Better Off: 2008 Vs. 2012

Ahead of the 2012 election, the conservative movement has made a concerted effort to undersell the economic recovery. Ads run by conservative outside groups regularly remark on lost jobs and paint a dismal economic picture. Mitt Romney brushed aside a report that over 170,000 new jobs were created in October to proclaim that the economy “is at a virtual standstill.” Yet there is widespread evidence against the idea that the economy has stalled or worsened during President Obama’s tenure. Where headlines in 2008 and early 2009 proclaimed job losses, a crashing housing market, and a contracting economy, the news in late 2012 is hopeful: 171,000 jobs were added in October, the 32nd straight month of private-sector growth; home prices are up while foreclosures are down; the economy is once again expanding; and consumer confidence is at its highest level since February 2008.



November 2008: “240,000 Jobs Disappeared” As “Unemployment Rate Jumped To The Highest Level In 14 Years.” According to the New York Times: “In a sign that American workers may face even more difficult times for many months to come, the nation’s unemployment rate last month jumped to the highest level in 14 years as job losses mounted. Gloomy enough was word from the government on Friday that a fresh 240,000 American jobs disappeared in October, the 10th consecutive month of retrenchment. It brought the toll of lost jobs to 1.2 million for the year — more than half in the last three months alone — while the unemployment rate climbed to 6.5 percent. Worse was the sense that little could be done near term to alter this now-accelerating trajectory.” [New York Times via Nexis, 11/8/08]


November 2012: Better-Than-Expected 171,000 New Jobs In “Just About Every Industry.” According to the New York Times: “The nation’s employers added 171,000 positions in October, the Labor Department reported on Friday, and more jobs than initially estimated in both August and September. Hiring was broad-based, with just about every industry except state government adding jobs.” [New York Times, 11/2/12]

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Crossroads GPS: “No Clue”

An ad from Crossroads GPS nonsensically attacks New Mexico Senate candidate Rep. Martin Heinrich both for too much spending and for a vote that may result in spending cuts. In reality, it was the recession and policies like the Bush tax cuts – both rounds of which Heinrich’s opponent voted for – that drove up debt. The automatic spending cuts are looming thanks to Republicans’ refusal to compromise on deficit reduction; when Heinrich voted for the last-minute deal that imposed those cuts as an incentive for a super committee to find compromise on deficit reduction, his primary concern was raising the debt limit and avoiding the economic catastrophe that would have resulted from default.

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American Crossroads: “Consequences”

American Crossroads hits Nebraska Senate candidate Bob Kerrey (D) for opposing a balanced budget amendment and supporting health care reform and cap-and-trade. But current debt levels are due to the recession and Bush-era policies, not to the absence of a constitutional balanced budget amendment, which would make it harder for the government to respond to economic downturns. Kerrey’s position on health care is that the law must be amended rather than fully repealed, which would have negative consequences that include kicking millions of people off insurance and forcing seniors to pay more for care. In context, the former senator’s remarks on cap-and-trade legislation make it clear that Kerrey views climate change as a moral issue without dismissing its impact on jobs and the economy.

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American Crossroads: “Debate”

American Crossroads wants to know what it is about President Obama’s first term indicates that “another four years would be better” if he wins the election. The answer is simple: Obama inherited an economy that was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month, as Americans suffered through the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Today the economy is growing – as evidenced by 4.97 million new private-sector jobs created in the last 32 months – and consumer confidence has climbed to its highest level since February 2008. The ad also blames the Obama’s spending for the rising debt, but the real culprits are Bush-era policies and the recession itself, and Republicans have repeatedly blocked Obama’s deficit-reduction proposals.

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American Crossroads: “Four Years”

American Crossroads accuses Senate candidate Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) of “voting for Barack Obama’s agenda,” pointing to the health care reform law and a 2009 budget vote. Contrary to the ad’s claims, however, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t “cut” Medicare, and while the budget Donnelly supported letting Bush tax cuts expire for top earners, few of those in the top brackets are actual small businesses.

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Americans for Tax Reform: “Tax Raising Politician (OH-06)”

Americans for Tax Reform targets former Ohio congressman Charlie Wilson’s (D) support for ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the group claims will hurt small businesses and kill jobs. However, conservatives rely on a dubious definition of “small business,” and allowing the top tax bracket to return to its pre-Bush level would not affect many actual employers. In addition, ATR’s charge that phasing out the tax breaks would cause job losses is based on a flawed study that assumes the revenue will not go toward deficit reduction, which is exactly what Wilson and other Democrats have proposed.

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Americans For Tax Reform: “Safe”

Blaming Rep. John Barrow for unemployment figures caused by the recession, Americans for Tax Reform ties the Georgia Democrat to President Obama, who inherited a tanking economy but has lately presided over 31 months of steady private-sector growth. ATR also attacks Barrow over his votes to raise the debt ceiling, which prevented the economic catastrophe associated with default on our debts but didn’t authorize any new spending.

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Americans for Tax Reform: “Skyrocket”

In an ad tying Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY) to President Obama’s pre-election statements on cap-and-trade, Americans for Tax Reform accuses Chandler of voting for a plan that would kill Kentucky jobs. But the job-loss estimate comes from an industry-funded study of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which other analysts projected would create jobs and boost GDP while costing consumers little.

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American Crossroads: “Silent”

American Crossroads blames Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) for debt that was caused by the recession and policies like the Bush tax cuts, both rounds of which his opponent supported. The ad cites a series of votes to prove its point, but the votes were primarily on bills to prop up a floundering housing market and economy or to raise the debt ceiling, a maneuver that doesn’t authorize new spending but does prevent the economic catastrophe that would result from defaulting on our obligations.

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Congressional Leadership Fund: “Income”

The Congressional Leadership Fund accuses Illinois House candidate Brad Schneider (D) of supporting “an extreme tax hike on the middle class,” but offers no evidence whatsoever for its claim. In reality, Schneider supports extending the Bush tax cuts on all income under $250,000 while allowing tax breaks for top earners to expire, which would help reduce the deficit without harming job creation.

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