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PolitiFact’s Problem with Long Division

10:00 AM, Aug 9, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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A less-widely reported part of my initial post noted that the conclusions of Obama’s economists also showed that the “stimulus” was now shedding jobs. In relation to estimates of what an un-“stimulated” economy would look like, Obama’s economists said that the stimulus had added or saved 2.7 million jobs as of New Year’s Day but only 2.4 million as of July 1, a decline of (to use the report’s exact figure) 288,000 jobs. In other words, over those six months, the economy would have added or saved more jobs without the stimulus than it has with it — according to an estimate from Obama’s economists. 

The entire response on this point from PolitiFact (both the Ohio and Texas versions) is to cite Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi, who told the left-leaning website TPMDC that “the Weekly Standard misinterpreted that data.” That was good enough for PolitiFact. Never mind that Zandi is a Keynesian economist whose estimates of the stimulus’s likely effects were cited (see table 4) by Christina Romer, the first head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, before the “stimulus” was even passed. In other words, Zandi said it would work, and now he says it worked.

Further quoting Zandi, PolitiFact writes, “‘It’s not that ARRA [the stimulus] is now costing the economy jobs, it is that the economy is now creating jobs without ARRA’s help,’ Zandi told TPMDC. ‘This is exactly the objective of fiscal stimulus, namely to end recession and jump-start economic recovery.’” 

Zandi’s claim, however, doesn’t square with the numbers provided by Obama’s economists. They show that the gap between the number of jobs with and without the “stimulus” is narrowing. The “stimulated” economy is not “creating jobs without the stimulus’s help” — at least not at the rate that it would have created them had the “stimulus” never been passed. 

Put otherwise, if the “stimulus” added or saved 2.7 million jobs through the end of last year versus the number of jobs that would have been added or saved without it — which is exactly what Obama’s economists assert — then it has correspondingly lost, or failed to save, 288,000 jobs since then. In other words, it’s shedding jobs.

I rate PolitiFact’s scoring as “False.”

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