Yesterday, Pres. Obama and Vice Pres. Biden declared that the $787 billion stimulus program enacted in February would create or save 600,000 jobs in the next 100 days. The president said it had already created or saved 150,000 jobs. On Sunday, his advisor David Axelrod said the plan had “produced hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Vice Pres. Biden recently said “the act is on track to generate or save 3.5 million jobs by September 2010,” according to Reuters.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Jared Bernstein, an economic advisor to the vice president, “said in an interview that the president’s citation of 150,000 [jobs saved or created] is ‘an estimate’ based partly on what the economy would look like in the absence of the stimulus package. But Bernstein said he could not break down how many of those jobs were created versus saved. ‘That’s a division we’re not able to make at a level of accuracy we’re comfortable with,’ he said.”
As William McGurn noted in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Max Baucus recently expressed unease with the unfalsifiable “create or save” formulation: “You created a situation where you cannot be wrong,” said the Montana Democrat. “If the economy loses two million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would’ve lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs.”
Today, Pres. Obama announced a bold new initiative to rescue the nation from the “false choice” between “hopeful, inspiring press conferences and media events featuring me and members of my administration” and “fatuously precise data, ultimately based on guesswork, delivered by me and members of my administration.” He is appointing the nation’s first “Epistemology Czar,” who will direct the White House Council of Counterfactual Analysis. “The American people are tired of the old, cynical politics,” Obama said. “They made clear last November that they are ready for leaders who will describe events that have not gone through the formality of taking place with the same detail as ones that have.”
Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, later informed reporters that the Council of Counterfactual Analysis had already produced several valuable reports. They show that: 217,000 Americans are already “feeling a little better, thanks” in anticipation of major health care reforms; General Motors is “37% less bankrupt” than it would have been without federal bailout funds; and Vice Pres. Biden says “4 more weird things” in an average week than he would if he were still in the Senate. Mr. Higgs said the council consists of three metaphysicians appointed by the president, and a staff of 12 civil-service researchers on loan from the Journal of Irreproducible Results. He noted, however, that once one took into account the multiplier effect of the spending by members of the council, plus the additional employment generated by academic, journalistic and research organizations trying to read their reports, the full number of people employed by the council is “probably a couple thousand. Or something.”