Moving the Employment Goalposts on the Stimulus
As the administration's Bullshit Recovery Summer dog-and-pony show lurches along, the Wall Street Journal editorial board checks in on yesterday's claim of around 3 million jobs created or saved. Excerpt:
Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive "two quarters earlier than anticipated." Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.
We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House "created or saved" measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus. […]
Mr. Obama said recently in Racine, Wisconsin that the economy "would have been a lot worse" and the unemployment rate would have gone to "12 or 13, or 15 [percent]" if government hadn't spent all of that money.
This is called a counterfactual: a what would have happened scenario that can't be refuted. What we do know is what White House economists at the time said would happen if the stimulus didn't pass. They said the unemployment rate would peak at 9% without the stimulus (there's your counterfactual) and that with the stimulus the rate would stay at 8% or below. […] In other words, today there are 700,000 fewer jobs than Ms. Romer predicted we would have if we had done nothing at all. If this is a job creation success, what does failure look like?
Whole thing here. I don't know about you, but government propaganda really irritates the hell out of me. Reason has been unpacking such efforts around the stimulus from the get-go.