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July 01, 2011

Claim: Romney "Backtracks" From Claim That Obama Made Recession Worse

That's the claim. I think that's false.

Bear in mind, this is MSNBC reporting, too.

Here was Romney in New Hampshire on Monday:
The people of New Hampshire have waited long enough. They want to see good jobs. They want to see rising incomes. They want to see an economy that’s growing again, and the president’s failed. He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.

And he said something similar at the New Hampshire debate earlier this month:

He didn’t create the recession, but he made it worse and longer.

But at his press conference today in Allentown, PA — where he was highlighting a company that had closed, after President Obama touted it benefitting from the stimulus — Romney backtracked on the he-made-it-worse line.

When NBC producer Sue Kroll asked the former Massachusetts governor why he believes that Obama’s policies have made the economy worse — when the economy is now growing (and not shrinking like it was in 2009), when the Dow is climbing (and no longer in a free-fall like it was in ’09), and when the unemployment rate is down a full percentage point from where it was in Oct. ’09 — Romney gave this answer:

I didn’t say that things are worse.

Romney went on to say:

What I said was that economy hasn’t turned around, that you’ve got 20 million Americans out of work, or seriously unemployed; housing values still going down. You have a crisis of foreclosures in this country. The economy, by the way, if you think the economy is great and going well, be my guest.

Yeah this is bullshit. There are two questions here, one more of a matter of opinion (with some fact), the other a mixed question of opinion and fact.

1. Did Obama make the recession longer and deeper and worse by his policies? This is largely a question of opinion. Romney, and virtually all other Republicans, believe the answer is yes.

But for this "gotcha," MSNBC changes the terms of the question:

2. Is the economy currently now worse, in absolute terms, than it was compared to a relevant period, say January 2009? This is actually a bit of an opinion-based question too, but if you're going with certain data (such as GDP growth, or rate of loss of jobs) the question is factual, and the answer is "No."

One can make an argument about that. But it's a long argument, and you wind up setting yourself up for further anklebiting gotchas from the media in making it.

Let me put it this way: If you claim the economy is currently worse in absolute terms than it was during the great fall, the period of rapid job loss and contraction, you'd better have an hourlong power point presentation to break out because the media is immediately going to say, "He's so ignorant, he doesn't know GDP began growing last year." And you'd better be ready to explain why traditional indicators of economic strength or weakness are to be discarded in favor of nontraditional ones.

Note the first question is about a counterfactual scenario: Would the economy be stronger than it actually is but for Obama's incompetency? It compares the current situation to the alt history "current" situation.

The second question is straight-up factual. It compares the real-world current situation to the real-world situation in January 2009.

Different questions. And the fact that Romney can parse between them is a small credit in his favor.

The economy may or may not actually be worse than it was when Obama took office in January 2009; by several methods of measuring the economy, it's not worse per se.

On the other hand, his misbegotten policies have almost certainly destroyed jobs and prevented growth and therefore have prevented a normal economic-rebound recovery, and so yes, he made the recession longer and worse.

Always be careful when citing MSNBC for a "gotcha" involving a Republican candidate.

Extended: I included the rest of Romney's quote. I was trying not to excerpt too much but I guess it's crucial to get that bit in, for context, and to demonstrate that yes, he want on the attack after this.

I actually was just focused on whether or not he backtracked or made inconsistent statements. He did not.

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posted by Ace at 01:02 PM

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