When Can You Start Crediting (Blaming) Obama For Jobs?

Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & Deficit, Election 2012Leave a Comment

Steve Benen makes a great point which everyone needs to keep in mind this election season:

Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you could go back to March 1, 2009, when the global economy is on the brink of collapse. The White House's Recovery Act had just been signed into law, but the investments hadn't even begun, and President Obama, still unpacking, did not yet have his full economic team in place.

Then imagine a Republican arguing, "Mr. President, the economy has lost 726,000 jobs on your watch, and we're blaming you for the losses."

Would any serious person find this fair or reasonable? Of course not. And yet, it's the basis for the Romney campaign's entire economic critique of the Obama administration.


For Romney and his team, the clock started on Feb. 1, 2009, just 11 days after the Obama inauguration. Every job lost on Feb. 1, 2009, counts against the president, as does every subsequent job loss. Period. Full Stop.

And when you go by this measure, Obama is in the hole 1.66 million jobs (though that figure has shrunk every month for over a year).

But then there's a less ridiculous count. Obama took office when the global financial system was on the brink of collapse, inheriting a recession that began a year before his inauguration, looking at an economy in free-fall. A fair count would say the job losses from early 2009 couldn't possibly be blamed on Obama, since he'd just gotten there, and the crisis wasn't his fault.

Romney… say the clock starts on Feb. 1, 2009, but if you move the start date to July 1, 2009 — arguing, in effect, that Obama's first five months shouldn't be counted against him since he was dealing with a crisis that was not of his making — the economy has added over 1.4 million jobs. Looking only at the private sector, it's 1.97 million jobs.

And if we said Obama shouldn't be blamed for 2009 at all, the economy has added 2.58 million jobs overall, and over 3 million in the private sector.

That's not spin; it's arithmetic. Those numbers "speak for themselves."