WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's campaign says Republican rival Mitt Romney is trying to "move the goal posts" and reverse his position on unemployment. Actually, that's a fumble of the facts.
In an interview with Time magazine, Romney predicts the nation's unemployment rate will sink to 6 percent from the current rate of 8.1 percent if he wins the White House and implements his economic policies.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters Wednesday that Romney is reversing course from a 4 percent number he mentioned during May remarks — trying to cast Romney as a politician who readily changes positions.
"Romney moved the goal post in just a matter of weeks. He said that he was going to get it to 4 percent several weeks ago," LaBolt told reporters on a conference call. "Now he's at 6 percent and he's already moved the goal posts on a critical promise that he has made."
However, the economic plan that Romney introduced last September actually predicted a 5.9 percent unemployment figure by the end of his first term.
LaBolt, however, was citing comments Romney offered in Pittsburgh in May. At that time, Romney said in response to a decline in the unemployment rate: "Anything over 4 percent is not cause for celebration." He didn't offer a timetable for that, despite LaBolt's suggestion.
The last time the unemployment rate fell to 4 percent or lower was in 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency. The jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent in April of that year. President George W. Bush saw unemployment fluctuate during his presidency from 4.2 percent at the start of his administration to above 7 percent at its end.
Romney's goal falls into line with government economists' predictions. The Office of Management and Budget projects that the country could see an unemployment rate below 6 percent in 2016. Economists predict the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2016 — at the end of the next presidential term — would see 5.8 percent unemployment.
"I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we'd put in place, we'd get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent and perhaps a little lower," Romney told Time.