President Barack Obama's reelection campaign seized on a Washington Post report that highlights Bain Capital's investment in companies that outsourced jobs under Mitt Romney's leadership. The article published on Thursday has stimulated a potent new angle to stories attacking the presumptive Republican presidential candidate's record at Bain.
The Obama campaign, which has already attacked Romney on the issue of outsourcing, branded the former Massachusetts governor as a potential "Outsourcer-in-Chief" in a conference call with reporters on Friday.
"Nothing in [Romney's] background suggests that he would be the advocate for workers and American jobs," said Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod. "Nor does it suggest that he would in fact stand up to China or any other country on behalf of American workers."
"It's particularly egregious coming on a day when Gov. Romney began running an ad in Ohio promising to stand up to China -- demanding a level playing field for our businesses and workers -- when it turns out that his companies were actively involved in shipping jobs to China and India."
Romney's campaign refuted the contents of the Post article on Friday, asserting that the piece does not distinguish between domestic outsourcing and offshoring, in which jobs are shipped overseas.
"This is a fundamentally flawed story that does not differentiate between domestic outsourcing versus offshoring nor versus work done overseas to support U.S. exports. Mitt Romney spent 25 years in the real-world economy, so he understands why jobs come and they go," said Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "As president, he will implement policies that make it easier and more attractive for companies to create jobs here at home. President Obama's attacks on profit and job creators make it less attractive to create jobs in the U.S."
The president has struggled to curtail the outsourcing of jobs under his watch. Bloomberg News reported last year that seven corporations represented on Obama's advisory council for jobs and competitiveness "almost doubled the cumulative amounts they've reinvested overseas" over a period of four years, underscoring the reality that large companies continue to favor investments in emerging markets overseas where economic growth rates provide better opportunities.
To combat this, Obama during his State of the Union address earlier this year outlined a plan to strip incentives for companies that move jobs overseas and to encourage them instead to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S.
Leo Hindery Jr., managing partner of private equity fund InterMedia Partners, disputed the Romney campaign's response in the OFA conference call, noting that the Post article was filled with examples of offshoring.
"For those of us who looked at that story today, there's a bright line between offshoring American jobs -- that's moving them outside of this country -- and outsourcing them," said Hindery. "Bain was a company that preponderantly offshored jobs. And even in those where it outsourced domestically, it did so into lower-cost settings at the expense of workers and their union organizers."
The discourse on outsourcing and offshoring could also provide a renewed focus on Romney's recruitment of N. Gregory Mankiw, a fervent defender of outsourcing, as one of his top economic advisers. While his former company's record on outsourcing as reported by the Post is telling, the team with which Romney surrounds himself raises more pointed questions about the tactics he says he would employ to curb investment in jobs overseas.
Mankiw is best remembered for the brouhaha he ignited in 2004, when amidst a flailing economy he called outsourcing "a plus for the economy in the long run" while serving as chairman of President George W. Bush's Council Of Economic Advisers.
"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," Mankiw said at the time. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past and that's a good thing." The comments were tied to the annual Economic Report of the President that, under Bush's signature, made the case for taking advantage of goods and services that are produced more cheaply abroad.
Romney's chief economic adviser, R. Glenn Hubbard, articulated an argument similar to Mankiw's in a 2004 Financial Times article titled "Outsourcing is Good for America." It's a peculiar contradiction to one of Romney's central talking points on the trail, where he has repeatedly campaigned on a promise to bring jobs back to the United States, and has made the case that American workers should not lose manufacturing jobs to the likes of China.
The Romney campaign did not immediately return a request for comment when asked by The Huffington Post about Mankiw's prior support for outsourcing U.S. jobs.