While critiquing the president on his leadership of the economy, a state assemblyman reprised a popular -- and misleading -- Republican talking point.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said President Barack Obama has failed to deliver on a vow to push down the nation’s jobless rate, fueling discontent among the unemployed.
"I think the American public, those who are unemployed, are somewhat angry. The president promised that if he spent money on a stimulus program that unemployment would go to 5.7 percent or 6 percent. Those were his words," Bramnick said in a Sept. 7 interview on NJToday. "We've been stuck at 8 percent unemployment."
PolitiFact and its partner sites have checked various iterations of this claim, each time rating it Mostly False.
Most recently, PolitiFact Ohio gave Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Latta a Mostly False for saying that Obama promised that with the stimulus plan, "unemployment would never go above 8 percent. He even said it would be 6 percent by now."
While such claims have an element of truth -- top economic advisers in the incoming Obama administration released a report projecting that if the stimulus plan passed the unemployment rate would peak around 8 percent before dropping to less than 6 percent by now -- we found no evidence the president or his administration ever made a promise.
Bramnick owned up to that part, saying, "I'm guilty of using a word that may not have been his word."
But, he said, "I’m very comfortable with my statement. Though you’re right it wasn’t a promise, it was material he used for Congress and others to rely on passing the stimulus program."
Bramnick, like other Republicans, cited as support for his statement a Jan. 9, 2009 report from Christina Romer, the incoming chairwoman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, who would serve as the vice president's top economic adviser.
The report -- released more than a month before the stimulus bill, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was signed into law -- estimated the impact of Obama’s plan on job creation.
Without the stimulus plan, the unemployment rate was estimated to top off around 9 percent in 2010 before dropping off to roughly 6 percent by now.
But with the stimulus plan, the report projected the nation’s jobless rate would peak near 8 percent in 2009 before falling to about 5.5 percent by now.
What we know now is that even with the stimulus plan the unemployment rate topped off at 10 percent in October 2009. It has since dropped, hitting 8.1 percent last month.
So the estimates in the report were wrong.
But they were projections, not a guarantee as Republicans suggest. And the projections were made with plenty of disclaimers.
In the beginning of the report, the authors write, "It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error," noting that there is "fundamental uncertainty" with estimating the effects of any program and "the uncertainty is surely higher than normal now because the current recession is unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity."
Bramnick said "the president promised that if he spent money on a stimulus program that unemployment would go to 5.7 percent or 6 percent. Those were his words."
We found no evidence the president or his advisers ever made a public pledge that the stimulus would drive the unemployment rate down to the figures Bramnick cites.
Two economic advisers estimated in a 2009 report that with the stimulus plan, the unemployment rate would peak near 8 percent before dropping to less than 6 percent by now.
But those projections came with heavy disclaimers, with the authors emphasizing the considerable uncertainty of their estimates.
Those are critical details Bramnick’s statement ignores.
We rate this statement Mostly False.
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