Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation.
It's no secret that the presidential election will be decided by the state of the economy and which candidate has a better plan for creating jobs. So, toward that end, consider a few relevant numbers:
+ 1.4 million to 3.3 million — that's how many jobs were created or saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
+ 1.9 million — that's the number of new jobs the American Jobs Act, unveiled by President Obama in September 2011, would create, according to Mark Zandi of Moody's.
- 4.1 million — that's how many jobs Paul Ryan's budget, which Mitt Romney called "an excellent piece of work," would eliminate through 2014, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
+11.5 million — that's how many jobs Romney claimed last September he would create in the first term of his administration. But true to form, Romney never said how he would create that many jobs, nor has any reputable economist backed up his claim. "Nowhere in the 160 page plan could I find a stated job creation number," wrote Rebecca Thiess of EPI. "The math doesn't just appear to be fuzzy — it appears to be nonexistent." Added David Madland of the Center for American Progress: "It is a plan from the Republican candidate for president designed to maximize corporate profits. What it doesn't do is help the middle class or create jobs." Even the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal called Romney's fifty-nine-point economic tome "surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament."
Following last month's disappointing jobs report, Romney offered six specific ideas to lift the flagging economy. Reported Greg Sargent:
He said he would tap our energy resources to "put a lot of people to work in the energy sector." He said he'd repeal Obamacare, which is "scaring small businesses from hiring." He said he'd balance the budget so people know "investing in America is going to yield a return in dollars worth something." He vowed to "open up new markets in American trade." He said he'd revamp the National Labor Relations Board and lower tax rates on employers, both of which would make it easier to hire people.
Sargent asked a few top economists whether Romney's ideas would actually create jobs. "On net, all of these policies would do more harm in the short term," responded Mark Hopkins, a senior adviser at Moody's Analytics. "If we implemented all of his policies, it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower."
Hopkins' quote might just be the most important one of the campaign so far. Every story about the candidates' positions on the economy should mention this essential dynamic: Obama has a jobs plan. Romney doesn't. In fact, according to economists, Romney's prescriptions for the economy would only make a bad situation significantly worse.