Granite State Barackrobatics

President Obama came up to Nashua, NH yesterday. You may have heard about his slam at Las Vegas.

During the president's town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, he discussed the need to curb spending during tough economic times. "When times are tough, you tighten your belts," the president said. "You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."
(For all I know, when he's in Nevada, he tells people there not to go to New Hampshire.)

But this remark irked me:

Now, if you hear some of the critics, they'll say, well, the Recovery Act, I don't know if that's really worked, because we still have high unemployment. But what they fail to understand is that every economist, from the left and the right, have said because of the Recovery Act, what we've started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost.
Yes, he's back to the whole "jobs created or saved" bit, and upping the ante—note the clever use of gambling terms here—by claiming that this is a number every economist ("from the left and the right") has supported.

As Mark Steyn wrote a few days back: "Presumably, the president isn't stupid enough actually to believe what he said. But it's dispiriting to discover he's stupid enough to think we're stupid enough to believe it."

  • Barely over a week ago, three different White House advisers gave three different estimates of jobs "created or saved" by the Recovery Act. These were people working for Obama who couldn't even present a consistent story. Is it likely that independent economists would do a better job?

  • As I type, even Obama's own website is only reporting 599,108 jobs "funded" by the Recovery Act. And (as Jake Tapper of ABC News pointed out) they are using a more generous estimate than the "created or saved" criteria.
    [I]f the project is being funded with stimulus dollars – even if the person worked at that company or organization before and will work the same place afterwards – that’s a stimulus job.
    (Tapper's piece, by the way, was meant to note the passing of the widely ridiculed "jobs created or saved" formulation, based on the recommendation of OMB Director Peter Orszag. But, as noted, Obama is still using it.)

  • It's pretty easy to find economists who haven't swilled from this particular jug of Kool-Aid:
    “Government job creation is an oxymoron,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business. It is only by depriving the private sector of funds that government can hire or subsidize hiring.

    That’s why “jobs created or saved” is such pure fiction. It ignores what’s unseen, as our old friend Frederic Bastiat explained so eloquently 160 years ago in an essay.

  • Also see Jacob Sullum:
    [S]chool districts (the main source of the jobs that were formerly described as "created or saved") can simply divide their federal money by the quarterly compensation for teachers and report the result as jobs "funded" by the Recovery Act, even if no teachers would have been laid off in the abence of the money. If a public housing authority uses stimulus money to replace windows in one of its apartment complexes, and the project involves three guys from Ace Windows and Doors working full-time for a month, that counts as a job for that quarter, even if all of the guys would have been employed without this particular contract—and even if the housing authority would have replaced the windows without the federal grant. It also sounds like it is now officially OK to count raises for existing employees as jobs, as a number of recipents erroneously did last time around.

I could keep going, but it's shooting fish in a barrel. Obama's claims are nonsense. Obama knows they're nonsense. He's making them anyway. What does that say about him?

Last Modified 2015-03-05 5:27 AM EDT