012, men lost 57,000 jobs, but women lost 683,000 jobs. Of those 683,000 jobs, 64 percent were in government, and 36 percent were in the private sector.

And it was Republican office holders at the state and local level, not Democrats at the federal level, who were responsible for a disproportionate share of those losses. According to a study by the Roosevelt Institute, 11 states that went Republican in 2010 accounted for more than 40 percent of all state- and local-government job losses.

But Romney’s claim that President Obama has destroyed women’s jobs leaves out that part, just as it omits any acknowledgment of the terrifying fiscal mess that Obama inherited from a disastrous Republican administration when he came into office.

Although Romney’s specious statistics were designed to scare women into thinking that the Obama administration has somehow vaporized huge numbers of women’s jobs while leaving men virtually unscathed, that’s hardly the reality. Of all the jobs lost since 2007, only 39.7 percent were held by women; more than 60 percent were held by men. The recession has been terrible for everyone, and it hit women’s jobs somewhat later than it hit men’s jobs, but it’s not as if anyone escaped unscathed.

Mitt Romney surely knows this—and yet his attack on Obama might just as easily have been leveled by someone who was completely clueless about labor-force trends, the structural reasons that explain how they happen, and what they mean.

No one who’s followed the presidential campaign, let alone Romney’s political career, could possibly be surprised that he distorted the facts; he’s an old hand at that stuff. But what’s really startling is how stupid his analysis was.

Romney keeps telling voters they should elect him because Obama broke the nation’s economy and he’s such a smart businessman he knows how to fix it.

But if his latest salvo is any indication of how well Romney understands the economy, Harvard Business School should demand that he give back his M.B.A.