AP's Romney 'Fact Check,' Part 1: Candidate's 'Economy Is Worse' Claim Is Supported by Mountain of Facts

First let's get the obvious out of the way. It's not a secret to many readers here that yours truly's opinion (and not that of NewsBusters or MRC) is that GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney would be a completely unacceptable candidate. For those who didn't know that, now you do.

Nonetheless, when Romney says things which are either definitely or arguably true and Associated Press "fact checkers" Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn make a point of asserting otherwise as if they get the final word, a defense is necessary.

In their "fact check" piece, the AP pair, with the help of two other contributors, disputed five statements Romney made in his campaign kickoff speech. By my count, Romney is definitely right on three, one items is a split decision, and the wire service should be considered fully correct in just one instance.

The most important of AP's "fact check" errors is its headlined determination ("Romney miscasts economy in GOP debut") that Romney was wrong when he said the following: "When he (Barack Obama) took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer." The AP pair's counterargument is truly pathetic:

The gross domestic product, the prime measure of economic strength, shrank by a severe 6.8 percent annual rate before Obama became president. The declines eased after he took office and economic growth, however modest, resumed.


... A case can be made for and against the idea that Obama's policies made the economy worse than it needed to be and that the recession lasted longer than it might have under another president. Such arguments are at the core of political debate. But Obama did not, as Romney alleged, make the economy worse than it was when he took office.

AP is conceding the possibility that Romney's "made it last longer" argument might be correct. Mitt is certainly entitled to his opinion in this matter, and in believing that the recession could have ended earlier, he's far from alone.

Now let's look at the candidate's claim that Obama made the economy "worse." As seen above, the AP's entire counterargument is that the economy is currently "bigger" than it was in January 2009, and the debate is over. Horse manure.

While that's true (pending revisions) that the economy grew by almost 7% between the first quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011 , "bigger" (and objectively true or false term) is not the same as "better" (a judgmental term which must be weighed on the available evidence, after which sincere people may still disagree). In fact, Democrats throughout the Reagan and Bush 43 growth years were constantly arguing that the economy was "worse" for any number of specious (and often factually wrong) reasons, ranging from "the rich are getting richer" to "the new jobs are McJobs" to the creation of so-called "urban sprawl" to "minorities and the poor are being left behind," blah-blah-blah.

The evidence that today's economy is "worse" than it was in January 2011 -- evidence which I believe most people would agree clearly support that contention -- is mountainous (all figures are seasonally adjusted from the government's Household Survey unless otherwise indicated):

  • Woodward and Kuhnhenn themselves note that the unemployment rate has gone from 7.8% in January 2009 to May's just-reported 9.1%. Except for those who value sloth, that's a 1.3-point, 17% change in a "worse" direction.
  • The civilian labor force has shrunk by 492,000, even though the civilian 16-plus population has increased by almost 4.6 million. Baby Boomer Social Security retirements don't explain that away.
  • The labor force participation rate has dropped 1.5 points to 64.2%, the lowest rate in 27 years, while the employment-population ratio has fallen 2.2 points to 58.4% -- and it's not because there's been a sudden surge of voluntary housewives and househusbands.
  • 2.42 million fewer people are working than were in January 2009, while 199,000 fewer are working compare to when the recession ended. Remember, this is per the Household Survey; the Establishment Survey's comparable numbers are -2.52 million since January 2009 and +550,000 since the recession ended. Here's a task for Woodward and Kuhnhenn: Figure out why there is such a post-recession disparity between the two surveys -- and for heaven's sake, do a better job that Paul Wiseman's pitiful effort on Thursday, where he compared numbers coming from the different surveys as if they came from the same data source.
  • 13.9 million Americans, 1.93 million more than in January 2009, are counted as unemployed.
  • 6.23 million Americans, over 530,000 more than in January 2009, say they are "not in the labor force, (but) want a job now."
  • Of the 550,000 jobs added since the recession ended per the Establishment Survey, 90%, or 495,000 of them, have been added at temporary help services. Seriously. Again per the Establishment Survey, temp employment is up by 277,000 since January 2009, while total employment is down by 2.52 million (i.e., non-temp employment is down by 2.8 million). If this took place during a conservative or GOP administration, "The Temping of America" would have been an hour-long documentary topic at every establishment media broadcast outlet by now.

I believe that economy's marginally larger size in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2009 is far more than offset by the negative factors just cited. I believe that the vast majority of Americans presented with the complete set of information just noted would agree.

The AP's Woodward and Kuhnhenn almost seem to believe that Mitt Romney shouldn't even be allowed to hold the subjective but highly evidence-supported opinion that the economy is worse, and that it's the policies of the Obama administration which has made it so.

On AP's first criticism, it's the former Massachusetts governor in a rout.

Romney 1, AP 0.

Part 2 will go up later this evening.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Labeling Double Standards Bias by Omission Media Bias Debate Government Agencies Economy 2012 Presidential Campaigns & Elections Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press Jim Kuhnhenn Calvin Woodward