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Mitt Romney ignores facts on jobs, economy in acceptance speech

Charlie Neibergall | AP
Charlie Neibergall | AP
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, left, wave following Romney's speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.
By Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post

In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney focused more on his biography than his policy positions. But there were moments when his facts went awry or were missing important context.

“And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.”

This sounds like a pretty bold statement, especially considering that only two presidents — Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who both served two terms — created more than 12 million jobs. Romney says he could reach this same goal in just four years, although the policy paper his campaign issued contains few details. It is mostly a collection of policy assertions, such as reducing debt, overhauling the tax code, fostering free trade and so forth.

But the number is even less ambitious than it sounds. His pledge amounts to an average of 250,000 new jobs per month, a far cry from the 500,000 positions a month that Romney claimed would be part of a “normal recovery.” In recent months, the economy has averaged about 150,000 jobs per month.

The Congressional Budget Office is required to consider the effects of the “fiscal cliff” if a year-end budget deal is not reached, which many experts think would push the country into a recession. But even with that caveat, the nonpartisan agency assumes that 9.6 million jobs will be created in the next four years. (This is a revision downward; CBO had estimated 11 million in January.)

Moody’s Analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president. And Macroeconomic Advisors in April predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs.

In other words, this is a fairly safe bet by Romney, even if he has a somewhat fuzzy plan. We have often noted that presidents are often at the mercy — or become the beneficiary — of broad economic trends, and Romney’s pledge appears to be an effort to take advantage of that.

“I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.”

This is one of Romney’s signature lines, but in a lengthy column last year, we tracked down every statement President Barack Obama uttered that partisans said was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context. His comments were not much different from those of his predecessor, George W. Bush

Indeed, on several occasions Bush apologized to foreign governments for the actions of errant U.S. troops, such as the shooting of a Koran or the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. “I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families,” Bush said at a 2004 news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Romney for months has been repeating this line:

“Does it fail to find the jobs that are needed for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college? No.”

Romney is referring to an Associated Press survey earlier this year that concluded that about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed. This was the highest level in 11 years, since the dot-com bust.

“A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge,” the news agency said. “Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.”

Romney often cites this fact but is generally careful to include the phrase “underemployed.” His phrasing in his speech may have led viewers to believe that 50 percent of college graduates cannot find jobs, which is incorrect.

“His trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk.”

Romney attributes planned military cuts entirely to Obama, but they are the result of a 2011 budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans that avoided a default on the national debt.

Leaders agreed to include additional automatic cuts to the military as an incentive to reach a broader deal, but a congressional “supercommittee” was unable to reach an agreement. Obama has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy to end the impasse, but congressional Republicans have rejected that proposal.

“Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.”

Romney appears to be referring to mandates in the health-care law, but overall, Obama has cut taxes broadly for the middle class. He has extended Bush tax cuts, included a “Making Work Pay” credit in the stimulus bill, and reduced payroll taxes by two percentage points in the past two years.

Obama has called for raising the taxes of people making more than $250,000 a year.

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