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Job Policies: An Experiment

By       Message Robert McElvaine       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Progressive Point of the Day: This is part of a series of brief pieces that offer suggestions to the Obama campaign and progressives on effective points to raise and ways to frame their argument. Consider it an advice column for Democrats, who have been having messaging problems for years. Despite the "Point of the Day" tag, it will not appear every day, but it will appear often between now and the election.

So, Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan, say their policies will produce 12 million new jobs.

They insist that the way to improve the economy and create jobs is to lower taxes on upper-income people and reduce government regulation.

As it happens, we have had in the two most recent eight-year presidencies a rough experiment in which this belief has been tested.

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Here are the relevant facts from those two presidencies:

When Bill Clinton pushed to raise the top marginal tax rate by 3.6 percent in 1993, "conservative" economists howled that it would produce economic disaster and destroy jobs. Every single Republican in Congress, agreeing with that prediction, voted against the Clinton Budget.

When George W. Bush pushed in 2001 to lower the top marginal rate by the same amount, he said, as Romney, Ryan and all the other "R's" do now, it would be a boon to the economy and produce millions of jobs.

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What were the actual results?

Job Creation under Bill Clinton & George W. Bush

Under Clinton, 23 million jobs--almost twice as many as Romney even claims his opposite policies would produce--were created (2,900,000 per year), by far the most under any president in American history. There was the longest period of sustained prosperity in American history. And by the time President Clinton left office, there was a budget surplus.

Under the second Bush, approximately 3 million new jobs were created (375,000 per year), the lowest annual average since the Great Depression. The very rich "job creators" got much richer, and everyone else stagnated or declined - and, of course, the surplus vanished in a sea of red ink.

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Put another way, approximately the same number of jobs were created each year under , Progressive Point Clinton as were created in the entirety of the second Bush's eight-year presidency.

And those figures on the consequences of the Bush policies do not even include the staggering loss of 5 million jobs that occurred during 2009, before the Obama program fully took effect. If the 2009 figures are added to (or, more accurately, subtracted from) George W. Bush's record, his policies--the policies on which the Romney-Ryan ticket wants to double down, lost about 2 million jobs.

Here is perhaps the most instructive way to look at what a fact-based analysis indicates about the faith-based belief that lowering taxes on "job creators" is the way to create more jobs:

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Robert S. McElvaine is a professor of history at Millsaps College and the author of ten books. He is a frequent contributor to the op ed pages of the major national newspapers and blogs for the Huffington Post. His latest book is "Grand Theft (more...)

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