“Make Up Another Lie”: What To Do When A Talking Point Gets Taken Away
Every day for months, the attack on President Obama was the same: the unemployment rate is above 8 percent, so voters have no choice but to consider him a failure — no matter how severe an economic catastrophe he inherited.
This changed on Friday when recent gains pushed the jobless rate to 7.8 percent, the lowest rate in four years. Obama is now overseeing the best election-year improvement in unemployment figures since Reagan’s “Morning in America” re-election bid in 1984.
If you’re a Republican, what do you do? As it turns out, there are two schools of thought.
The first is, keep repeating the attack anyway, even though it’s no longer true. Restore Our Future, the Republican super PAC, expanded an ad buy this week in three swing states describing the jobless rate as “over 8 percent.” Karl Rove’s American Crossroads attack ad shows viewers an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, rather than the actual one.
Why let facts and good economic news get in the way of a perfectly good attack?
The second is the one adopted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: move the goalposts. The Republican presidential hopeful is now arguing, “[I]t looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent.” Ryan said the same thing this week.
Like far too much of Romney’s rhetoric, this is wildly misleading:
[The charge] assumes all things are equal in the labor force, when in fact it is constantly churning and evolving. In particular, besides the aftermath of the Great Recession, the composition of the labor force has been affected by the retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation.
Our colleagues at WonkBlog explored this issue earlier this year, showing that the peak of the labor force participation rate, or LFPR, was reached during the end of President Bill Clinton’s term and that since then it has been on a downward track…. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in March estimated that just over half of the post-1999 decline in the labor force participation rate was explained by long-running demographic patterns, such as the retirement of the baby boomers.
In other words, Romney/Ryan would have you believe the sharp improvement in the job market doesn’t count because of demographic trends. That’s marginally better than simply repeating false and out-of-date attacks, but there’s no reason to take the GOP rhetoric seriously.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 10, 2012