What a difference a year makes. President-elect Barack Obama hasn’t even taken office and we’re experiencing climate change.
Not the global warming variety that keeps bypassing the bone-chilling American winter. It’s change in D.C. Obama, who promised a government of “change” unveiled a switcheroo in his Jan. 2 radio address, also available on the Change.gov Web site.
Obama is releasing details of his economic recovery plan that includes spending hundreds of billions of dollars. It also entails a major jobs component. “The No. 1 goal of my plan, which is to create 3 million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector,” he says in the new video.
That’s quite a goal for a new government that only recently was snowing the American public and the media on the very same issue. Call it the great snow job of 2009. It wasn’t the fluffy, light kind of precipitation reminiscent of Hallmark cards. This was the heaviest kind that buries us 3 feet deep.
It was all part of how Obama was getting away with the Big Lie on the economy. Only a few days before the latest Obama comment, his economics team was running around the country saying they will “save or create” 3 million jobs.
Sometimes. Other times, they claimed they would actually create 3 million jobs. Before that, the number was 2.5 million.
Listen to some of Obama’s top snowmen. First up is former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers who will head the White House National Economic Council in the Obama administration. According to a Summers op-ed in the Dec. 28 Washington Post, “a key pillar of the Obama plan is job creation. In the face of deteriorating economic forecasts, Obama has revised his goal upward, to 3 million.” Summers goes on to say that “more than 80 percent of these 3 million jobs will be in the private sector.” Summers sums it up by say: “This is a bold goal.”
Then we have David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the incoming president. Axelrod told a CBS “Face the Nation” audience the very same day that job creation isn’t the real goal – stopping unemployment is. “So we want to create 3 million – or create or save 3 million jobs to forestall that.”
In an amazing exercise in doublespeak, Axelrod even referenced the Summers op-ed and still, using an appropriate Clinton-era term, parsed it differently.
This isn’t a new controversy. There has been a blizzard of media coverage about the Obama economic plan. The only thing journalists agree on is that they don’t know what Obama has planned. The cost of the proposals changes almost daily. And journalists have bounced all over the place with their job analysis.
The New York Times started off the new year with a Jan. 1 story about the Obama stimulus plan that “could approach $1 trillion.” The cost is so high, wrote the Times, because “the effort will aim to create 3 million jobs by spending money on infrastructure, green energy technology, aid to states and other initiatives.” That spending number ranges from $675 billion on up, depending on the news outlet.
Just three days later, the paper reversed itself – at the very same time Obama was going the other direction. “Mr. Obama has pledged to ‘create or save’ 3 million jobs over the next two years,” wrote Jackie Calmes and Carl Hulse. Then they explained the problem a bit. “In his address, he omitted the word ‘save,’ suggesting he would create 3 million jobs, a goal that many economists consider unattainable under current conditions,” the pair said of Obama.
But now Obama is stuck with “creating” 3 million jobs. Creating something is much harder than just pretending to keep it safe. I could have saved an old column, rehashed something about how bad the media are covering economics. Instead, I had to create a new one. It’s tangible. You can touch it. Track it. And tally it.
That means if the media hold Obama accountable, the 3 million jobs number means something. It’s a reasonable expectation that journalists treat the incoming president the same way as the outgoing one and not let him snow them on the economy.
At least one reporter is doing just that. ABC’s Jake Tapper has figured out the way Obama can alter his own political climate. Obama claims that 80 percent of those 3 million jobs are private sector. That means he will push for an increase of 600,000 government jobs.
That’s a headline you might not see too many places. Kudos to Tapper for doing some timely snow removal.
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