There was always a massive contradiction – or one might say, a dishonest hypocrisy of stunning proportions – at the heart of Carly Fiorina's US Senate campaign. She touts herself as someone who can create jobs, but her record as the failed and fired CEO of Hewlett-Packard shows her to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to corporate destruction of American jobs.
Fiorina destroyed tens of thousands of jobs while CEO of HP between 1999 and 2005, many of which were shipped overseas. When she was excoriated for this, particularly by the Silicon Valley press during the severe dot-com bust of the early '00s, Fiorina responded by calling outsourcing “right-sourcing” and saying “there is no job that is America's god-given right anymore.” Her record is that of someone who got rich by destroying jobs – yet she now declares herself an advocate of job creation, even while opposing the federal stimulus, federal aid to states to hire teachers, and other programs that have been proven to create jobs.
That is not only a contradiction, it's also a big campaign liability that was just waiting for someone to exploit it. And that's exactly what Senator Barbara Boxer did in last night's debate. She opened with this line of attack:
So every time you really get past the surface, you see my opponent fighting for the billionaires, for the millionaires, for the companies who ship jobs overseas.
And it only got worse for Fiorina from there. One of the audience questions selected came from a Republican on the San Mateo Peninsula named Tom Watson, a retired HP employee. His question was:
Carly, while you up were at HP, you sent thousands of jobs offshore, you coined the phrase right shoring. Also, in a keynote speech in 2004, you said, “there is no job that is America's god-given right anymore.” Do you still feel that way? Or what are your plans to create jobs in California?
At this point, Fiorina could no longer hide from her past. But instead of accepting responsibility, she made it sound like it was others' fault for her own actions:
The truth is that California has higher-than-average unemployment rate because we are destroying jobs and others are fighting harder for our jobs. Texas is fighting harder for our jobs. So is North Carolina, Brazil, Guatemala, China, India, Russia, Poland. I know precisely why those jobs go. And I'll tell you why. Because China, for example, like Texas, like Brazil, gives companies huge tax credits. They help them cut through regulation.
Fiorina here is repeating the lie that California's job woes are created by overburdened companies seeking less regulations. In fact, as Jed Kolko of the PPIC showed in June, California doesn't really lose that many jobs to other states due to business relocation:
Rhetoric aside, California loses very few jobs to other states. Businesses rarely move either out of or into California and, on balance, the state loses only 11,000 jobs annually as a result of relocation-that's just 0.06 percent of California's 18 million jobs. Far more jobs are created and destroyed as a result of business expansion, contraction, formation, and closure than because of relocation.
What Kolko didn't add is that California also loses a lot of jobs when wealthy CEOs decide to fire their California workers to hire someone overseas so that the CEO and their allies can make more quarterly profit. Fiorina claims companies are forced into doing it, even though when Fiorina did it at HP, it nearly destroyed the company as its profits fell.
Boxer responded by hitting Fiorina hard on her record of mass layoffs and opposition to job creation policies, and obviously Fiorina felt rattled. Yet she felt the need to come back to the issue, digging her political grave deeper:
It's a shame that Barbara Boxer would use Hewlett-Packard, a treasure of California, one of the great companies in the world, whose employees work very hard and whose shareholders have benefited greatly from both my time at CEO and all of the hard work of the employees that I had the privilege to lead.
I'm sure this condescending and dismissive statement, where Fiorina ignores the damage she did, the lives she ruined, will go over well among the tens of thousands of hardworking HP employees she laid off.
From there, Boxer hit Fiorina extremely hard on the issues, to the point where Fiorina clearly began losing ground. By the end of the night, the debate had become a rout, with Fiorina thoroughly beaten.
Overall, the night was won by Boxer not just because she showed her progressive colors, but because of how effectively she exposed the contradiction at the heart of Fiorina's campaign. It's just not credible that someone who destroyed tens of thousands of California jobs, and who has opposed every federal effort to create new jobs, would somehow lead the creation of new jobs in California.
Instead the inescapable truth is that Fiorina is using her claims of supporting job creation as a cover for her true agenda, which is to promote further tax cuts for the rich and regulation cuts for large corporations, in order to enrich herself and her wealthy allies while the rest of the country suffers higher unemployment, more pollution, and less safe living standards.
Fiorina was exposed as a fraud by Barbara Boxer last night. Let's hope Californians get that message.
UPDATE: Others are making similar assessments, with the LA Times writing that:
For much of the hour-long debate, Boxer kept her opponent on the defensive by steering her answers into scathing critiques of Fiorina's record as chief executive at Hewlett-Packard, where she fired more than 30,000 workers before she was dismissed in 2005.