Romney hits Obama on 'productivity' slam
May 24th, 2012
09:15 AM ET
3 years ago

Romney hits Obama on 'productivity' slam

(CNN) – Mitt Romney took his Democratic rival to task Thursday, saying a remark from President Barack Obama's stump speech revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of the term "productivity."

President Barack Obama made the quip at a campaign event in Denver, where he was campaigning Wednesday after speaking at the commencement ceremony of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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"There was a woman in Iowa who shared her story of financial struggles, and [Romney] gave her an answer right out of an economic textbook," Obama said Wednesday. "He said, 'Our productivity equals our income.' And the notion was that somehow the reason people can't pay their bills is because they're not working hard enough. If they got more productive, suddenly their incomes would go up."

Obama was referencing remarks Romney made in Iowa ahead of the state's GOP presidential caucuses. Speaking in Mason City in December, Romney was answering a question from a woman who had lost her job in Utah and moved to Iowa for work.

In his response, Romney extolled the hardworking nature of Americans while explaining how competition between states could lower costs and create jobs.

"What happens with competition is we find ways to do the same thing at lower cost, with better quality, and we can produce more and more things. The term is called 'productivity," Romney explained.

He continued, "America has the highest output per person in the world. We make more stuff and service per person than anywhere else in the world, and that's a good thing. Because, by the way, our productivity equals our income. If you don't make very much stuff, you don't get much income. We have the highest income per person in the world."

Obama, in his campaign speech, said that answer underscored Romney's detachment from hard working Americans.

"Those of us who've spent time in the real world know that the problem isn't that the American people aren't productive enough - you've been working harder than ever," Obama told the crowd in Denver.

In his interview Thursday, Romney said that quip revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of economics on the president's part.

"Well, I'm afraid he doesn't understand what the word productivity means," Romney said on "Fox and Friends." "Gosh, this is quite a revelation if you have the president of the United States that doesn't understand the productivity is a measure of output per person in the nation as a whole and is driven by such things as the level of automation in the society, the extent to which government encourages output and production."

Romney went on to assert that Americans worked harder than workers in other developed counties, including Germany and Japan.

"We're a hard working people," Romney said. "I'm amazed he doesn't understand what productivity means!"

Asked if he agreed with a statement conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh made yesterday that Obama is going to run a campaign against capitalism, Romney said he did.

"It certainly sounds like that's what he's doing," Romney said. "There's no question but that he's attacking capitalism, in part because I think he doesn't understand how the free economy works. He's never had job in the free economy – neither has Vice President Biden. They've spent their lives as either community organizers or member of the political class and frankly the American people understand that free economy and free enterprise is tough – it's hard work."

Romney went on to defend his time as a private equity executive, saying Democratic attacks on Bain Capital for bankrupting companies and laying off workers ignored the company's successes.

"If all the president wants to do is talk about the failures, why he's misrepresenting the nature of free enterprise," Romney said.

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

Also see:

Obama campaign expands Bain attack and general election ad buys

Poll: Romney takes lead in Florida

Palin endorses Utah's Hatch in Senate race

Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama


Filed under: Iowa • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Obama, in his campaign speech, said that answer underscored Romney's detachment from hard working Americans.
    ------------–
    Read the article because it contains the essential text of what each said. It even includes Mitt Romney and the Republican's ongoing character assassination on Fox this morning mocking Pres. Obama as someone who does not understand anything, not even the meaning of simple English words and phrases.

    I don't know about you, but I find such attacks as mean, ugly juvenile,, and something that I do not believe should be coming out of the mouth of the POTUS. Pres. Obama's analysis of Romney's original remark was spot on. Pres. Obama exposed the misleading remark for what it was, an attempt to confuse voters into thinking that deregulation of everything will create more jobs. NO. Deregulation only creates dangers to consumers, and creates profits for owners.

    May 24, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  2. Dave

    Lets go there. PRODUCTIVITY, Job BOOM in Ohio, 50, 000 openings, Mitt??? Mitt???? Ok, housing Market has a Booming 343,000 sales, which Drives up Housing Prices, Mitt??? Mitt?? How bout YOURE kinda Productivity, Lets SHUT DOWN FACTORIES & RAPE PEOPLE OF THEIR PENSIONS!!! Mitt??? Mitt???? MIttt????

    May 24, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  3. Lolo

    Yea right Mittens. Is that why all of the jobs are being shipped overseas? Is that why your pockets are sagging with wealth from ripping off American workers? Please show me your cayman accounts, tax returns, birth certificate and your record at Bain. I will not believe anything that comes out of your mouth until you show proof of anything about you. You can not be president hiding behind falsehoods. Your party may not care that everything you say is a lie, but the rest of America does and we will not be bought with your elitist attitude that it is your time to be president because you are rich and have so called economic experience. Like the GOP said they just need someone to sign the bills and you are the puppet of their choice.

    May 24, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  4. thinkifyoucan

    I think Mitt is misrepresenting the complexity of a free market and how the economy truely works. First, the better efficiency aspect of productivity will put people out of work. Time is money, and that is why so many companies outsource to China and S. America for production. Furthermore, you can have the best productivity in the world but the results won't matter if those rates do not match the demand for the product. Lastly, what does it matter if you have a product to sell if the people who would buy it are unemployed/under-employed and can not afford to buy the product. Meanwhile, investments don't produce anything other than interest and serve only to supply companies with cash with which they profit share back to stockholders. The truth is that Mitt doesn't get it, or he can't sell it to his support so he has to hide behind half truths and say the President doesn't get it. The wealthy need a robust middle class. If the middle class falters too much, they upper class will eventually falter as well, except they only have to move their money offshore and invest in foreign markets where there isn't a need for a middle class or the middle class is so cheap compared to the American worker it doesn't matter.

    The wealthy invest in the production of products, the middle class does the work to make the product and in turn, buys the products. Their money in turn is used to pay the portion of the middle class enough to keep the machine running while the rest goes to the wealthy to sit or invest in new/improved products.

    May 24, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. Fair is Fair

    Obama understands NOTHING about the economy. Just like the last democrat president economic phenom, Jimmy Carter. He'd probably fail a correspondence course on operating a lemonade stand.

    May 24, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Mittens promised if elected, he would bring unemployment down to 6%. According to most projection and reports, if we stay with our president, unemployment will be 5.5%. Mittens might make a good candidate if we were living in the 1980's, but I doubt it.

    May 24, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. NCollins1982

    Does Romney really know what is hard work? I doubt it! "Gosh, this is quite a revelation if you have the president of the United States that doesn't understand the productivity is a measure of output per person in the nation as a whole and is driven by such things as the level of automation in the society, the extent to which government encourages output and production." Wow, Williard, textbook jargon. Why do you think Bain and companies outsource to other countries? Cheap Labor! Working 12 to 16 hour days for pennies. The American people get it, Williard. You don't!!!!

    May 24, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  8. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE/ConservaFASCISTS

    "Because, by the way, our productivity equals our income. "
    ------------------------------–
    I rest my case. The man is way too out of touch. Where the hell has he been for the last 10 years? Wages have been stagnant prior to the president coming into office. I'd like to know where Willard is getting this data from.

    May 24, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. max33333444555

    I dont think obama didnt understand what productivity meant. I think he assumed that most americans wouldnt know what it meant....

    May 24, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. Anthony

    "Well, I'm afraid he doesn't understand what the word productivity means," Romney said on "Fox and Friends." "Gosh, this is quite a revelation if you have the president of the United States that doesn't understand the productivity is a measure of output per person in the nation as a whole and is driven by such things as the level of automation in the society, the extent to which government encourages output and production."

    Romney's explanation will go right over the heads of most Tea Partiers. But people will get the part about automation. The nation as a whole will be more productive (producing more goods and services) if automation (meaning machine) replaces workers. The problem is that workers will not get the benefit of increase productivity, because they are out of jobs.

    May 24, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. Teacher

    I believe President Obama taught constitutional law for a time. Last I checked, being a professor was a job in the 'free economy.'

    May 24, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. Molly

    Romney has been and will remain a thief! He does not believe in anything but $.
    OBAMA 2012!

    May 24, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  13. Nobama

    When Bain Capital comes to look at a company to see if it can help, Bain does it in a way that a doctor looks at a patient!!!

    Sometimes, patients are cured. Sometimes, patients die!!

    You can't accuse doctors of killing patients if there is no cure!!!!

    May 24, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  14. Sniffit

    ""What happens with competition is we find ways to do the same thing at lower cost, with better quality, and we can produce more and more things. The term is called 'productivity," "

    Republicans and their plutocratic nonsense are the last people to be talking about encouraging competition. Their policies are designed to create and nurture uber-powerful oligarchies. They'd wipe their flat white butts with the Clayton Antitrust Act if they could. $4B in subsidies to Big Oil while they report record profits during a 100-year-storm sized recession isn't "fostering competition"...nor is opening up insurance across state lines so that giant insurers can usurp market share from smaller ones...nor is protecting giant financial institutions from regulation designed to prevent them from becoming "too big to fail." What they truly want is a Corporate States of America that rules globally by financial fiat and enforces its rule through a federal gov't that has been reduced to nothing more than the figurehead for the military industrial complex.

    May 24, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Penobscot

    Obama's spent time in the real world? How do you figure, Obama?

    People have paid for Obama's entire life. What a moocher. And he thinks that's the real world.

    May 24, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  16. Sniffit

    "Romney went on to assert that Americans worked harder than workers in other developed counties, including Germany and Japan."

    Not by choice, I can assure you. Our quality of life and economic mobility suffer compared to many many European nations that are doing just fine. But let's not talk about facts...let's just open up to page 3 in our 3rd grade Nationalism textbooks.

    May 24, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  17. Ronda in Houston,TX

    What does Romney know about productivity? Oh wait, he can read a balance sheet and he was productive in firiing hundreds of Americans @ Bain.

    May 24, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  18. Bill, NY

    What would really help the economy is people like Mr. Romney being a little(just a little)less greedy and stop dismantling companies and sending jobs overseas. Mr. Romney and his ilk seem to be in a competition to see who can garner the most wealth at the expense of others.

    May 24, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Marie MD

    Hey bishop, you are sounding really stuoid and there is NOT single thing you said that can't be challenged. I guess we need to ask employees in China and India about zyour productivity of jobs. Of course we have to mention bain. Your overseas money came from playing Russian roulette with other people's money and making more for yourself whether the companies won and yiu bankrupted them.
    BTW, its haddock enough to get people to come to work do yiu know how hard it ismto organize folks who are volunteers or get paid pennies as Hellers in community organizing?

    May 24, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  20. Max

    Confusing!

    Romney is just as confusing as he is flip-flopping. This is the mar of a confused person. Does anyone really understand what he tries to explain here? Is this another one of his etch-a-sketch piece???

    Isn't this disturbingly confusing?

    May 24, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. Independant Texan

    Let`s see the FIGURES-– net jobs he created ( and not temps) under his watch at Bain Capital.

    May 24, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  22. 1twinsfan

    "Hi Mitt, how was work today?" Ann
    "Great! I bought a factory that makes something, sold it off in chunks and laid off 600 people making $28 million. I had a very Productive day." Mitt

    May 24, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  23. Greg

    What Romney doesn't understand is that people have been being more productive over the years but their economic gains hasn't risen. Who is benifitting from all that increased productivity? Romney doesn't want to answer that question.

    May 24, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  24. Four and The Door

    I don't blame Obama for not understanding economics. He has no background to know really what happens inside of American business. He has no way to really know about business plans, the forces that drive American businesses to succeed or the things that get in the way of business and economic success. And jobs. It's not his fault. But it is his reality and he will do no better going forward than he has done up to now. Because he does not even understand why the things he did in 2009 and 2010 didn't work. And this prevents him from coming up with a plan forward.

    Fortunately Mitt Romney does understand the forces of economics an what those things are that make companies effective and successful. And fortunately it is 2012 and he will be the Republican nominee. We did well.

    Romney 2012

    May 24, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  25. Durundal

    As an Economist, and someone who has had experience in both public and private sectors, this man's manipulative monologues are not grounded on any true understanding of how the economy works. Capitalism is not about being a corporate raider and using the backs of others as steps- that kind of thing is an unfortunate side effect of a shifting market, but is about as mainstream capitalistic as a man with a foot fetish is in polite society. And productivity does not mean income ESPECIALLY AT THE SOCIETAL LEVEL. Productivity is a function of labor,capital equipment, and a whole host of societal factors and does not necessarily trickle down (much less if it does, it does not pool evenly). This man comes off as nothing more than a pompous richboy condescending to the masses with his insipid drivel

    May 24, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
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