By Chris Daly
Here’s the text of a letter I submitted to the New York Times for publication yesterday. Since they have had 24 hours to act on it and have not contacted me, I am assuming that they are not going to use it. (Everyone makes mistakes.) So, I am posting it here:
TO THE EDITOR:
Re: “Tall Tales about Private Equity” (Op-ed, May 23):
Steven Rattner makes a valid point about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s track record of job creation while Mr. Romney was the head of Bain Capital. Mr. Rattner argues that Bain’s primary goal was to make money and that job creation was secondary. He notes that in the case of Bain’s involvement with Staples, Mr. Romney claims credit for all of the 89,000 jobs Staples had by 2010, rather than the 42,000 employees it had when Mr. Romney left Bain in 1998.
From another point of view, even the 42,000 figure may be too high, because it is not a net figure. Staples is a big-box office supply chain whose success led indirectly to the closing of some uncounted number of small stationery shops, all of which once had employees too. When the loss of those jobs is reckoned against the gains at Staples, the net number of jobs gained in that retail field is probably much lower.
–CHRISTOPHER B. DALY
Boston, May 23, 2012
By Chris Daly
This just in: The number of jobs for reporters in U.S. newspapers has probably bottomed out. That’s one takeaway from the latest survey of the country’s newsrooms released by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The ASNE, which has been meeting in Washington and played host to both Obama and Romney (on different days!), conducts an annual survey of who is working in the newsroom.
Here’s a key passage (imho):
Despite this year’s loss in newsroom positions, the decline in jobs that began in 2006-07 appears to be stabilizing. The loss this year is not as drastic as the losses between 2007 and 2010.
So, if things are no longer getting worse, does that mean that they are getting better?
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.