Romney's Promises to Lower Unemployment to 6 Percent. It's Not Impressive

In an interview with Time’s Mark Halperin today, Mitt Romney elaborates on his goals for economic growth in his first term. In particular, he hopes to see an unemployment rate of six percent:

I can’t possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate will be at the end of one year. I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent and perhaps a little lower. It depends in part upon the rate of growth of the globe, as well as what we’re seeing in the United States.

This is far more realistic than the 4-percent projection of last month, but it’s still a little disingenuous. Romney tells Halperin that he hopes to get to 6 percent unemployment with his policies, a nod to his claim that tax and budget cuts will stimulate the economy and generate economic growth. But the fact of the matter is that under the current baseline, according to the Congressional Budget Office, unemployment will fall to 6 percent as a matter of course. Put another way, if we keep Obama’s policies, then by 2016, unemployment will have fallen to Romney’s projection.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it doesn’t matter who we elect—since, obviously, the baseline will change if Romney is elected and he implements his policies—but it does imply a question for the Republican nominee: If Obama’s policies are so terrible, then why would they yield the same result as yours, which are supposedly more awesome? What’s more, it should prompt an investigation into the actual job creation power of Romney’s policies. As it stands, according to the Economic Policy Institute, Romney’s policies—which mimic the plan pushed by Rep. Paul Ryan and adopted by congressional Republicans—would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013, and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014.

In other words, if carried out in full, Romney’s policies are more likely to send the U.S. into a second recession than they are to improve life for most Americans. I’m not surprised that Halperin kept away from those questions, but it’s still disappointing.

One last point. If you doubt that Republicans have the stomach for massive spending cuts (a necessary part of their budget priorities), then the first year of a Romney administration would likely look like this: massive tax cuts, followed by soaring deficits. In the short-term, this would be good for the economy, and help lower the unemployment rate. Absent major shocks to the economy—including cuts to social programs—joblessness will return to pre-recession levels within Romney’s term.

The danger, for liberals, is that the public will associate “Republicanism” with economic growth. In this world, Republicans are favored in national elections, liberals are an enduring minority, and the policy environment has shifted completely to the right. It would be bad news, to say the least.