President Obama claims that his economic recovery efforts have already “created or saved” 150,000 jobs, and that they’ll create or save an additional 600,000 over the next few months. Problem is, thanks to the addition of the last two words — “or saved” — there’s no way to measure this. Not only is there no administration entity assigned to measure saved jobs, it would still be impossible to accurately measure if there were. Even the unnamed “independent analysts” called upon to verify the administration’s claims, which are reportedly “based on macroeconomic models and projections,” by the New York Times admit that the figure cannot be measured, and will only say that the numbers are, at best, “plausible.” Who needs verification, though, when you have plausibility?
I prefer to avoid blame-the-media as a narrative, but, as in the runup to the Iraq war, I think an acquiescent press corp (with some exceptions) is largely at fault for the relatively wide acceptance of this formulation. I didn’t initially think much of Michael Wolff’s Vanity Fair column on the Obama team’s carefully nonchalant manipulation of the media — his argument is that, like a high schooler fretting over his popularity but trying to play it cool, the Obama administration is obsessed with controlling media coverage, and equally determined not to look like they actually care — but the ease with which Obama has passed this obviously manipulative phrase through the press does lend it some credence. I’m sympathetic to the near-impossibility of Obama’s tasks with regard to the economic recovery, but isn’t this sort of obvious political game playing exactly what the Obama era was supposed to relegate to the dustbin? Cleverly covering your tracks is still covering your tracks.
Still, credit where credit’s due: Obama and his communications team have built a rhetorical apparatus that essentially makes it possible for the administration to claim absolutely any outcome as a success.