My colleague Glenn Kessler asked the Romney campaign to substantiate their claim that his policies will create 12 million jobs during his first term. The results were, as the kids say, LOL-worthy.
One study said a Romney-like tax plan could create 7 million jobs. The only problem? That was over 10 years, not four years. Worse, the study assumed that a Romney-like tax plan would be completely paid for and would happen in an economy at full employment. Neither is likely.
The next study was a Citigroup Global Markets effort that projected 3 million energy-related jobs. The only problems? It was over eight years, not four. Oh, and it wasn’t evaluating any of Romney’s policies at all. It was actually looking at current trends and policies — which is to say, Obama’s policies.
Then there’s the 2 million jobs that a 2011 International Trade Commission report estimated we could create if China stopped violating our intellectual property rights. This study wasn’t looking at either Obama or Romney’s policies, and no one thinks that any U.S. president could get Chinese businesses to respect American patents.
So Romney’s claim of 12 million jobs over four years breaks down to 7 million jobs over 10 years in an economy that’s already at full employment, 3 million jobs over eight years that have nothing to do with any of Romney’s policies, and 2 million jobs if China suddenly became very, very respectful of U.S. intellectual property laws.
This is a lot of misreading studies to get to a number that’s pretty easy to reach: According to Moody’s Analytics, the economy is set to add 12 million jobs over the next four years anyway. Romney’s goal might sound ambitious, but it’s actually what we expect will happen if policy stays more or less stable over the next few years. But rather than say their goal wasn’t actually that ambitious, and they simply planned to not mess anything up, the Romney campaign tried to make it sound ambitious by misusing a bunch of studies.
This isn’t the first time the Romney campaign has had some trouble getting studies to persuasively prove their point. Their recent white paper and op-ed on the economy either misquoted, selectively quoted, or misread most of the research they mentioned. In fact, it relied heavily on the work of Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, and Reinhart and Rogoff were so concerned about the misrepresentations that they wrote a whole new paper rebutting the Romney campaign’s arguments.
And then there are the six studies that supposedly prove their tax plan adds up. That’s perhaps the most brazenly wrong claim of them all. But more on that later.