Moving the economic goalposts

Moving the economic goalposts
Moving the economic goalposts
Associated Press

When it came to economic metrics and the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney has struggled to pick a line and stick with it.

The initial line from Romney was that the unemployment rate is higher now than when President Obama took office. It was a foolish argument, which is no longer true.

The second line has been that the unemployment rate has been above 8% for four consecutive years. That’s a weak pitch – in FDR’s first term, the rate was above 17% for four consecutive years, too – and with the figure down to 8.1%, Romney’s at risk of losing his talking point.

So, it’s apparently time to move the goalposts once again.

“[A]nything near 8 percent or over 4 percent is not cause for celebration,” Romney said…. Earlier Friday, Romney said the economy should be adding half a million jobs a month, and blasted the jobs news as “terrible.”

“We should be seeing numbers in the [range of] 500,000 jobs created per month,” Romney told Fox News.

Remember, economic policy is supposed to be Romney’s strong point as a candidate.

Part of the problem here is with Romney’s wildly unrealistic benchmarks, which, if he’s elected, he’ll be unable to reach. Indeed, in the event of a Romney presidency, he just helped create the 2016 attack ads – 500,000 jobs per month and 4% unemployment is the new standard for success.

But the other concern here is historical – over the last three decades, the unemployment rate has dipped below 4% just four times out of 496 months. Each of those four months was during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

In other words, Romney’s goal was achieved, but only after a Democratic president raised taxes in 1993.

What’s more, as Paul Krugman explained, “Incidentally, since Romney is proposing a complete return to Bush economic policies, it might be interesting to note the average rate of job creation during Bush’s first 7 years in the White House – that is, his record even if you ignore the catastrophe at the end. And that average monthly rate, from the BLS, was … drum roll … 66,000.”

Bush’s pre-crash average was roughly half of last month’s job totals – totals Romney described as “terrible.”

I can’t wait to see where the goalposts end up next.

Mitt Romney

Moving the economic goalposts