The Obama administration’s job numbers simply don’t add up
Ever since I stopped playing competitive water polo in college, I’ve struggled with my weight. In 1996, when I graduated high school and moved south to the Loveliest Village on the Plains, I was six feet tall and weighed 165 pounds. I left college in December of 2000 at six-foot-two and a solid 225 pounds, and trimmed down to about 210 in time to get married in July of 2004. Since then, however, given the sympathy weight that comes along with fatherhood as well as a slowing metabolism and an increasingly–and unfortunately–sedentary lifestyle, I’ve packed on about fifty pounds.
However, I don’t eat steak and eggs every day for breakfast, or fried chicken every day for lunch, or strombolis every night for dinner, so I figure that I may very well have saved myself an additional 60 or 70 pounds. Heck, I could be weighing in at 320, were it not for my incredible restraint!
How stupid does that sound? How incredibly ignorant is that? First, there is no possible way that I could even come close to empirically estimating just how many pounds I’ve “saved” by refusing to inhale a dozen doughnuts every morning. Second, no matter how many pounds I claim to “save” by exhibiting even a modicum of restraint, the best thing for me would be to start eating better than I do now and lace up the running shoes a few times each week, thus losing weight rather than maintaining a relatively unhealthy lifestyle.
But this is the sort of fuzzy math that the White House is applying to employment in the United States. As The Wall Street Journal points out, “saved or created”–the employment equivalent of me avoiding weight gain or actually losing weight–have become “magic words” in Washington, D.C.:
“Saved or created” has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs. His latest invocation came yesterday, when the president declared that the stimulus had already saved or created at least 150,000 American jobs — and announced he was ramping up some of the stimulus spending so he could “save or create” an additional 600,000 jobs this summer. These numbers come in the context of an earlier Obama promise that his recovery plan will “save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years.”
As the Journal points out, “the inability to measure Mr. Obama’s jobs formula is part of its attraction.” In reality, however, what the president and his flunkies are doing is the equivalent of Rosie O’Donnell or Michael Moore selling diet plans by arguing that refraining from injecting lard directly into their arteries, they have prevented themselves from getting any more porcine.
“If you think I’m disgustingly heavy now,” Moore or O’Donnell might say, “imagine how many more small animals and kitchen appliances could have been lost in my underboob had I not stopped chewing bacon like bubble gum!”
It doesn’t make any sense. More from the excellent Journal piece:
However dubious it may be as an economic measure, as a political formula “save or create” allows the president to invoke numbers that convey an illusion of precision. Harvard economist and former Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw calls it a “non-measurable metric.” And on his blog, he acknowledges the political attraction.
“The expression ‘create or save,’ which has been used regularly by the President and his economic team, is an act of political genius,” writes Mr. Mankiw. “You can measure how many jobs are created between two points in time. But there is no way to measure how many jobs are saved. Even if things get much, much worse, the President can say that there would have been 4 million fewer jobs without the stimulus.”
Mr. Obama’s comments yesterday are a perfect illustration of just such a claim. In the months since Congress approved the stimulus, our economy has lost nearly 1.6 million jobs and unemployment has hit 9.4%. Invoke the magic words, however, and — presto! — you have the president claiming he has “saved or created” 150,000 jobs. It all makes for a much nicer spin, and helps you forget this is the same team that only a few months ago promised us that passing the stimulus would prevent unemployment from rising over 8%.
Every once in a while, at family gatherings and weddings and such, my father will remind me that his side of my family has a history of heart disease, that at 67 years of age he has outlived pretty much any male figure in that branch of my family tree. If I were to tell him that, “it’s okay, dad, because I’ve avoided being drafted as an offensive tackle because I show enough restraint to not have gained an extra 70 pounds,” he might be displeased, but there’s no way he could argue. By claiming that the actions I’m currently taking are preventing me from exponentially expanding my midsection, should I gain any weight in the future, I could always say that “it could have been much worse.”
This is the same thing the Obama administration is doing with jobs, and with the stimulus package in general. Yes, they say, we’ve lost 1.6 million jobs since passing the legislation, but it could have easily been 4.5 million. Yes, the economy is still getting worse, but without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the nation would have burned by now.
The truth is, it’s the Democrats’ policies which destroy jobs and send them overseas. Businesses large and small can only stand so much of an expanded regulatory environment and increased tax burden. And now, with cap-and-trade on the horizon, as well as increased taxes on those who create and invest in American business in order to pay for expanded entitlement programs, more jobs will inevitably evaporate thanks to the Democrats’ leadership.
Any way you look at it, however, just as I want to be around to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding and therefore should lose weight rather than just maintain or nebulously “prevent myself from gaining more,” I’d also like my daughter to be married in a free and prosperous America, so I can only hope that the American people will wake up and realize that, when it comes to the Obama administration, something just doesn’t add up.
Image courtesy the House Republican Conference. Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor.