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Number Crunching

The administration is retreating from statements made just last week about expected job gains, while pegging the blame for the nation's joblessness on the Clinton administration.
 
 
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Just one week after the White House released its annual economic report with great fanfare, nearly all top Administration officials -- including the President himself -- are trying to get as far away from the report's findings as possible. Specifically, the report promised that the President's economic policies would create 2.6 million jobs over the next year -- a number that, according to the Baltimore Sun, would conveniently "erase all of the job losses incurred during his first term." The retreat came one day after Treasury Secretary John Snow and Commerce Secretary Don Evans refused to support the predictions.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about why President Bush would personally sign the report that promised to create 2.6 million new jobs, and then refute that same report. He said "This President is focused on what we are doing to create as robust an environment as possible for job creation -- not in crunching numbers." This evasive reply belies the President's own past statements touting specific numbers. For instance, in demanding that Congress pass his 2003 tax cut for the wealthy, the President said "It is important for our fellow Americans to understand, the tax relief I have proposed and will push for until enacted will create 1.4 million new jobs" for a total of 2.1 million new jobs in the first seven months after the tax cut was passed. But as the Economic Policy Institute notes, "only 296,000 jobs were created over that period for a cumulative shortfall of 1,846,000 jobs." See American Progress's Fables of Economic Strength for more on this.

This is not the first time the White House has tried to back away from findings in its own reports. In May 2002, the New York Times noted that the White House "approved a climate report that contained far more dire projections of harm from global warming than Mr. Bush had publicly accepted. The president quickly distanced himself from the report" and "new copies of the report were then changed to emphasize scientific uncertainty about the effects of global warming." Similarly, the President has repeatedly claimed that the deficit was created by the war, despite his own budget documents showing that his tax/spending proposals are the primary cause. The White House is also trying to back away from the assertion that outsourcing American jobs is good for the U.S. economy.

Snow, Evans, and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao continued their tour of the Pacific Northwest, hitting Oregon -- a state whose unemployment rate has been among the three highest in the nation since late 2001. On their tour, the Cabinet Secretaries are refusing to meet with those citizens hit the hardest, telling reporters that "meeting with unemployed workers was not part of the agenda," as reported in the Seattle Times.

Approximately 30,000 Oregonians received their last unemployment check this week. Despite bipartisan legislation passing the House that would have extended those benefits, the Administration is blocking the bill from final passage.

A new report by the Center for Law and Social Policy shows that even as the White House says it wants to help people find work, it is slashing funding for child care programs that help families get off welfare and into jobs. The report found that the President's 2005 budget would "cause 447,000 children receiving child care assistance to lose this assistance by 2009." Single mothers with young children who receive child care assistance are 40% more likely to still be employed after two years than those who do not receive such assistance. Similarly, 82% of welfare recipients are more likely to be employed after two years than those who do not receive such assistance.

The Hill reports "several Senate centrist Republicans are trying to blunt President Bush's tax-cutting plans. These are the same moderates "who used their clout in the Senate to cut Bush's 2003 tax-cut proposal in half." The Senate ripples are part of a broader movement in conservative circles against the Administration's record deficits and fiscal mismanagement. The Wall Street Journal reports, for instance, that even Reagan supply side guru Bruce Bartlett "is beginning to sound the alarm that Bush's tax-less, spend-more budgets are unsustainable and will force the president to raise taxes." As he says, "These tax increases, when they come, are the result of conscious deliberate decisions this Administration made." His bet for next year or the year after: "A tax increase of more than $100 billion a year."

Despite President Bush firmly stating that the buck stops with him, the last month has seen the White House try to blame the previous Administration for the most pressing problems the nation now faces. Bloomberg News on 2/7/04: "Previewing a possible campaign strategy, members of President George W. Bush's economic team blamed the loss of 2.3 million U.S. jobs since his inauguration on a recession inherited from Bill Clinton." But as Business Week notes, The White House is "unilaterally changing the start date of the last recession to benefit Bush's reelection bid. Instead of using the accepted start date of March, 2001" from the private, non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research, the White House simply "announced that the recession really started in the fourth quarter of 2000." Similarly, last week, the Administration's allies on Capitol Hill "tried to direct blame to the Clinton Administration" for the failure to find WMD in Iraq. But as an American Progress backgrounder shows, that case is misguided.