By Chris Daly
I am trying to resist the temptation to pile on Mitt Romney (Oh, all right: I am not trying very hard!).
When journalists assess his claims to be a job-creator through his work at Bain Capital, they need to dig a little. The important issue, of course, is whether Bain was a net job creator.
Take one case: Understandably, Romney is fond of citing his role in launching the office supply superstore chain Staples. His campaign boasts that Staples “created” 90,000 jobs (and sometimes 100,000 jobs). That may be true, although journalists should still check it. But even if true, it is not the whole story. Staples is what is sometimes called a “category killer.” That means that its success depends on — or at least results in — the elimination of a whole category of existing businesses. In the Staples case, the rise of all those superstores did not occur in a vacuum. Their growth came at the expense of many, many little mom&pop stationers that used to occupy storefronts in many downtown areas. Those independent small businesses are now almost completely gone from the American scene.
It’s the same process you see with Home Depot. As they grow, there go the little, local hardware stores that used to be everywhere. Same with WalMart and other “category killers.”
So, the question that journalists should pursue about Romney is: how many jobs were left after Staples wiped out the category known as the independent stationer?
Particularly in a party that venerates small businesses, that is a question that should have some political salience.