Bad Arithmetic: Top Romney Economist Admits 'Jobs Plan' Numbers Don't Compute

Joe Conason's column is released once a week.

Joe Conason

When innocent citizens asked about unemployment last night at the town hall presidential debate on Long Island, would Mitt Romney again tout his plan to create 12 million jobs? Unable to Etch-a-Sketch away that often repeated claim — one that he has hired several conservative economists to endorse — the Republican candidate had little choice. It's up on his campaign website, it's there in his own well-advertised words, and it is the central appeal of his candidacy for the non-billionaire voting bloc.

But there is a serious problem with that promise. It now stands exposed as a complete fraud by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, who pinned upon it his highest (lowest?) prize of four "Pinocchios."

Here is how Kessler reached that troubling conclusion. After requesting the specific numbers behind Romney's jobs claim, he soon discovered that the citations offered by the campaign made no sense, and, in fact, the attempted deceptions were transparently obvious.

Romney's economic program has three basic elements that he says will produce those 12 million jobs, as outlined in a TV ad quoted by Kessler:

First, my energy independence policy means more than 3 million new jobs, many of them in manufacturing. My tax reform plan to lower rates for the middle class and for small business creates 7 million more. And expanding trade, cracking down on China and improving job training takes us to over 12 million new jobs."

In the studies cited by the Romney campaign, however, those figures practically debunked themselves.

The study that supposedly justifies the 7 million jobs produced by tax reform, written by a Rice University professor, covers a 10-year period — not four years. The study supposedly proving that his energy program will produce 3 million jobs is a Citigroup report that doesn't even examine Romney's plan; it includes fuel-economy requirements he has criticized and projects an 8-year timeline. And the International Trade Commission report that supposedly shows how an intellectual property crackdown on China will produce those final 2 million jobs is similarly distorted, using outdated employment figures and ridiculous speculation to reach a conclusion that even its authors warn is "unclear."

For the coup de grace, Kessler quoted an email from Romney economic advisor R. Glenn Hubbard confessing that "the 3+7+2 does not make up the 12 million jobs in the first four years (different source of growth and different time period)."

Kessler didn't attempt to estimate what, if anything, those studies might indicate about the results of Romney's plan. There may well be no substance to them at all. But it is possible to estimate a best-case based on a revised timeline, taking 40 percent of the expected tax-reform-related jobs plus 50 percent of the energy-independence-related jobs, which comes to a measly 4.3 million jobs (the China-crackdown jobs are too phony to include at all).

Describing the deficiencies of the Republican program, a famous man once said, "it's arithmetic" — and as usual, the Romney campaign can't seem to add or subtract without cheating.

So much for the "Jobs Plan." What understandably puzzled Kessler — who has never hesitated to pillory Barack Obama — is why the Romney campaign would send out supporting material that can be so easily and simply dismissed as bogus. The answer may be that, with due respect to the Post, they can reasonably expect to get away with such fakery in a media environment where lies usually go unchallenged.

To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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