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WaPo’s Glenn Kessler Creates Stupid, Irrelevant Employment Chart, Then Misreads It

Pinocchio by Enrico Mazzanti

Leave it the Washington Post’s Mr. Pinocchio, Glenn Kessler,  to misinform readers again by providing useless, irrelevant information and then misreading it.   Today’s contribution to the dumbing of America is a chart the wizards of WaPo created to compare the job creation performance of Mitt Romney with that of President Obama.  What?

Now the first thing you must be asking yourself is, how is such a comparison even possible?  When did the two men hold comparable jobs or have comparable power to affect employment?  Uh, never.  When did they preside over similar economies?  Uh, never, When did they even preside over the same economy? Uh, never.   In the periods being compared, were the economic conditions similar?  Uh, nope.

So right from the start, you know that this is likely to be a dubious comparison at best, and in the hands of the Washington Post’s “fact checker,” a comic tragedy.  We are all about to become dumber.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kessler and his editors think you can usefully compare, in the same chart, mind you, the effects of a President’s policies on national employment after a severe recession had already started (2009 on) with the effects of a Governor’s policies on state employment during a period that didn’t include a serious recession (2003 on).  In short, there’s absolutely nothing comparable in Kessler’s comparison.

Glenn Kessler's Jobs Comparison Chart, June 2012

But that doesn’t stop the Washington Post:

Readers of Calculated Risk will recognized the structure of this chart; it’s from CR’s “scariest chart ever” that CR updates ever month, but Glenn neglects to note where he got the concept.

Kessler suggests, but then ignores, that national jobless numbers are driven primarily by national macroeconomic factors, but there may be factors unique to a particular state.  Hmm.  Seems kinda important, but does Kessler then examine what these unique Massachusetts factors were, or tell us what happened in Massachusetts in 2003 that might be different from what happened to the US and European economies in 2008?  You know, stuff like a total collapse of the financial system?  Uh, no.

Of course, Kessler could have noted that the CBO and numerous economists have calculated the job creation effects of Mr. Obama’s policies — e.g., the stimulus, the payroll tax reduction, etc.   They have similarly estimated the job creation effects of Obama’s proposals — the JOBS Act American Jobs
—  which the GOP Congress obstructed and Mr. Romney presumably opposed as well.  These very relevant facts aren’t mentioned or used, but they might offer a valid basis for comparison, since Mr. Romney has said he opposed all of those things.

So it might be possible to compare the jobs Mr. Obama helped create and those he proposed to create during this period, with similar analysis of what Mr. Romney claims he would have done instead — like let the auto industry go bankrupt without federal assistance, or reduce funding for states and extended unemployment insurance and instead cut entitlement spending via the Ryan budget and reduce taxes on the rich.  Why, I suspect EPI and CBPP et al have already done some of this.

But Kessler has none of that.  The closest Kessler comes to realizing he’s about to do something completely useless is this caveat:

A strong case can be made that a president has more control over the economy than a governor, but we still think it is silly to date his jobs record from the moment he takes the oath of office.  Nevertheless, that is the common political metric.

Oh, well done, fact checker.  Tell us that the common political metric is dubious, then use it to compare with an even less relevant metric of what a governor does in one state.   There aren’t enough Pinocchios for this one.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

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