The “Romney Standard” has slowly become the stuff of legend. About six months before the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney sat down with Mark Halperin, who pressed the GOP nominee for specifics about the economy. The Republican nominee bragged that if he’s elected, a Romney administration could “get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, perhaps a little lower” by the end of 2016 – “by virtue of the policies that we put in place.”
Romney lost that election, of course, and yet the unemployment rate nevertheless fell below 6 percent in September 2014 – more than two years faster than Romney projected – and fell to 5 percent in October 2015. By Republican standards, in other words, President Obama has done extremely well.
The Romney Standard came to mind this week when Ted Cruz boasted in a debate about the projected effects of his proposed tax cuts.
“I have rolled out a bold and simple flat tax: 10 percent for every American that would produce booming growth and 4.9 million new jobs within a decade.”
And while 4.9 million new jobs certainly sounds great, I can’t help but wonder if President Obama, in addition to beating the Romney Standard, has already surpassed the Cruz Standard, too.
I suppose it comes down to the meaning of “within a decade.” By any measure, 4.9 million new jobs over the course of a decade would be awful – that would be an average of 490,000 jobs per year, or roughly 41,000 jobs a month. That would represent anemic growth, far short of what we’ve seen in the Obama era.
So that’s probably not what Cruz meant. Perhaps he was referring to the totals “by the end of the decade” – elect him president and he’ll create 4.9 million jobs in his first term, which would bring us to the end of this decade. But if that’s the goal, Obama surpasses this metric pretty easily, too. Indeed, from February 2014 to last month, the U.S. economy added over 5 million jobs, and that’s not even two full calendar years.
What I hope Cruz didn’t mean is 4.9 million jobs in a single year, because that’s never, ever happened. Not under Reagan, not under Obama, not even under Clinton.
But assuming the Texas senator wasn’t pointing to an unobtainable goal, he appears to be boasting about a metric that Obama has already passed with relative ease.
Update: I spoke this morning to Brian Phillips with the Cruz campaign, who said the projections are based on additional job growth, beyond what’s already expected. In other words, if the economy was on track to add 10 million jobs over the next 10 years, Cruz believes his tax cuts would boost that total to 14.9 million.
Asked why the GOP candidate hasn’t said this, Phillips said, “Our bad.”