Obama's 'saved jobs' hard to track

June 12, 2009 7:11:49 PM PDT
Some prominent Republicans are challenging President Obama's method of measuring economic success. They claim his numbers can't be verified and that reporters are just accepting what he says. ABC7's political reporter Mark Matthews looked into this latest political debate.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

The president is committing hundreds of billions of dollars to turn the economy around. He says his stimulus programs will create or save millions of jobs and the phrase "create or save" is the key.

On Monday the president set another goal in his so-called "Roadmap To Recovery."

"The goal here is that we're going to create or save 600,000 jobs in the next 100 days," said President Obama.

The very next day, a Wall Street Journal editorial accused the media of falling for phony job claims. William McGurn, former chief speech writer for President George W. Bush, said reporters were being taken in by accepting the president's numbers.

"When the president says something like 'We've saved 150,000 jobs and we're going to create another 600,000 by the summer,' those aren't numbers those are just estimates," said McGurn, a Wall Street Journal columnist.

And McGurn points out, you can track how many people are working or how many lined up for unemployment, but there is no way to keep track of jobs saved. It's a measurement that can't be proved or disproved.

"You know again I don't blame the White House for doing it, but they would stop doing it or they would modify it if the press were a little more skeptical and talked to some economists about this," said McGurn.

Economist professor Brad DeLong, Ph.D., from U.C. Berkeley, was deputy assistant treasury secretary under President Clinton.

"Well you're trying to calculate the effect of something against a moving background," said DeLong.

DeLong says McGurn is right, there is no way to precisely measure jobs saved. To know that we'd have to have an alternative universe without a stimulus plan.

"Kind of like when the crew of the Enterprise wound up on the alternate universe Enterprise in which there was the evil Spock with the beard," said DeLong.

Professor Delong says in a few years Americans will be able to look back and judge how the U.S. recovered compared to other countries that had different recovery strategies. But for the moment the president's goals are not immediately verifiable, leaving Republican's like the President Bush's former speech writer complaining.

"I'd like to see a little more critical analysis from the people who are reporting it," said McGurn.

And McGurn says it's not just Republicans, Democrats have complained as well.

"I think I quoted Max Baucus talking about that," said McGurn.

In his editorial, McGurn did quote the Democratic Senator Max Baucus complaining to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, "You've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct."

Only problem with the quote...Democratic Senator Baucus didn't say it, Republican Senator John Ensign did.

"When you use the term 'create or save' you've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct on created or saved," said Senator Ensign.

In McGurn's defense, he did rely on a transcript of that March 4th hearing, provided by Congressional Quarterly. Congressional Quarterly called Matthews to admit they made a mistake and regret the error.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget


Load Comments