How many jobs will President Obama’s new $450 billion jobs program create?
Despite last week’s high profile speech before a special joint session of Congress, this week the White House says it does not know. Or, having been burned by its previous predictions, it refuses to offer a number.
This was uncomfortably discussed yesterday at the White House briefing room by Obama’s budget chief Jack Lew. Asked directly by reporters, Lew specifically refused to say how many new jobs would be created by the new jobs program. Here is his exchange with one reporter in the White House briefing room:
“Q How many jobs will be created with this plan?
MR. LEW: We have not put out an official administration estimate —
Q Why not?
MR. LEW: Well, we just don’t do official job estimates. And —
Q Do you have numbers?”
Lew and later press secretary Jay Carney steadfastly refused to get stuck with any job creation numbers. They did so because they have been previously burned by White House chief economist Christine Romer who had predicted that unemployment would be below 8% if the original $850 billion stimulus was passed. At one point Romer actually claimed the jobless number could actually fall as low as 6.8%.
Unemployment now is above 9.1%, a number the White House admits will not fall before the next Presidential election in November 2012.
Echoing this sentiment Lew told reporters, “So my own view is and always has been that it’s a dangerous thing to try to pinpoint predicting unemployment rates.”
When pressed, Lew quoted Moody economist Mark Zandi, who claims the Obama new jobs program will create 1.9 million jobs.
Zandi, a Democratic economist has previously defended the original stimulus, saying it worked exactly as planned. In July 2010 he co-authored with economist co-author Alan Blinder that the stimulus kept unemployment down. Blinder, now a Princeton university professor was an economic adviser to President Clinton and to Presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry. Zandi and Blinder wrote in July 2010:
“(T)he effects of the fiscal stimulus alone appear very substantial, raising 2010 real GDP by about 3.4%, holding the unemployment rate about 11⁄2 percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls.”
In yesterday’s White House briefing Lew told reporters, ” It’s always a challenge with these kinds of projections,” adding “I think that the American people don’t want us to be standing here kind of arguing over estimates but getting the job done to create jobs.”
When pressed by other reporters Lew testily replied ” I’m not making any other predictions.”
The bottom line: the administration will not put out any official estimate of how many jobs will be created by it’s “job’s bill.”