The 12 Million Job Myth

Romney's 12 Million Job Myth

Matt Yglesias reports this morning on an analysis by Glenn Kessler about Romney’s claim that in the next four years, his economic plan will create 12 million jobs. I’ve never thought much about it, because in January, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that if we just continue on with current policies, 11 million jobs would be created in the next four years. They have since revised this number down to a bit below 10 million jobs, but it’s the same thing. The take away is that Romney hasn’t been promising much and you can bet that if he were running for reelection in 2016 having created 10 million jobs, he would talk of nothing else.

Kessler notes that Mitt Romney’s 12 million figure comes from three areas:

  1. 7 Million from tax cuts;
  2. 3 million from “Drill Baby Drill”;
  3. 2 million from standing up to China.

There are problems with all of these numbers, but broadly speaking they fall into two categories. First, these job creation numbers are based on longer time lines, like 10 years for tax cut number. Second, these studies aren’t specific to Romney’s policies. In particular, the “energy” number is based upon current policy, not anything new that Romney is proposing.

The China claim is ridiculous on its face. Conservatives always seem to think that China is some naughty school boy that can be intimidated into doing what is in our best interest. It doesn’t work that way. Besides, Romney is not even planning to go after the Chinese for what is really hurting us: undervaluing their currency. (Conservatives hate the idea of a weak dollar, so they rarely talk about this fact which is the main cause of our crumbling manufacturing base.) Romney plans to create 2 million jobs by getting serious about Chinese patent and copyright protections. So the 2 million jobs number is like those record company claims that they are losing $20 billion per year because your daughter made an illegal copy of a Justin Bieber song.

Romney isn’t providing any ideas that are going to improve the economy. In fact, his tax cut proposals will probably not create nearly as many jobs because they will be focused at the top of the income scale (You do know that, right?) where the money will sit around with all the other money that currently isn’t being usefully employed.

Update (16 October 2012 3:14 pm)

Paul Krugman discusses this issue. He ends with an obvious, but important observation:

So they’re just faking it—the same way they have with the “six studies” supposedly validating the tax plan, four of which aren’t studies and one of which actually validates the critics.

What’s amazing here is the contempt the campaign is showing for the voters and the media. Unfortunately, that contempt may be justified.

Update (16 October 2012 3:23 pm)

Everybody’s covering this story. Perhaps they think it’s important? Here’s Ezra Klein:

So Romney’s claim of 12 million jobs over four years breaks down to 7 million jobs over 10 years in an economy that’s already at full employment, 3 million jobs over eight years that have nothing to do with any of Romney’s policies, and 2 million jobs if China suddenly became very, very respectful of U.S. intellectual property laws.

This isn’t the first time the Romney campaign has had some trouble getting studies to persuasively prove their point. Their recent white paper and op-ed on the economy either misquoted, selectively quoted, or misread most of the research they mentioned. In fact, it relied heavily on the work of Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, and Reinhart and Rogoff were so concerned about the misrepresentations that they wrote a whole new paper rebutting the Romney campaign’s arguments.

And then there are the six studies that supposedly prove their tax plan adds up. That’s perhaps the most brazenly wrong claim of them all.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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