Jake Tapper is a little confused, and so am I. The White House supposedly abandoned the “saved or created” jobs metric because of its fantasy elements and prefers now to count jobs “funded” through Porkulus, an order that came from one of the chief economists in the White House, Peter Orszag. So why did Obama claim to a Nashua, New Hampshire audience on Tuesday that he had “saved or created” two million jobs?
“Now, if you hear some of the critics, they’ll say, well, the Recovery Act, I don’t know if that’s really worked, because we still have high unemployment,” the president said. “But what they fail to understand is that every economist, from the left and the right, has said, because of the Recovery Act, what we’ve started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost. The problem is, 7 million jobs were lost during the course of this recession.”
Every economist? A good rule of thumb to consider the truthfulness of any speaker is his use of the terms always, never, none, all, and every. Those terms usually provide a key for a lie or a gap in knowledge — and Tapper points out the truth:
At the end of November, Congressional Budget office Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote that because of the stimulus bill “in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, an additional 600,000 to 1.6 million people were employed in the United States..”
But clearly other economists are much more skeptical, including Dan Mitchell at the libertarian Cato Institute, and J.D. Foster at The Heritage Foundation.
Some economists say the whole notion of counting “saved or created” jobs is impossible. Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz told ProPublica that trying to count how many jobs have been saved or created is “a silly exercise.”
And in fact, in December the Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag issued a directive scrapping the whole “saved or created” construct.
Why is the “saved or created” meme “a silly exercise”? Economic policies will get judged on whether they promote growth in both production and jobs. On that metric, Obama flopped in his first year. Prior to the 2007 recession, the US started on the path of both production and job growth within 12 months of the start of the recession. Obama took office in the 13th month, three months after a financial collapse. Twelve months later, we’re still shedding jobs with no end in sight. That’s the real measure of economic policy, and so far, Obama’s failing.
The White House only documented 650,000 jobs supposedly saved or created — and that was when the construct collapsed. The counts included jobs that were never at risk in the first place, double-counted some jobs, counted jobs that had yet to be created, and so on. The most infamous of these claims involved a single lawnmower that supposedly saved or created 50 jobs. In the end, even the man in charge of the website that proclaimed these supposed victories admitted that he could not certify any of the data at Recovery.gov last November — which is why Orszag told his OMB staff to stop claiming jobs “saved or created.”
Apparently, that memo didn’t get to Obama, or more likely, Obama simply likes to make claims that are flat-out false, and the use of “every” is a the key to understanding that. “Every economist” doesn’t buy the 2 million saved or created claim; in fact, not every economist in his own administration would support that claim, because it isn’t true, and Obama knows it.