Frank: Obama admin 'dumb' to predict no higher than 8% unemployment

It was "dumb" for President Obama and his aides to promise that unemployment would not surpass 8 percent if the stimulus act passed, a top House Democrat said Tuesday.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, called into question the wisdom of projections issued by the Obama administration during the congressional fight over the stimulus bill that argued it would prevent higher levels of joblessness.

"President Obama, whom I greatly admire ... when the economic recovery bill — we're supposed to call it the 'recovery bill,' not the 'stimulus' bill; that's what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent," Frank said Tuesday evening during an appearance on the Fox Business Network. "That was a dumb thing to do."

The administration famously released a chart during the fight over its signature $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) showing that, if that package were enacted, unemployment would not exceed 8 percent. The projection, authored by Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Chairwoman Christina Romer, argued that without the stimulus, unemployment would reach a high of 9 percent in the third quarter of 2010.

The current unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stands at 9.6 percent.

Republicans have hammered away at Obama and congressional Democrats who supported the stimulus act, calling it a failure for not spurring the kind of job growth that the president had promised.

Frank said the public projection was mistaken for two reasons: because it would have been impossible to precisely predict the impact of the stimulus, and because the case should have focused on how things for consumers would have been better for consumers than had the stimulus not passed. As things stand, Frank said, Democrats and Obama were saddled with a "false prediction."

The debate over the stimulus and Obama's handling of the economy has been a cornerstone of the GOP's election-year argument. They argue the stimulus added no jobs to the economy, while only worsening the deficit.

To that end, "Where are the jobs?" has become a constant refrain of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP lawmakers and candidates this cycle.