The Quarter Billionaire’s $9 Jobs

Fairly early in Mitt’s speech last night he said this:

But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future.

It is not what we were promised.


It’s not just what we wanted. It’s not just what we expected.

It’s what Americans deserved.

You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you’re an American and you don’t quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.

But driving home late from that second job, or standing there watching the gas pump hit 50 dollars and still going, when the realtor told you that to sell your house you’d have to take a big loss, in those moments you knew that this just wasn’t right.

But what could you do? Except work harder, do with less, try to stay optimistic. Hug your kids a little longer; maybe spend a little more time praying that tomorrow would be a better day. [my emphasis]

The passage is fundamentally important to the logic of the speech–and indeed, Mitt’s entire campaign–both because it pretends Mitt understands the struggles of average people and because it suggests Obama failed to deliver on Hope and Change.

And at the core of the passage are $9 jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.

Which is funny, because just a few hours earlier, the Founder of Staples, Thomas Stemberg, bragged about Mitt’s role in this:

The truth is Mitt was not a typical investor. He was a true partner. Where some saw an unproven new business, he saw a store that could save people money. He recognized that efficiency creates consumer value. He never looked at Staples as merely a financial investment. He saw the engine of prosperity it could become.

Today Staples employs nearly 90,000 people. It has over 2,000 stores. Over 50 distribution centers.

The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples EasyTech Associate is $8.89. The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples Sales Associate is $8.54.

Those jobs Mitt talked about as a symbol of America’s failed promise, the ones that don’t pay a living wage? That’s what Mitt’s campaign boasted about last night as his idea of an “engine of prosperity.”

And it was an engine of prosperity, for Mitt, for Stemberg. Mitt’s worth at least $250 million. Stemberg is reportedly worth $202 million. And they got that money by running an engine of prosperity that relies on workers who are Mitt’s own example of the failure of the American dream. “This just wasn’t right,” Mitt said himself. (Not to mention that some of the steel jobs Mitt destroyed probably were $22.50 an hour jobs, with benefits.)

And look at the solution Mitt imagines for these Americans in the dead-end jobs he created. Not joining a union, the historically proven way to improve dead-end jobs. But work harder, cut back on expenses.


And, vote for Mitt Romney, the guy who destroyed those $22.50 an hour jobs and replaced them with $9 an hour ones.

The RNC spent a lot of time this week appealing to small business owners. Indeed, those small business owners are the customers whose prosperity Stemberg imagines Staples serving.

But to a large and increasing number of American people, Mitt’s actually arguing that he should be President so he can solve the problem he got phenomenally rich by causing in the first place.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

23 replies
  1. JTMinIA says:

    This wonderful post really annoys me. And not just for the truths that were provided. It annoys me because I know that there’s no chance that these truths will ever reach the average voter via the typical media.

    But thanks anyway.

  2. greg brown says:

    And after four years of Romney and Republicans, when the $9 jobs are $6 jobs, what will people do then? Take on a third job, a fourth job? Sooner or later people will run smack into the limit of 24 hours in a day. Then they will be unable to support their families no matter how hard they try. It will be impossible. But while they reach the limits of the possible, the Romney’s of the world will continue to accumulate wealth by setting the rules in their favor.

    It is not the question “are you better off than you were four years go?” It is the fact, unless you are one of the 1% like Romney, you will be far worse off in four years if Republicans are given control of the federal government.

  3. rosalind says:

    i’ll have to double-check, but i swore i woke up to a guest on Stephanie Miller’s show talking about low wage workers, like “the ones who make $18/$20 an hour at Staples.”

  4. allan says:

    But you’re leaving out the $585/hour jobs at the white-shoe law firms that design generation-skipping trusts, and the $150/hour jobs at the PR firms that try to put a positive spin on private equity firms.

  5. greengiant says:

    Nothing but putrid slime could come out of the mouth of that sewer hedge fund denizen. Once Romney convinced the right that he could pay 13 per cent or less in taxes while they pay 3 or 4 times higher marginal tax rate, all lies are on the table for the right’s consumption.
    Stupid is as stupid does.

  6. Brindle says:

    So, Obama must be campaigning on raising the minimum wage? …Not.
    Obama also is comfortable with most Americans living from paycheck to paycheck, he’ll just round off a few of the more brutal edges. Obama and Mitt are of the same class and peer group, not a great deal of daylight between them.

  7. Mike says:

    Unfortunately, the entry level jobs, have become career positions for too many people. This is a great job for someone in high school, terrible for a college grad.

  8. joanneleon says:

    All true but who are we kidding? This is going to be significantly different under a second term Obama? We hear the same kinds of things from Democrats praising the hard working Americans who work multiple jobs to make due, whose parents worked multiple jobs to make a better life for their children. They say the same kinds of things, saying that things should be better and that it “isn’t right” but they keep being owned by the very who do “outsource our jobs to China” and do undermine labor and drive down the cost of labor and quality of life in this country. Seriously, how does it help *anything* to single out the Republicans for these things? The answer is that it doesn’t. The reality is that both parties do this and one is only slightly better than the other and they are less obvious liars. As long as we keep pretending that only one side does this, and as long as we have only two parties to chose from (both of whom are owned) we get nowhere. We just keep hopping back and forth from one group of people who pretend to represent us to the other. This game could go on for a long time.

  9. Wapiti says:

    I think of Staples (and Office Depot, Office Max, etc) and I think of all of the small stationary stores that no longer exist. They might have been sole proprietorships, or employed a half dozen people. I think the big box stores are net job destroyers, not job creators.

    Were the small stores less efficient? Maybe from the merchant’s view. Not always from the consumers’ view. I have to drive several miles now to get paper goods.

  10. emptywheel says:

    @joanneleon: Agree with you entirely. Mitt’s solution, like Obama’s, is more trade deals. Obama’s less bad, but he is bad.

    All I’m trying to do here is make Mitt into a poster child for the kind of looter he is. Making what Mitt has done with his life toxic is one part of changing this.

  11. BSbafflesbrains says:

    @joanneleon: The 1%ers are happy to have Obama the clear “lesser of two evils”. They want a nominal D in the White House during the next wave of austerity and Mitt was always a loser for the R’s. Obama will continue his neoliberalism for four more years and the 99% will again pay for the growth of the 1%’s portfolios.

  12. BSbafflesbrains says:

    @harpie: The “new” low wage jobs force you to shop at the stores that are full of the cheap products made by the lower wage workers in China and elsewhere who took your high wage job.

  13. MadDog says:

    OT – Via Reuters, the 3rd US drone strike in Yemen this week:

    U.S. drone strike kills 8 suspected militants: Yemeni officials

    “Eight Islamist militants were killed by a U.S. drone strike on Friday in a remote part of Hadramout, a Yemeni official said, the third such strike in the eastern Yemeni province this week.

    Yemen’s defense ministry said on its website that eight al Qaeda members were killed in an air strike on their vehicle in the isolated, desert district of Hawra. The local official, who declined to be named, said it was a drone strike.

    The men were heavily armed, carrying machine-guns and explosives, the ministry said. The local official said the men were thought to have been on the way to carry out an attack.

    It was not possible to verify the details independently given the remoteness of the region…”

    In contradiction to what Blabbermouth Brennan says about “targeted” TADS – Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes, since no reports have publicly surfaced naming names, it must be that these US drone strikes are not Personality strikes, but instead are Signature strikes.

    You know, the ones used for any Military Aged Males (MAMs) doing jumping jacks out in the open.

  14. masaccio says:

    I imagine Marcy will explain the hypocrisy of the dems next week. I know I plan to write about it, assuming I get to watch any of it. Other members of my household aren’t very tolerant of idiocy of any political flavor.

  15. P J Evans says:

    Rmoney has outed his plans by referring to the US as a company.
    I think he believes he’s buying a company he can loot and drop when it’s stopped being profitable.

    I’d vote for the chair before I’d vote for him.

  16. Jimbo says:

    No, it won’t go on for a long time. Clinton handed bush a platform to launch America, and bush using republican dogma destroyed it. President Obama will rebuild what Clinton produced, and we hope this time if the American people get smart enough to repel the liars on the right, we can reattain our place in the world. If Americans listen to the lies, then no, it won’t go on a long time.

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