Today, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appeared on Fox News to discuss President Obama’s reaction to the controversy surrounding the construction of a new Islamic center near the Ground Zero site. Gingrich theorized that Obama’s wading into the debate is a “clever effort” to draw attention away from the economy, and then made the simply ludicrous claim “in many ways, more jobs have died under [Obama] than any President since Herbert Hoover”:
Maybe it was a clever effort on the President’s part to avoid talking about nine and a half percent unemployment, the worst unemployment rate — really in many ways, more jobs have died under him than any President since Hebert Hoover. So maybe this was all a clever effort to keep all of us talking about something other than how bad his record is on unemployment and the economy.
I have no idea in which “ways” Gingrich is fudging the data in order to make this argument, and, of course, he didn’t cite any numbers. But economist Rob Shapiro — noting that there’s “lots of finger-pointing about the economy, including the audacious claim that the fault for the high unemployment lies in the Administration’s economic policies” — took a look at Bureau of Labor Statistics data to ascertain where responsibility for jobs losses actually lies:
From December 2007 to July 2009 – the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy – private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans’ watch or under the sway of their policies.
Even if you start counting from the beginning of 2009, unfairly pinning losses on Obama from before he implemented a single economic measure, 4.6 million jobs were lost over the final 20 months of the Bush administration. As Ezra Klein put it, “insofar as the job losses go, it’s hard to credibly blame this White House for the vast, vast majority of them.” And it’s completely nuts to say that Obama has the worst jobs record since the Great Depression, when the administration immediately before his presided over a terrible employment plunge.
Plus, someone looking for a reprisal of Hooverism need look no further than many Congressional Republicans, who are advocating draconian spending cuts in the face of a weak economy, which will only lead to pro-cyclical drops in spending, weakening the economy further. And let’s not forget that Gingrich himself predicted an economic catastrophe would result from President Clinton’s economic policies, which instead ushered in the longest sustained period of economic growth in the nation’s history.