In May, Mitt Romney responded to a modest jobs report showing the economy had created 115,000 jobs in April by saying that the U.S. should really be creating almost five times more. “We should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 jobs created per month. This is way, way, way off from what should happen in a normal recovery,” Romney told Fox News.
The press immediately jumped on his target of 500,000 jobs per month, noting that it was highly unrealistic. The economy had not created that many jobs in a single month since 1984, and just 10 times since 1950, mostly due to special circumstances like census hiring or strikers returning to work. “Every president makes statements as a candidate that he later comes to regret once he is in the White House. He finds himself held to a standard that sounded good on the campaign trail, but may not be realistic in office … If Mitt Romney is elected this fall, he may look back at his comment Friday as one of those,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker wrote at the time of the jobs target.
Indeed, Romney quickly abandoned the number. Now, responding to today’s jobs report, Romney has set a new target. He slashed the old number in half and is now aiming to create 250,000 a month, or 12 million jobs in his first term. It’s a far more reasonable goal than his previous one in that it’s at least theoretically attainable, but it’s still very ambitious. Bill Clinton presided over one of the biggest economic expansions in history and only saw 11.5 million jobs created during his first term. And Clinton comes closest to Romney’s goal. Ronald Reagan, Romney’s free-market icon, created only 5.3 million jobs in his first term, and 16 million over two terms, when Romney would presumably be shooting for 24 million. Lyndon Johnson, the next biggest job creator going back to Harry Truman in the 1940s, according to the Wall Street Journal, created 11.9 million jobs — about Romney’s goal — but over his six years as president.
Using the Atlanta Fed’s job calculator to get a rough estimate of what Romney’s plan would do to the unemployment rate, we see that consistent job creation at 250,000 per month over the 48 months would drive unemployment down to 3.4 percent, a rate we haven’t seen in over 40 years. (Clinton hit a low of 4.0 percent in 2000.)
Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard put out a white paper yesterday explaining the goal, but as the Huffington Post’s Jon Ward notes, “The paper was less actuarial work with raw data and specific numbers, however, and more of an economic philosophy argument based largely on the premise that simply by undoing much of what President Obama has done since taking office, the economy would recover at a faster pace than it has been from the recession that began in late 2008.”
Still, the paper states that “history shows that a recovery rooted in policies contained in the Romney plan will create about 12 million jobs in the first term of a Romney presidency.” Notably, the paper does not provide much historical evidence to support this claim, and where it does look at history, it focuses on unemployment rates, not job creation numbers.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, August 3, 2012
It’s no secret that the presidential election will be decided by the state of the economy and which candidate has a better plan for creating jobs. So, toward that end, consider a few relevant numbers:
+ 1.4 million to 3.3 million—that’s how many jobs were created or saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
+ 1.9 million—that’s the number of new jobs the American Jobs Act, unveiled by President Obama in September 2011, would create, according to Mark Zandi of Moody’s.
- 4.1 million—that’s how many jobs Paul Ryan’s budget, which Mitt Romney called “an excellent piece of work,” would eliminate through 2014, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
+11.5 million—that’s how many jobs Romney claimed last September he would create in the first term of his administration. But true to form, Romney never said how he would create that many jobs, nor has any reputable economist backed up his claim. “Nowhere in the 160 page plan could I find a stated job creation number,” wrote Rebecca Thiess of EPI. “The math doesn’t just appear to be fuzzy—it appears to be nonexistent.” Added David Madland of the Center for American Progress: “It is a plan from the Republican candidate for president designed to maximize corporate profits. What it doesn’t do is help the middle class or create jobs.” Even the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal called Romney’s fifty-nine-point economic tome “surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament.”
Following last month’s disappointing jobs report, Romney offered six specific ideas to lift the flagging economy. Reported Greg Sargent:
He said he would tap our energy resources to “put a lot of people to work in the energy sector.” He said he’d repeal Obamacare, which is “scaring small businesses from hiring.” He said he’d balance the budget so people know “investing in America is going to yield a return in dollars worth something.” He vowed to “open up new markets in American trade.” He said he’d revamp the National Labor Relations Board and lower tax rates on employers, both of which would make it easier to hire people.
Sargent asked a few top economists whether Romney’s ideas would actually create jobs. “On net, all of these policies would do more harm in the short term,” responded Mark Hopkins, a senior adviser at Moody’s Analytics. “If we implemented all of his policies, it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower.”
Hopkins’s quote might just be the most important one of the campaign so far. Every story about the candidates’ positions on the economy should mention this essential dynamic: Obama has a jobs plan. Romney doesn’t. In fact, according to economists, Romney’s prescriptions for the economy would only make a bad situation significantly worse.
By: Ari Berman, The Nation, June 12, 2012
The Republicans’ 2012 election strategy is perversely brilliant: Sabotage President Obama’s job-creation efforts, then blame him for the wreckage.
This strategy was in action the other day, when Mitt Romney assailed Obama on the stump. Romney said that “with America in crisis, with 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work, he hasn’t put forth a plan to get us working again.”
Romney conveniently omitted the fact that Obama put forth such a plan last autumn. The American Jobs Act would have put as many as two million construction workers, cops, teachers, and firefighters back to work — so said economic forecasters — if only congressional Republicans hadn’t dynamited it.
Yes, sabotage was indeed required. Republicans knew their prospects for beating Obama would be damaged if they signed on to a plan that got more Americans working again. They’re far too invested in economic misery to let that happen. Working with Obama on job creation is not their top priority; as Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell candidly remarked in 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Fortunately for the GOP, voters typically pay scant attention to the parliamentary play-by-play in Washington. Fortunately for the GOP, we are a nation of amnesiacs. What happened last autumn, when Senate Republicans successfully blocked debate on the jobs plan, is ancient history. That episode, yet another example of obstruction by filibuster, has vanished down the Orwellian memory hole — which allows Romney to pretend the bill never existed.
The 2012 election may be a cliff-hanger, much like 2000 and 2004, and the sabotage strategy just may be clever enough to work.
The GOP saboteurs deserve a share of the blame for our stalled economy, but politics is a shorthand business — and the shorthand is that presidents take the hit when times are tough. When the latest jobs report tallied only 69,000 new jobs during May and put the jobless rate at 8.2 percent, Obama got the brunt of the blame. People tend to believe the maxim that sat on Harry S. Truman’s desk — “The buck stops here” — even though power is widely dispersed in a system that cannot function without at least a modicum of bipartisan comity.
By: Dick Polman, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 10, 2012
Why don’t Democrats just say it? They really believe in active government and think it does good and valuable things. One of those valuable things is that government creates jobs — yes, really — and also the conditions under which more jobs can be created.
You probably read that and thought: But don’t Democrats and liberals say this all the time? Actually, the answer is no. It’s Republicans and conservatives who usually say that Democrats and liberals believe in government. Progressive politicians often respond by apologizing for their view of government, or qualifying it, or shifting as fast as the speed of light from mumbled support for government to robust affirmations of their faith in the private sector.
This is beginning to change, but not fast enough. And the events of recent weeks suggest that if progressives do not speak out plainly on behalf of government, they will be disadvantaged throughout the election-year debate. Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election owed to many factors, including his overwhelming financial edge. But he was also helped by the continuing power of the conservative anti-government idea in our discourse. An energetic argument on one side will be defeated only by an energetic argument on the other.
The case for government’s role in our country’s growth and financial success goes back to the very beginning. One of the reasons I wrote my book “Our Divided Political Heart” was to show that, from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay forward, farsighted American leaders understood that action by the federal government was essential to ensuring the country’s prosperity, developing our economy, promoting the arts and sciences and building large projects: the roads and canals, and later, under Abraham Lincoln, the institutions of higher learning, that bound a growing nation together.
Both Clay and Lincoln battled those who used states’ rights slogans to crimp federal authority and who tried to use the Constitution to handcuff anyone who would use the federal government creatively. Both read the Constitution’s commerce clause as Franklin Roosevelt and progressives who followed him did, as permitting federal action to serve the common good. A belief in government’s constructive capacities is not some recent ultra-liberal invention.
Decades of anti-government rhetoric have made liberals wary of claiming their legacy as supporters of the state’s positive role. That’s why they have had so much trouble making the case for President Obama’s stimulus program passed by Congress in 2009. It ought to be perfectly obvious: When the private sector is no longer investing, the economy will spin downward unless the government takes on the task of investing. And such investments — in transportation and clean energy, refurbished schools and the education of the next generation — can prime future growth.
Yet the drumbeat of propaganda against government has made it impossible for the plain truth about the stimulus to break through. It was thus salutary that Douglas Elmendorf, the widely respected director of the Congressional Budget Office, told a congressional hearing last week that 80 percent of economic experts surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business agreed that the stimulus got the unemployment rate lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise. Only 4 percent disagreed. The stimulus, CBO concluded, added as many as 3.3 million jobs during the second quarter of 2010, and it may have kept us from lapsing back into recession.
So when conservatives say, as they regularly do, that “government doesn’t create jobs,” the riposte should be quick and emphatic: “Yes it has, and yes, it does!”
Indeed, our unemployment rate is higher today than it should be because conservatives blocked additional federal spending to prevent layoffs by state and local governments — and because progressives, including Obama, took too long to propose more federal help. Obama’s jobs program would be a step in the right direction, and he’s right to tout it now. But he should have pushed for a bigger stimulus from the beginning. The anti-government disposition has so much power that Democrats and moderate Republicans allowed themselves to be intimidated into keeping it too small.
Let’s turn Ronald Reagan’s declaration on its head: Opposition to government isn’t the solution. Opposition to government was and remains the problem. It is past time that we affirm government’s ability to heal the economy, and its responsibility for doing so.
By: E’ J’ Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 10, 2012
The Obama campaign has been criticizing Mitt Romney’s record as Massachusetts governor, and the presumptive Republican nominee is now responding with an ad of his own. Romney certainly has a right (and, from a strategic standpoint, an obligation) to rebut his opponent’s attacks, but the defense he offers is a textbook demonstration of how to make something out of nothing.
The spot makes three specific boasts about Romney’s term as governor, which ran from 2003 to 2007. The first involves job creation:
“As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney had the best jobs record in a decade.”
That sounds impressive, but look a little closer. In the decade before Romney’s tenure, Massachusetts had three other governors, all Republicans. One of them, Bill Weld, clearly had a better jobs record than him. When Weld came to office in January 1991, the state’s economy really was in a freefall. A major Boston-based bank, the Bank of New England, had just failed and the jobless rate was 7.4 percent and climbing fast. Within a few months it reached 9.7 percent, then began falling as the economy – in the state and nationally – revived. Weld left office at the end of July ’97 (to pursue an ill-fated bid to become ambassador to Mexico) with the jobless rate at just 4.1 percent.
His successor, Paul Cellucci, oversaw a further decline, with the rate plummeting to just above 2 percent in 2000. But the economy began sagging, and the number started to rise again. On April 10, 2001, he resigned to become George W. Bush’s ambassador to Canada. If you use the data from March ’01, Cellucci’s last full month on the job, he left the state with a jobless rate of 3.1 percent. If you use the April ’01 data, the figure was 3.3 percent. Either way, it’s comparable to the 0.9 percent drop that Romney presided over from ’03 to ’07.
The only governor in the decade before Romney’s arrival with a clearly worse jobs record was his immediate successor, Jane Swift, who served as acting governor from April ’01 to January ’03. During that time, unemployment climbed to 5.6 percent, which is where it stood when Romney was sworn-in.
So what Romney’s “best governor in a decade” boast actually means is that he had a better jobs record than Cellucci and Swift. And the reality is that there wasn’t a dramatic difference between his jobs record and Cellucci’s. So really, Romney is just bragging that he was better than Swift, who served less than half a term.
Then there’s this:
“He balanced every budget without raising taxes.”
This is only true in a very literal sense. Romney didn’t raise the income or sales taxes, but his first budget did impose more than $500 million in new fees that directly hit middle class residents. At the time they were enacted, the National Conference of State Legislatures noted that no other state had relied so heavily on fees to balance its books. Not that this is news: Obama’s campaign has been playing up Romney’s fee spree, and his Republican opponents threw it in his face during both of his presidential runs.
The ad’s final claim is that Romney achieved balanced budgets “by bringing parties together to cut through gridlock.” Again, this means a lot less than it sounds like. A balanced budget is required in Massachusetts and the state’s legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic. The only way for Romney to meet his constitutional duties was to sign a balanced budget approved by Democrats.
What Romney is banking on, of course, is that swing voters aren’t aware of this context, or don’t care about it even if they are. His entire strategy depends on economic anxiety leading voters to look for reasons to throw out Obama and to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, even if those reasons aren’t logical. From that standpoint, this ad might work just fine.
By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, June 8, 2012