Another Perspective

Lies, Damned Lies, and Job Creation

A new presidential metric.

By 12.11.09

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This just in from a careful reading of the economic tea leaves at the Obama White House: There has been a slight miscount in the number of jobs "created or saved" through the heroic action of our nation's president. 

The true number is not 650,000, as previously reported by the administration. Rather, it is a far more satisfying 22.9 million jobs, which is more than the entire population of Beijing, the capital of the largest country on earth. Think of all the lives would be saved if you or I, at the last possible moment, were to call off an all-out nuclear attack that would have incinerated the communist capital. Even that, if you can believe it, understates the number of jobs that have been created or saved by Obamanomics!

Looking at these numbers from a slightly more academic perspective, you find that my number is 35.5 times the size of old number cited by the White House. Their number is a city the size of El Paso. Mine is Beijing plus Hangzhou. 

Now that's a powerful multiplier. It's a far greater multiplier than even Paul Krugman -- the most popeyed of Keynesian economists -- has dared to imagine. And as he would be first to point out, you cannot exaggerate the importance of a really good multiplier, because the multiplier is the magic wand that allows some people to believe that real jobs can be conjured up by government fiat, like rabbits out of a hat. The bigger the multiplier, the more rabbits you get.

I will now reveal my methodology.

First of all, I forgot -- and I ask you to forget -- that the White House sold last February's $787 billion fiscal stimulus on the idea that it would keep the jobless rate below 8%. As we all know, it rose instead to 10%. But I say let's forget that and allow the administration to move the target closer to where the arrow has fallen.

In his Dec. 8 speech on job creation at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Obama began with a hair-raising account of the "entirely dismal report on the fiscal health of the country" that he received from economic advisers Christy Romer and Larry Summers. It seems, as Mr. Obama put it, that "we were rapidly plummeting towards a second Great Depression."

But guess what? We never got there. The jobless rate may have gone up a couple of points, but it didn't go all the way up to 24.9%, which is where it stood back in Franklin D. Roosevelt's first year in office three quarters of a century ago. Who's to say that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi…or Donald Duck…is not responsible for history not repeating itself to the last one tenth of a percent?

Subtracting the 10% of people who are unemployed today from the 24.9% who could have been unemployed under this meaningless assumption, I have awarded the president a Plus 14.9% rating on this scale, and that translates to 22.9 million jobs saved out of a labor pool of 153.9 million people.

And here's the real beauty of this argument from a Team Obama perspective. There's still so much untapped downside potential. The unemployment rate can re-double -- to 20% -- and they will still be within the 24.9% bogey which entitles them to say, "Think of how much worse things would be if we didn't add another trillion or more to the national debt." They may carry on -- in President Obama's words -- determined to "spend our way out of this recession." Has anyone ever composed a better economic suicide note?

In closing, let me say that I do not intend to defend myself against any of you who may disagree with the methodology that I have chosen for advancing a specious argument. I don't care if you think it is outrageous. All I ask is that you save your expressions of outrage and send them to the judges in Oslo who sit in judgment on these matters. It's nice to think there might be a Nobel Laureate in Economics in my future.

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About the Author
Andrew B. Wilson, a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and a former foreign correspondent, writes from St. Louis.