Careful what you promise

September 2008 is a special month for me, as in that month my wife and I optimistically put our house on the market. Four years later, its value has been cut in half and it remains unsold. Too bad we didn’t have a crystal ball which would allow us to see that the economy was on the verge of dropping into freefall.

So it was with candidate Obama’s optimism. Through August of 2008 unemployment was increasing with an average monthly loss of 152,000 jobs. This was certainly something for which the Bush administration could be criticized, which Obama certainly did. And then he laid out his plan for cutting this rate and increasing job growth.

In hindsight we, of course, know he failed, and in 2012 when Romney criticizes the president for breaking his promise many can nod their heads in agreement. But all of this overlooks the same reality that my wife and I have felt so personally.

Almost immediately after Obama uttered his optimistic promise, the Bureau of Labor reported September job losses had soared to 432,000. In October we lost 489,000. In November, 803,000. In December, 661,000. And in January when Obama was inaugurated job losses totaled 818,000. From the time candidate Obama first promised to reverse the trend in unemployment to his first month in office the nation had lost 3,203,000 jobs!

The president quickly got a stimulus bill passed, and by November of 2009, ten months into his administration the monthly job decline was 42,000. Since October of 2010 there has been a steady monthly increase in employment with 3,400,000 new jobs created, and it would seem that some optimism is again warranted. This is why the jobless rate today is 7.8%, virtually the same as it was when Obama took office.

The moral, however, is that candidates must be very careful about what they promise. Mitt Romney’s vast array of promises is far more optimistic than even the president’s four years ago. The former governor’s crystal ball tells him we can cut the tax rate for everyone and somehow we will have plenty of money to increase military spending, safeguard Medicare and Social Security, and even have a surplus with which to reduce the national debt.

Funny thing about crystal balls – whether you are private citizen or a presidential candidate, they can be very deceiving.

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