Monday, July 25, 2011

Moving the Goalposts

Jill Lawrence at The Daily Beast takes a hatchet to Mitt Romney's jobs record as governor. Along with quoting an ex-Dukakis staffer, Lawrence makes the following point:
Like Obama, the former Massachusetts governor took office during a severe recession, struggled to boost job growth, and spent perhaps too much time trying to solve the riddle of health care. Now his economic record is under scrutiny in an unforgiving campaign environment, and it’s as flawed as Obama’s.
Flawed as Obama's? Early in Romney's term, in June 2003, the state unemployment rate had climbed to 6%. By the end of his term in early 2007, it had sunk to 4.6%. For most of Romney's term, the Massachusetts unemployment rate was below the national average.

Compare that with Obama's record: in February 2009, the national unemployment rate was 8.2%. Unemployment jumped to over 10% later that year and has lingered above 9% for most of Obama's term.

It's true that both Romney and Obama had economic inheritances and dealt with economic contexts that they could not and cannot completely control; it would take more than a dose of partisanship to blame Obama entirely for the 10%+ unemployment rate in the fall of 2009. But Obama cannot avoid the burden of responsibility, either, especially since his party controlled Congress with overwhelming majorities for his first term (Romney, on the other hand, had to deal with veto-proof Democratic majorities in the Bay State). The stimulus measure in which the president invested so much political capital performed well below expectations, and the current national ship is only being kept afloat by massive deficit spending.

Cutting the unemployment rate by about 25% (from 6% to 4.6%) or never getting the unemployment rate near the number it was when you started? You can bet that, if Obama's record were as "flawed" as Romney's, numerous heads in the White House would be resting a lot easier.

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