In Struggling Economy, Gov’t-Employed Fuzzy Mathematicians Worry Little About Job Security

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.



  1. Anonymous says:

    It really is amazing and sad how they can make up things as they go along and that the media will go along with it.

    Can we really beat them? I think yes only if the people understand how they lie and I don't know if the people do.

    Tanya, OH

  2. BarryS says:

    "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!"

    Thanks, Jeff. I just practically pooped my pants reading that line. Underboob. How revolting!

  3. JMoran1967 says:

    6-2 and 260? You're like a line backer.

    I'm 5-7 and 155 soaking wet. Too small to play football, too big to be a jockey. At least I'm taller than Tom Cruise. And heterosexual.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Here's a real-world example of jobs saved/created under this "stimulus". This is second-hand information so I'm probably not getting the full background on the situation, but it sounds all wrong from what I do know.

    An small assisted living facility director in a southern state was approached by a local city government official who wanted to know how many high school students could the city place in the facility to be paid $8/hr from "stimulus funds". The first problem is that the starting wage for full-time custodial workers at this facility is UNDER $8/hr. The second thing is why the heck are they placing high school students under "stimulus" money?? Why aren't they placing unemployed adults that need the work?

    This doesn't surprise me one bit on how this money is getting applied.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Jeff -

    Would like to know your thoughts on the refusal of the Supreme COurt to hear the Chrysler case and its sale to Fiat.


    Hire some unemployed tree-hugging environmentalists to do this:

    COLUMBIA, La. – The Army Corps of Engineers is on a mission to chop down every tree in the country that grows within 15 feet of a levee — including oaks and sycamores in Louisiana, willows in Oklahoma and cottonwoods in California.
    The corps is concerned that the trees' roots could undermine barriers meant to protect low-lying communities from catastrophic floods like the ones caused by Hurricane Katrina.

  7. BLOG HACKER says:

    Is BarryS above Barry Soetoro?

  8. Anonymous says:

    As incredible as it is to behold, America has elected a dumbed down politician who is foolish enough to actually impose upon America a program of protectionism for dead beats and losers at the expense of everyone else's health and well being.

    He is reckless and it is time for him to resign and for every sincere American to call for his resignation.

  9. Anonymous says:

    That chart is amazing. Every American should see it.

  10. Rix says:

    And still he enjoys 60-odd approval ratings. Isn't it a proof of what I said many times before: regardless of what he says or does, he and his clique will be reelected for as long as they control the discourse in the media. Thanks to our wonderful, union controlled education, people are dumbed down enough to swallow his steaming pile of change. Unless, of course, conservatives suddenly stop talking and start ACTING. Tax revolt, anyone?

  11. tm says:

    It is shameful that the dim-o-crats,their flying monkeys in the media, the courts and US citizens in general cannot muster the gumption to show that the emperor has no clothes.
    Today I wasn't fired or laid off – do I count as a saved job?

  12. Gail B says:

    You didn't expect anything like THE TRUTH from him, did you?

    Okay–everyone else is telling:
    I'm 5'11" and weigh 140 lbs — my weight when I graduated from high school 51 years ago. (But then, I make it a point to maintain that weight.)

    I quit smoking and gained to 175 lbs! My husband called me Fat A$$! I knew he wouldn't stand for THAT!

  13. 71 INCHES TALL says:

    Now I have a blog crush on Gail.

  14. Jan says:

    When you have a generation of "kids" that cannot give out change at McDonalds without the computer telling them how much are we really surprised. They keep talking and they keep soaking it up like a sponge because there is so little analytical thinking anymore.

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