Jared Bernstein, the top economic adviser to Vice President Biden, joined White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at the briefing.
TAPPER: Yes, in January, you and Dr. Romer issued a — your recommendation for the stimulus that turned out to be rather optimistic, I think it’s fair to say. You said, without the stimulus, the unemployment rate would be just over 8 percent. Obviously, it’s 9.4 percent. How do you explain that? And have you factored in whatever overly optimistic view you had then when you talk about (creating) 600,000 (in the next 100 days) jobs now?
BERNSTEIN: The answer to the second part of the question is yes. And I’ll elaborate on that in a second. On the first part of the question, when we made our initial estimates, that was before we had fourth-quarter results on GDP, which we later found out was contracting at an annual rate of 6 percent, far worse than we expected at that time.
To elaborate a bit on the second part of your question, the important thing to realize is that our estimate, whether it’s 600,000 jobs over the second 100 days or 3.5 million jobs over the life of the plan, that’s the difference between what we believe have occurred from the job market in the absence of this plan, and what we actually observe in the job market. In the absence of the — were this plan not to be implemented as I’ve described and as Dr. Romer and I articulated back then, in the absence of the plan, job losses would have been deeper.
From whatever level they started, job losses would have been deeper. The unemployment rate would have been, by — our estimate is by the end of next year — would have been between 1.5 and 2 points higher than it otherwise will be. So those estimates that we are touting today and the estimates that you hear us talk about, that’s the difference between what would have happened to the job market, the unemployment rate, were this plan not in effect, and the actual outcomes of jobs. And that gap, that difference between actual and the — the expectation, absent the plan, that’s where the estimates come from.
TAPPER: A couple questions. One, last week, I assume you were — you weren’t here in your D.C. quarters, but…
GIBBS: I think I saw you in France.
TAPPER: Yes. It was lovely. The commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics testified before Congress, and he was asked about the 450,000 claim. Can you substantiate…
GIBBS: The 450…?
TAPPER (correcting self): …150,000 job claim. And he was asked if he could substantiate the claim. And he called — the Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner said, “No, that would be a very difficult thing for anybody to substantiate.” He was asked, again, “So you’re saying you can’t verify that the administration’s policies have created an additional 150,000 jobs?” And he said, “No, we’re busy just counting jobs. Is it fair for the administration to use a statistic like 150,000 jobs saved or created when the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not stand by the number?
GIBBS: I would point you to what — what Jared talked about and the two reports that are on the Internet. I do think it’s fair. And I haven’t seen the report, having been overseas, but, yes, we continue to think it’s fair.
TAPPER: OK. And the other question I had is, ABC interviewed Lakhdar Boumedinne, the former Guantanamo detainee, who is now free in France. He spent seven and a half years in Guantanamo, or almost all of that time in Guantanamo, and he is considering suing the United States government for that time. Does the Obama administration think that people who have been freed from Guantanamo deserve any compensation?
GIBBS: I would have to ask somebody at NSC what — what that involves. I don’t think that’s been part of any of the discussions that have taken place here as it relates to the many issues around the closure of Guantanamo Bay.