With President Obama's poor record on the economy, it isn't too surprising that he would want Mr. Austan Goolsbee to put a positive spin on the current economic conditions. Mr. Goolsbee, whose academic work was known for supposedly showing that increased tax rates didn't effect how hard people worked, has now been appointed as the head of the president's Council of Economic Advisors. But Goolsbee has become quite practiced for his ability to "spin" the news, not for his accuracy.
We got a taste of his talents when he made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows rounds yesterday. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Goolsbee how the total loss of 283,000 jobs during June, July, and August squared with the administration's predictions that this would be the "Summer of Recovery"?
Goolsbee answered by claiming that Vice President Biden never promised new jobs, only that many new stimulus projects would be launched: "the vice president was taking about the 'Summer of Recovery' in reference to the Recovery Act that you would see the creation of a series of infrastructure and other projects ramping up over the summer and you did see that."
But this is surely stretching the facts. On April 23, Vice President Biden predicted that between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs would be added in May and that "Some time in the next couple of months [June and July] we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month."
And let's not forget Goolsbee's royal blunder that brought him to national attention. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he denied discussing then Senator Obama's position on the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Canadians. Yet, as it turned out, he had told Canadian diplomats that they could ignore Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric, that it was just blather told to win the support of Democratic primary voters. But he did not owe up to this when confronted, but baldly lied to the New York Observer: “It is a totally inaccurate story."
Only after Goolsbee had sworn multiple times that the incident never happened did the Associated Press discover a memo to prove that the meeting had taken place. The memo was written by Joseph DeMora, a Canadian consulate staffer, as a record of Goolsbee's February 8 meeting with a man named Georges Rioux, the Canadian Consul General in Chicago. Additionally, as Goolsbee had told the Canadians, Obama later disowned the promises he had made the voters on NAFTA.
It is also hard to forget Goolsbee's weird definition of "taxes" during the health care debate. He claimed that penalties that the administration planned to impose on those refusing to buy health insurance didn't really constitute a "tax." According to Goolsbee's logic, defending the administration, the penalty wasn't really a tax because if those without health insurance get hurt and require health care, costs are imposed on everyone else.
Of course, by Goolsbee's logic, gasoline taxes wouldn't really be taxes because people are using the roads. And our income taxes wouldn't really be taxes because we all are getting benefits from national defense or other government spending.
The administration has since disowned Goolsbee's argument as it searched for a way to argue that the levy is constitutional: as the government wants to argue that the health care mandate comes under its authority to levy taxes, it now argues that the penalty is indeed a "tax."
Then there was also Goolsbee's claims that then Senator Biden had never voiced opposition to the AIG bailout during the heat of the fall 2008 presidental campaign. "I have read [the transcript] . . . It was clear from the entire paragraph that Joe Biden was not saying that he was opposing a bailout," Goolsbee told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in September 2008. An astonished Blitzer thought that this went too far and interjected that "I watched it that [interview in the] morning. It was pretty clear that [Biden] opposed the bailout."
Nevertheless, Goolsbee refused to back down. But the truth of the matter is clear: Mr. Biden actually said in the interview: "No, I don't think they should be bailed out by the federal government. I'll tell you what we should do. We should try to correct the problems that caused this. And what's caused this? The profligate tax cuts to the very, very wealthy that John wants to continue."
The list continues. On Fox News Sunday on June 8, 2009, Goolsbee asserted: "Now, compared to the actual policies that George Bush had in place, what they call the current policy baseline, Obama is cutting the deficit more than $2 trillion over the 10 years compared with what he was inheriting." But this claim was too much even for the left-leaning New York Times to stomach: "Three-quarters of those ‘reductions' reflect assumptions that the nation would have had as many troops in Iraq in 10 years as it does now, even though President Bush signed an agreement with Baghdad before leaving office that will result in the withdrawal of all American forces within three years."
On the one year anniversary of the stimulus, in February, 2010, Goolsbee was interviewed by Fox News' Bill Hemmer. Unsurprisingly, he repeated the administration's spin, explaining away unexpected increases in unemployment. "What the administration and everyone else missed was the depth of the recession that was in place at the end of 2008 and at the beginning of 2009 when the president came into office," Goolsbee argued.
But this is fudging the truth since the Obama administration clearly was aware of how bad the GDP numbers were that fall. For instance, on February 28, 2009, after the 4th quarter 2008 numbers were publicly released, the Obama administration released estimates that "the 2009 unemployment rate would average 8.1 percent."
Alas, President Obama is more concerned about hiring somebody who can distort the truth than someone who actually supports good at economic policies. The Council of Economic Advisors deserves better.
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John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.