By JEFFREY BRUNER (Gannett)
Question: Did the president promise that unemployment would be 5.4 percent by now if the stimulus bill passed?
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Answer: After the election in 2008, Barack Obama's economic advisers started working on a plan to lessen the pain of the Great Recession. Ten days before he assumed office, they examined the preliminary economic data from the fourth quarter of 2008 and put together a chart showing the impact of the recovery plan.
That's where Mitt Romney gets the 5.4 percent number -- it's on that chart.
But what no one knew in January 2009 was how devastating things had been the previous three months. Obama's advisers were working off data that showed the economy had contracted 3.8 percent. About seven weeks later, it was revised to 6.2 percent. There have been four more revisions since then and we now know the economy contracted 8.9 percent during the final three months of 2008.
About 1.9 million jobs were lost in October, November and December of 2008. Another 818,000 jobs vanished in January of 2009. In the end, the hole the economy had to climb out of was more than twice as deep as originally thought.
(Jeffrey Bruner is the wire chief for the Gannett National Wire Desk in Des Moines.)