White House Wary of Jobs Predictions

Members of Congress now have in-hand the full text of President Obama's jobs plan, but one key ingredient is missing: how many jobs the White House expects it to create.

If you ask the White House, that is by design.

"I think there's a danger of ever predicting unemployment rates, because... there's a lot of things that determine what the unemployment rate is and will be," Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew told reporters in a briefing Monday.

The White House learned that first hand after the incorrect January 2009 predictions of then-president-elect Obama's advisors were revisited in the press with a fury. Mr. Obama's economic advisors at the time; Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, both of whom later worked for President Obama, predicted that passage of a stimulus bill for would keep the unemployment rate below 8%. The Recovery Act passed. The unemployment rate currently stands at 9.1%.

Perhaps it's the lingering bruises from those predictions that has the White House wary; not to mention the potential for campaign fodder.

"I think we'll see the reference to Dr. Romer and Dr. Bernstein's estimates many times in political advertisements coming forward, many times from candidates and political committees," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the briefing.

"I think it ought to be incumbent upon people who are journalists to at least acknowledge in their writing, if not in the phrasing of their question...which is that the forecasts made in early 2009 were based on the economic data available to any economist inside or outside the administration."

It is the lack of appropriate data that misled all economists and kept them from knowing the true depths of the recession, says the White House. In fact, the Recovery Act, they say, performed as it was expected to and so will this one.

In an excerpt of an interview on NBC News, which aired Monday night, President Obama was less shy about predictions. "[T]his package, it's estimated, would help the economy grow by as much as an additional 2%. That could mean an additional 2 Million jobs," he said.

Still, the White House did not do any of its own analysis.

"I think we are very comfortable looking at the estimates that outside experts have done, which very much support the importance of this package as an engine of economic growth, in terms of faster GDP growth, in terms of job growth, in terms of bringing down unemployment," Lew said.

"And, you know, I think that the American people don't want us to be standing here kind of arguing over estimates, but getting the job done to create jobs."

Much as they tried, reporters could not get the administration to bite.

A reporter pushed, "But there will no more predictions of what the figures will --"

Lew interrupted, "I'm not making any other predictions."