Friday, February 20, 2004

Jobbing the numbers

Hot on the heels of WMD and AWOL comes the latest body blow to George W. Bush's credibility -- namely, his administration's prediction that the economy would create 2.6 million jobs in the coming year.

My friend and ex-colleague Marty Wolk explores this for MSNBC:
Misstep on jobs figure could haunt Bush:
White House report seen as damaging economic credibility

Like the previous cases, this widening of Bush's credibility gap will almost certainly play a role in the coming election:
Almost since the moment the projections were issued in the annual report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Feb. 9, administration officials have been scrambling to explain -- and then distance themselves from -- the numbers.

By this week the numbers flap had ballooned into a full-fledged political issue, weakening White House credibility on an issue that is likely to top the agenda in this year's presidential election.

"The White House is put in a very awkward position," said Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. "I think they are in a no-win situation here."

If the administration stands by its projection that the economy will create at least 2.6 million jobs this year, it opens itself to criticism month after month as job growth falls short of the mark, as most forecasters expect, Jacobs said. Yet if the administration repudiates its projection or issues new, lower figures, Democrats will pounce.

"The Democrats have just been handed a great advertisement to run," Jacobs said.

It would be fun to see a chart comparing the actual numbers with the Bush projections. Running prominently on national TV.

Not that Republicans aren't trying to make the best of it, mostly by pretending once again that up is down:
Bush himself, when asked about the job projection, stayed away from the details, saying only, "I think the economy's growing, and I think it's going to get stronger."

That's the 2004 version of "fuzzy math."
But Marc Racicot, chairman of Bush's re-election campaign, dismissed the projection as nothing more than a "theoretical discussion by an economist" -- even though it was contained in a White House report that is submitted to Congress and required by law.

Well, Lord knows we wouldn't want to listen what the president's economists are telling him, would we?

Brad DeLong has been all over this case, as has Kash at Angry Bear, while Max Sawicky has blogged in about this matter too.

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