Wash. Post uncritically reported misleading GOP talking point on job growth

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN & JOE BROWN

A Washington Post article by staff writer Dan Balz uncritically reported RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt's misleading claim in support of President Bush's economic record: that "5.4 million jobs have been created in the last three years alone," leaving the impression that job growth had also occurred earlier in Bush's presidency. In fact, Bush presided over a net loss of 2.6 million jobs, from the beginning of his presidency through July 2003.

In a July 25 article on the domestic agenda recently unveiled by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and the Democratic Leadership Council, Washington Post staff writer Dan Balz uncritically reported Republican National Committee (RNC) spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt's misleading claim in support of President Bush's economic record: that "5.4 million jobs have been created in the last three years alone." Balz then noted Schmitt's contention that "[e]ven a master politician can't manipulate those numbers." But in referring to "the last three years alone," Schmitt left the impression that job growth had also occurred earlier in Bush's presidency. In fact, Bush presided over a net loss of 2.6 million jobs, from the beginning of his presidency through July 2003.

Schmitt's argument echoes a "fact sheet" released by the White House on July 7 declaring that "the economy has created about 1.85 million jobs over the past 12 months -- and more than 5.4 million since August 2003." The White House figures appear to come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Current Employment Statistics survey's measurements of "Total Nonfarm Employment -- Seasonally Adjusted" nationwide. But the White House -- and Schmitt -- touted job growth over a selected timeframe, ignoring earlier job losses that occurred under Bush.

The same BLS survey shows that the economy lost jobs in 24 of the first 30 full months of Bush's presidency (February 2001 through July 2003), shedding a net total of approximately 2.6 million jobs during that period. These losses offset nearly half of the jobs created from August 2003 through June 2006, meaning a net total of 2.8 million jobs have thus far been created in the first 65 months of the Bush presidency. In contrast, the first 65 months of the Clinton presidency saw a net gain of 16 million jobs, according to the same BLS survey, with a net gain of 22.7 million jobs by the end of Clinton's second term in January 2001.

From Balz's July 25 Washington Post article:

"A policy of fiscal discipline and budget surpluses was abandoned for one that racked up debt and claimed that deficits don't matter," Clinton said. "And a policy that focused on helping the middle class get bigger and healthier and stronger was replaced by one that helped the strong get stronger and the rich get richer."

Reworking a line from her husband's 1992 campaign, she said the rallying cry for Democrats this fall should be: "It's the American Dream, stupid."

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt contested Clinton's appraisal of the GOP's economic record. "Political theatrics aside, the reality is 5.4 million jobs have been created in the last three years alone," she said in an e-mail message. "Even a master politician can't manipulate those numbers."

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Dan Balz
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