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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Rick Perry’s Whopper on Job Losses

Texas Gov. Rick Perry falsely states that President Barack Obama “has overseen the loss of 1.4 million jobs.” Perry is referring to job statistics in 34 states that have lost jobs since Obama took office, ignoring the 16 states that have gained jobs. The total job loss in all 50 states under Obama is about 552,000 through May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Perry also exaggerates when he blames the nation’s high deficit solely on “uncontrolled spending that has gone on with the stimulus program.” The president inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit in 2009 and his $821 billion stimulus plan contributed to annual deficits since then, but it is not the only factor.

Lemon-Picking Jobs Statistics

Perry, a former candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, made his statements June 24 on “Face the Nation,” appearing as a high-profile surrogate for the party’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. He criticized Obama’s record of job creation in explaining why he now supports Romney, his one-time rival.

Perry, June 24: I think Governor Romney is very focused on the issues that are important to the vast majority of the people out there, and that’s the economy. This president has overseen the loss of 1.4 million jobs. We’re now into the greatest deficit position this country has ever been in because of the uncontrolled spending that has gone on with the stimulus program.

A lot of different job figures have been cited during this campaign as both sides have tried to spin employment numbers to their advantage. But we had never seen the claim that the U.S. had lost 1.4 million jobs under Obama, so we contacted the Texas governor’s office for an explanation.

Perry spokeswoman Steffany Duke told us the governor’s number came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and referred us to a May 18 article on Investors.com. But the Investors.com article shows that the governor was selectively citing job losses only in states that had lost jobs — something he did not make clear at all in his statement on “Face the Nation.”

Investors.com, May 18: Just 16 states have seen job growth since President Obama took office, according to state employment data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The remaining states have lost a combined 1.4 million jobs since January 2009.

Talk about “lemon-picking” — that is, the opposite of cherry-picking — to make the president’s job record look worse.

The U.S. had 133,561,000 total jobs when Obama took office in January 2009. As of May, the BLS reported that the U.S. had 133,009,000 jobs. That’s a loss of 552,000 jobs (total, nonfarm seasonally adjusted).

There are other ways to look at jobs losses and job gains, and both sides have done so. The president lately has taken up the talking point that he has created more than 4 million private-sector jobs in the past 27 months. That’s true, but the president ignores job losses in the public sector and excludes all jobs that were lost before the job slump ended in February 2010.

In Perry’s case, the governor is ignoring job gains in 16 states — including his home state of Texas.

Stimulus Spending

Now, let’s look at the governor’s claim that “uncontrolled” stimulus spending is to blame for the nation’s high deficits. “We’re now into the greatest deficit position this country has ever been in because of the uncontrolled spending that has gone on with the stimulus program,” he said.

It’s true that deficits have been high under Obama. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit will be $1.2 trillion for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. But the stimulus program is not solely, or even mostly, to blame.

First, we should note that Obama inherited a projected deficit of $1.2 trillion when he took office in January 2009. It was the first time the nation’s deficit ever exceeded $1 trillion. So, massive deficit spending did not start under Obama — although, as we recently wrote, he has done little to curb high deficits, which have remained above $1 trillion each year since then.

It is true that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 added to the deficit, particularly at the height of stimulus spending in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. In a January 2011 report, the CBO said the law “added $579 billion to budget deficits in 2009 and 2010.” During that time, deficit spending totaled $2.7 trillion, so the stimulus accounted for about 21 percent of the two-year deficit total. That report also said that the law would have an impact of only $94 billion over an eight-year period from 2012 to 2019, which includes the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

CBO also said that about 70 percent of stimulus money had been spent by the end of fiscal year 2010, so the impact of the stimulus on deficits has since waned. Yet, deficits remain above $1 trillion. Why? We refer you to our June 4 article, “Obama’s Spending: ‘Inferno’ or Not?” In that article, we noted that a combination of historically high spending and low revenues has caused a string of trillion-dollar annual deficits, and those who blame deficits solely on spending ignore the revenue side of the ledger.

— Nathan Emmons and Eugene Kiely