Mitt Romney’s entire presidential campaign is premised on the idea that—as a former businessman—he is best qualified to fix the economy. It went unnoticed, but while talking tax reform, President Obama pushed against that with an effective attack on the shaky numbers behind Romney’s tax plan:
Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.
Since then, “sketchy deal” has become something of a catchphrase for the president; to wit, in an Iowa speech yesterday, he used it to contrast Romney’s plan with “deals” of the past:
Romney still benefits from a presumption of competence, and Obama would be well-served by hammering on the essential vapidness of Romney’s economic plan. It’s not just that his tax promises don't add up—even with a $25,000 limit on deductions, there’s not enough revenue raised to pay for an across-the-board cut and cuts to taxes on capital gains and investment income—but that his five point plan to create 12 million jobs does nothing of the sort.
The definitive debunking was done by The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who found that Romney’s numbers just don’t add up. On his website, Romney’s economic advisors say that “History shows that a recovery rooted in policies contained in the Romney plan will create about 12 million jobs in the first term of a Romney presidency.” Team Romney even goes as far as to cite exact job-creation numbers for each plank of the plan: 3 million from Romney’s energy policies, 7 million from his tax policies, and 2 million from cracking down on China.
But as Kessler shows, the Romney campaign has little evidence for any of its claims. There’s no study showing that the Romney energy plan would create 3 million jobs—at most, there’s a Citigroup report that predicts that rate of job growth over the next eight years as a result of policies already adopted (and opposed by Romney). The 7 million jobs number? It comes from a ten-year estimate of what might happen with Romney’s policies. And the 2 million jobs claim comes from a 2011 International Trade Commission report which estimates gains if China stopped infringing on American intellectual property. The problem is that the study was highly contingent on last year’s job market, which was far worse than the current one.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of Romney’s claim is the simple fact that “12 million jobs” is the current projection for job growth over the next four years under the current policies. In essence, Romney’s promise is to take credit for the results of Obama’s policies if he’s elected president.
“Sketchy deal” is the right way to describe Romney’s offer to the American public. Rather than put forth a plan to deal with our short-term economic problems, he’s offered a grab bag of right-wing proposals that are indistinguishable from the disasterous policies of the Bush administration. He’s betting that better packaging is all it takes to sell the public the same bill of goods. And judging from the close polls, he might be right.