There are two themes running through liberal commentators' response to Mitt Romney's economic attacks on Obama: Romney's not telling the truth, and there are also not enough people are willing to say that he's not telling the truth.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post asked this morning why the media is "letting Mitt Romney off easy." Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect calls out Romney's mendacity and says "the core arguments for his candidacy are either false or impossible to substantiate." Eugene Robinson just straight up calls him a liar: "Romney's pants on fire." All seem to agree that not enough people agree that he's full of it.
There are basically two major arguments to Romney's economic attack on President Obama, both of which, upon closer inspection, turn out to be false. One is that is Obama has created a unprecedented level of spending since taking over the White House. The second is Romney's claim that "More Americans have lost their jobs under Barack Obama than any president in modern history." Even more so, Politico reports the Romney camp plans to shift its argument to claim that those same spending increases — specifically the President's stimulus budget of 2009 — directly caused those job losses.
Both arguments rely on blurring the fuzzy line where the government changed hands from George W. Bush's administration to President Obama's. Rex Nutting of MarketWatch famously refuted the spending claim, pointing out that spending is increasing at its lowest rate since the Eisenhower administration. Conservatives replied that to get that number Nutting excluded Fiscal Year 2009, which includes the first eight months of Obama's presidency (and the last four of Bush's) when the massive stimulus bill was signed.
And for Obama to have negative net jobs, you must include the first three months of his presidency — before he was able to pass any meaningful legislation. Since that time, the trend has been almost universally positive. Under Obama, private sector jobs have increased, while almost all the losses come from cuts in government spending. Overall, we've now had 26 straight months of job growth and if you subtracts those first three months of 2009 (before the stimulus was signed into law) the economy has gained 4.5 million jobs.
So if Romney is going to claim that the stimulus cost America jobs, the evidence suggests the exact opposite. In other words, he's lying. What Bouie and Robinson and Sargent have a problem with though is that no one seems to want to call him a liar.
Many of the claims that form the foundation of Romney’s entire case for the presidency are going without any meaningful national press scrutiny to speak of.
A quick search of any of these topics would show that it's hard to argue that the national press isn't talking about it — the back and forth on the different claims has been a steady topic of conversation from NPR and The New York Times to Fox News — even if the responses aren't as harsh on Romney as they could be. Sure, there are "fact checkers" everywhere, but saying something is "mostly false" doesn't quite drive the point home the way "you lie" does.
On the other hand, liar is a pretty serious charge to throw in someone's face and when it comes to economics there's few journalists willing to say anything with total certainty. It's going to take a lot more op-eds before that charge has any hope of sticking.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.