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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WaPo: Fact checking opening night of Democratic convention

“Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action. And now we’ve seen 4.5 million new jobs.”
— San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, in the keynote address
Castro takes a debatable talking point from the Obama campaign — that 4.5 million private-sector jobs have been created since February 2010 (a year after the president’s stimulus bill was passed into law) — and makes it ridiculous.

First, this statistic includes only private-sector jobs, which means the decline in government jobs is simply excluded. Total jobs created in the United States from February 2010 is 4 million — and it is actually still negative if you start counting from the beginning of Obama’s presidency.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job creation in Obama’s entire presidency is minus 300,000 or plus 160,000, depending on whether you date his presidency from January or February. (NOTE: This is a corrected figure from an early-morning post.)
Second, February 2010 is a cherry-picked month that puts Obama’s job-creation record in the best possible light. The end of the recession, June 2009, would be a more logical date from which to startcounting jobs created; that would reduce the total to 3.4 million (for private-sector jobs) or 2.7 million (for all jobs).

Finally, the U.S. population keeps growing, meaning the economy has to keep creating more than 100,000 jobs each month just to keep pace. By that measure,Obama is in a hole no matter when you start counting.
“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation.”
— Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
This is a common Obama campaign talking point, but Patrick’s phrasing (“by the time he left office”) makes it especially inaccurate. The 47th ranking is the average for Romney’s entire term, when in fact Massachusetts started out at 50th place and ended up at 28th by the end of Romney term.

We’ve previously looked at a list of such claims by the Obama campaign and found many equally suspect. Romney’s economic record is certainly mixed, but a governor — especially a one-term governor — is very much at the mercy of broader economic trends.
“For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers’ rights, and women’s rights.”
— from a history of the Democratic Party, on DNC Web site

A number of readers asked about this brief (20 paragraphs or so) history of the Democratic party, especially the first sentence. It certainly appears to ignore the party’s long and troubled history with race, literally leaping from the “200 years” phrase to 1920, when the women’s suffrage amendment was enacted.

The Web history mentions the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson in helping pass the 19th Amendment, without noting that he was a racist or that he repressed civil liberties — even to the point of jailing one of his rivals for the presidency in 1914 (socialist Eugene Debs).

The history also highlights the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Certainly President Lyndon Johnson, a Texas Democrat, played an essential role, but it is worth remembering that 80 percent of the “no” votes in the Senate came from Democrats, including the late Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Albert Gore (Tenn.), father of the future vice president. Republican votes, in fact, were essential in winning final passage of the bill.

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