Mitt Romney, in a sit-down interview with Time's Mark Halperin, said that by the end of his first term as president he would get the unemployment rate down to or below 6 percent from its current rate of just over 8 percent.
"I can't possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate would be at the end of one year. I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, or perhaps a little lower," he said. "It depends in part upon the rate of growth for the globe, as well as what we are seeing here in the United States. But we get the rate down quite substantially. And frankly, the key is, we are going to show such job growth that there is going to be competition for employees again and wages will see the end of this decline."
It appears Romney didn't learn the lessons of President Barack Obama's economic team, which famously said the stimulus would be successful if the nation reached 8 percent unemployment, only to end up regretting having offered a specific number.
Romney is also holding Obama to a higher standard. When the most recent set of jobs numbers came out, the presumptive GOP nominee chastised the president, saying that anything over 4 percent unemployment was not a cause for celebration.
The presumptive Republican nominee addressed a number of other topics during his Time interview, from attacks on his career in private equity to the business-leader attributes he would bring into the White House.
Perhaps his most notable response, however, came when he was asked to address the "fiscal cliff" that the country will confront at the end of the year, when the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and massive spending cuts are set to be implemented as part of last summer's budget deal.
Romney suggested that the mere act of his election as president would give "consumers and the small-business people in this country" the encouragement to go out and facilitate economic growth. But even then, he conceded, he might need a bit more time.
Halperin: So even though it’s a fiscal cliff, you think you’ll have time because just your election will allow people to sort of take a breath and wait and see these things dealt with potentially over time rather than right away?
Romney: Well, there are different options, as you understand. One is to wait and deal with these one by one or deal with them in a grand bargain. The other is to have some kind of continuing resolution to say let’s leave things as they are as opposed to the cliff, leave it for 30 days or 90 days as we work out these other programs. It’s something that the Congress and I, if I’m fortunate enough to be President, would work out and hopefully reach a measure that had no disruptive effect on the economy.
UPDATE: 1:45 p.m. -- Romney, it turns out, had offered the 6 percent figure before. In a speech in September 2011, he predicted the nation would reach a 5.9 percent unemployment rate by the end of his first term in office and that 11 million jobs would have been created. That comment, however, came well before he said anything higher than 4 percent unemployment wasn't cause for celebration, which seemingly reset his standard for what constitutes success.
UPDATE: 2:00 p.m. -- According to a January 2012 Congressional Budget Office analysis, the unemployment rate is already expected to hit 6 percent around 2016. The nonpartisan budget-cruncher put out a forecast predicting that as "economic growth picks up after 2013, the unemployment rate will gradually decline to around 7 percent by the end of 2015, before dropping to near 5½ percent by the end of 2017."
The analysis appears to assume that the Bush-era tax cuts will expire and that spending cuts will be implemented, which is what will happen unless current law is changed. But that, in turn, seems to fly in the face of a more recent CBO projection, which said the U.S. would be thrust back into a recession if those events were to take place.
Taken together, CBO estimates, those policies will reduce the federal budget deficit by $607 billion, or 4.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), between fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The resulting weakening of the economy will lower taxable incomes and raise unemployment, generating a reduction in tax revenues and an increase in spending on such items as unemployment insurance.