As a growing number of Democrats raise the “sabotage question” – the charge that Republicans might be deliberately hurting the American economy to advance an election agenda – Mitt Romney argued at a campaign event in Texas that it was actually President Obama who chose to slow the recovery.
In this case, Romney is citing a book from Noam Scheiber, “The Escape Artists,” on how Obama and his economic team confronted the Great Recession in 2009 and 2010.
As Romney sees it, “there was discussion about the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country.” He added that the administration “knew” the health care reform package would hurt the economy, “but they concluded that we would all forget how long the recovery took once it had happened, so they decided to go ahead.”
We know precisely why Romney makes claims like these. With Democrats arguing that Republicans are perhaps holding back the economy on purpose, Romney suddenly sees value in arguing, in effect, “No, no, it’s Obama who slowed the recovery on purpose.” The public isn’t sure who to believe, and before long, the “sabotage” picture becomes muddled, with each side leveling similar claims. The accuracy (or lack thereof) gets lost.
But we also know that Romney’s lying.
Asked about the claims, Schieber himself explained this morning, “That is false, in a variety of ways. I don’t believe that it’s substantively true.”
Jon Chait added that Romney is “just making stuff up.”
First, and most importantly, at no point did anybody in the Obama administration ever believe that passing the Affordable Care Act would “slow down the recovery.” Nothing close to that is ever described. Romney presents the book as revealing that Obama believed health care reform, through its big gummint regulations, would harm the recovery, but cackling that he wanted to pass it out of some belief that Americans wouldn’t notice mass economic suffering. This bears no relationship to anything the book says.
In the book, Noam Scheiber asked Larry Summers if he believed that the decision to pass health care reform cost Obama the chance to pass a second stimulus, and thus came at the cost of a faster recovery. Summers answered that he did not think the health care law prevented a second stimulus, but that even if that were the case, he would have supported it anyway.
Not only is it false for Romney to say Obama “knowingly slowed down our recovery,” it’s not even true that Obama knowingly passed up a chance to accelerate the recovery. The notion that anybody in the administration believed that the health care law would actually slow down the recovery is complete fiction. It does not appear in the book anywhere and it’s pretty obviously untrue.
So, once again, we have yet another example of Romney telling blatant lie. And the question, once again, is whether he’ll be called out for his mendacity, and whether voters and/or the media will care.