Did Obama deliver on his jobs promises?

DNC-logo-on_white-sq-250“Myth: Where are the all [sic] jobs that President Obama promised?”

—The Democrat National Committee’s “Your Republican Uncle” website, Nov. 25, 2013

 

Overview

The DNC’s job numbers match no Obama promise we could find.

The Facts

The Democratic National Committee’s website “The Democrat’s guide to talking politics with your Republican Uncle” has an answer for Republicans who ask about the jobs President Obama promised:

Since President Obama took office, the private sector has seen job growth for 44 consecutive months , with businesses adding a total of 7.8 million jobs during this time. But that shutdown move the GOP pulled in October cost 120,000 private sector jobs.

 

The DNC did not name any specific promises Obama made about jobs.

Analyzing the Rhetoric

This item presented a special challenge, because it’s ordinarily tough to count a question as a myth.  The bulk of the argument is implied and not plainly stated.  To find whether it is a myth that Obama failed to deliver on promises about jobs, we need to consider Obama’s jobs promises.

What did Obama promise?

Mainstream fact checker PolitiFact tracks campaign promises, so we checked with PolitiFact first.  Obama promised up to 5 million green jobs over the next 20 years.  Obama made a second-term promise to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs by 2016.  That’s all we could find from PolitiFact.  That couldn’t be all of Obama’s job promises, could it?

Obama famously promised to “create or save” 3.5 million jobs via his economic stimulus bill, with a portion of the fame due to the difficulty of measuring saved jobs.  So this one doesn’t give us much to work with.

By our assessment, President Obama was pretty good at avoiding hard promises on jobs.  Promising to create “up to” 5 million jobs is easily fulfilled by not creating any jobs at all, for example.  Perhaps the closest we got to a hard promise was the outline of the stimulus bill passed in early 2009.Romer-Bernstein jobs chart

The chart from Obama’s economic team showed the unemployment rate below 6 percent by the third quarter of 2013 with or without the stimulus bill.

We got the stimulus bill, but in fact the unemployment rate easily topped the gloomy predictions for economic performance without the stimulus bill.  Using Keynesian economic models, economists and the administration gave and continue to give assurances that the stimulus bill worked.  Things would have been that much worse without it, they said.

Again, as jobs promises go, it’s not much to work with.  And the lack of solid jobs promises from the president may explain why the DNC does not name any of the promises.

Promises fulfilled?

When the DNC argues that it’s a “myth” that Obama failed to deliver on the jobs he promised, it leaves the impression that Obama fulfilled at least one significant promise about jobs.  In fact, the DNC offers its audience very specific evidence of Obama’s success:  He has added 7.8 million jobs.

The DNC says those jobs were added since Obama took office.  That’s true, so long as it is understood that months of Obama’s presidency went by before monthly job losses ended.  And then it took years for Obama to break even on job creation.  When you hear that Obama created 7.8 million jobs, remember that’s using a cherry-picked baseline.

The DNC uses the 7.8 million jobs figure to produce the impression that, contrary to the claims of “Your Republican Uncle,” Obama has delivered on his jobs promises.  It’s an example of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

An honest assessment of Obama’s job promises recognizes that he mostly avoided making solid promises about job creation.  By the numbers, Obama entered office with a 7.8 percent unemployment rate.  Today it stands at 7 percent.  While that’s certainly an improvement, 7 percent is a high unemployment rate.  A trend toward lower workforce participation makes the 7 percent unemployment rate even worse than it looks.

Adding 7.8 million jobs over 44 months fulfills no Obama promises we could find.  It’s hard to tell if a promise was fulfilled without knowing what was promised and what outcome supposedly keeps the promise.

“Myth: Where are the all [sic] jobs that President Obama promised?”

FallacyIcon texas sharpshooter

This claim has no truth value unless Obama made a meaningful and measurable promise about jobs.  Aside from a second term promise on adding manufacturing jobs, we don’t see any.  In this case, presenting a set of job creation numbers as though it fulfills a jobs promise counts as the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

We grant that Obama’s statements about adding jobs may give his audience the idea he’s promising something concrete.  Vague promises can, of course, make it harder for political opponents to claim promises went unfulfilled.

 

References

The Democrat’s Guide to Talking Politics With Your Republican Uncle.” Yourrepublicanuncle.com. Democratic National Committee, 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Invest $150 Billion to Encourage “Green” Business Sector.” PolitiFact. Tampa Bay Times, 1 Dec. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Create 1 Million New Manufacturing Jobs by the End of 2016.” PolitiFact. Tampa Bay Times, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: State-by-State Jobs Impact.” The White House. The White House, 13 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: State-by-State Jobs Impact (Update).” The White House. The White House, 13 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Romer, Christina, and Jared Bernstein. “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” Economy.com. Moody’s Analytics, Inc., 9 Jan. 2009. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Stone, Chad. “Why Obama’s Economic Stimulus Worked.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 20 June 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Harrigan, Antony Davies; James R. “Barack Obama’s Stimulus Didn’t Work.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Oxhorn, Liz. “The Direct and Indirect Benefits of the Recovery Act.” The White House. The White House, 26 Apr. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Karina. “CBO Credits Recovery Act for Up to 2.8 Million Jobs Already.” The Gavel. United States House of Representatives, 25 May 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Gongloff, Mark. “New Data Show Net Job Growth Under Barack Obama.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Unemployment Rate Same Today As It Was When Obama First Took Office.” CBS DC. CBS Local Media, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Lee, M. J. “Unemployment Rate Hits 5-year Low.” POLITICO. POLITICO LLC, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

Plumer, Brad. “The U.S. Labor Force Is Still Shrinking. Here’s Why.The Washington Post Wonkblog. The Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Furchtgott-Roth, Diana. “Green Jobs Haven’t Lived up to Obama’s Promise.” MarketWatch. MarketWatch, Inc., 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

De Rugy, Veronique. “Unemployment Rates: Promised vs. Actual.” National Review Online. National Review Online, 8 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

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