Whopper: White House adviser David Plouffe on Romney’s jobs record and GOP strategy

at 06:02 AM ET, 06/22/2012

“There was an amazing article the other day, I believe it was in the Wall Street Journal, where Republicans in Congress openly were saying, ‘we’re not going to do anything until the election on the economy, because we want to help Mitt Romney.’ ... With an economy that needs help right now, with the middle class that’s struggling, it’s an amazing thing.”

“For all of this talk about government, for every private-sector job created in Massachusetts by Governor Romney, six public sector jobs.”

— White House senior adviser David Plouffe on “Fox News Sunday,” June 17, 2012

White House senior adviser David Plouffe made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows this week, making appearances on all the major networks except one. He used the opportunity to defend and clarify President Obama’s campaign message, but he also took swipes at presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

We wondered what article Plouffe was referring to when he said Republicans have talked openly about trying to improve Romney’s election chances by blocking economic progress. And what about the Republican challenger’s job-creation numbers? We wrote a column in the past about this issue, but Plouffe’s assertion about six government jobs for every private-sector job represented a new and inconceivable-sounding twist.

Let’s examine the veracity of these claims.

The Facts

In terms of the “amazing article” Plouffe referred to, we found no reports quoting Republicans talking openly about sitting idle on the economy to improve Romney’s election chances.

The Obama campaign backed up Plouffe’s claim by pointing to a Wall Street Journal article titled “Republicans See Advantages in Go-Slow Approach on Bills.” The subhead reads:“GOP Lawmakers Banking on Election Gains; Democrats also resist compromise.”

Right away, this suggests the article is not what the White House adviser implied. Sure enough, the piece says Republicans are “bullish about Mr. Romney winning and the GOP making gains in the Senate,” and that “they are wary of cutting deals that would curb the options of more conservative leadership that could be in place next year.”

In other words, GOP lawmakers don’t see much sense in making deals with Democrats when they might have a lot more power after the election. One senior member of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), reportedly asked: “Where is the upside?”

The article says nothing about Republicans trying to sabotage the Obama administration with inaction on the economy in order to help Romney’s prospects. In fact, it said, “Republican leaders deny that.”

Furthermore, the report noted that Democrats themselves are avoiding compromise on major budget issues because “they don’t want to undercut their ability to make a campaign issue of Republicans’ support for curbing the growth of Medicare and other popular entitlement programs.” This is the only mention of either party using inaction as a strategy to affect the upcoming election, and it’s an indictment of the left, not the right.

We should point out that calculated moves are nothing new for lawmakers during an election year. In 1996, for example, congressional Republicans saw little hope that then-GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole would unseat President Bill Clinton, so they passed welfare-reform legislation before the GOP convention had even taken place. This increased their own odds of victory in the election, but it undercut Dole, taking away an issue he had hoped to use against Clinton.

We should also mention that the current Republican strategy mirrors an approach Democrats used when they were confident their party would win the presidency in 2008. Congressional leaders then held back many key appropriations bills until Obama took office in 2009, thus allowing them to shape the 2008 budget more to their liking.

As for Plouffe’s claim about the Bay State’s employment gains, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Massachusetts added 22,400 private-sector jobs during Romney’s tenure. That means the state would need to have created 134,400 public-sector jobs in the same period for the White House adviser’s claim to be true.

That’s not even close to what happened. Massachusetts gained just 5,300 state-government jobs while Romney was in office. As such, the state added more than four private-sector jobs for every state-government job. This is pretty much the reverse of what Plouffe claimed.

The best reasoning we could find to support Plouffe’s claim is that the rate of public-sector job growth for the state (4.7 percent) was about six times that of private-sector gains (.79 percent) during Romney’s tenure. But this is very different from having six times the number of new government jobs, which is what the White House adviser clearly implied when he said, “for every private-sector job created in Massachusetts by Governor Romney, six public sector jobs.”

The bottom line here is that Plouffe equated growth rates with raw numbers, thereby vastly exaggerating the amount of public-sector work the Bay State created under Romney.

We should note that we didn’t include local or federal employment in our analysis because governors generally have little control over those numbers. Regardless, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Government jobs as a whole in Massachusetts increased at a slower rate (.46 percent) than private sector jobs (.79 percent) during Romney’s tenure.

In this regard, the state added more than 11 private-sector jobs for every government job. Again, this contradicts what Plouffe said.

The Obama campaign did not respond to questions about Plouffe’s statistics, but issued this statement about his remarks Sunday: “Instead of taking action on the economy and passing the President’s American Jobs Act now, congressional Republicans continue to drag their feet and play politics, though their own candidate Romney has no plan on jobs. Just like David Plouffe said, we have an economy that needs help right now, with a middle class that’s struggling. Republicans should set the politics aside and do what’s in the best interest of the country.”

The Pinocchio Test

Government jobs in Massachusetts grew at six times the rate of private-sector jobs during Romney’s term as governor, but that’s not at all the same as adding six public-sector jobs for every one in the private-sector. The state actually gained at least four private-sector jobs for every government job.

Plouffe referred to an “amazing article” that supposedly proved that Republicans have talked openly about improving Romney’s chances in the election by doing nothing on the economy. But the article actually explained that GOP lawmakers prefer to postpone any deal making until after the election because they’re feeling bullish about their chances. That is no different than what Democrats have done in the past.

Neither of Plouffe’s claims were factually correct, so Team Obama earns four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios

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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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