Everyone knows the president deserves no credit for the recent employment gains — but do Republicans?
Like a medieval “doctor” telling an ignorant patient that his recovery was due to being bled by leeches, Barack Obama’s claims that our recent modest economic improvements flow from his economic policies aren’t — and shouldn’t be — fooling anyone (except perhaps reporters and other Democrats).
On Friday morning, the Department of Labor released the March employment data showing a gain in nonfarm payrolls of 216,000 jobs, and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, down 0.1% from February and down 1% since November.
N.Y. Times reporter Jackie Calmes, no partisan she, offered this hopeful analysis: “[A]s the unemployment rate ticked down, the hopes of Mr. Obama and his party ticked up: perhaps by the approaching election year they could claim vindication for the stimulus policies Democrats have enacted, or at least dodge the sort of blame that Republicans so effectively stuck them with last November in the midterm elections.”
Ms. Calmes’ NYT colleague Michael Powell gave a more balanced discussion, noting that although “March was the 12th consecutive month of private sector job growth… [the] numbers also offered more than a few cautionary signs that the national economy was not cured of all its ills.”
Indeed job growth coming out of this recession is taking far longer and recovering much more slowly than in prior recessions, bad news for a nation that has suffered far worse job loss than at any time since the Great Depression. (See this chart from Calculated Risk Economics for a “picture worth 1000 words” representation of the data.)
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration is trying to use Friday’s report to its political advantage. Indeed, Ms. Calmes’ article was entitled “Job growth alters playbook for Obama and his Critics,” though there is no evidence that Obama’s critics or political opponents — or even American citizens more broadly — give Obama credit for any improvement in our economy.
And why should they? Obama famously promised, based on the report by his former chief economic advisor, Christina Romer, that if the “stimulus” were passed, unemployment would stay below 8%. Instead, it hit 10%. Furthermore, the number of unemployed Americans remained almost constant around 15 million people, and the unemployment rate fairly constant between 9.5% and 10.1% from June 2009 until (wait for it!) December. What was December? It was the first month after the election in which Republicans won back control of the House and made solid gains in the Senate, setting up a likely Republican majority in that body after the next election. And perhaps more importantly, it was the month in which that new Republican majority compelled Barack Obama to agree to extend the Bush Tax Cuts.
In other words, essentially all of the improvement in employment conditions occurred once employers knew that the Democrat radicals led by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama would no longer be capable of to shoving their Keynesian econo-nonsense and hyper-regulation down our throats, at least not through legislation.
But President Obama is oblivious to what the rest of the nation (except Democrats) sees. Speaking at a United Parcel Service facility on Friday (UPS is unionized while FedEx isn’t…), the president warned that a government shutdown over the size of federal budget cuts would be “the height of irresponsibility” and that a shutdown would “halt our economic momentum because of the same old Washington politics.”
Beyond the fact that arguing over whether to cut government spending by $30 billion or $60 billion (or even $100 billion) is hardly the same old politics, Americans recognize and the data show that the American people believe Republican plans to cut spending are good for the economy and good for business.
It’s not just the backward-looking employment data that bear this out. A Rasmussen Reports poll also released Friday shows that “57% of Likely U.S. Voters think making deeper spending cuts in the federal budget for 2011 is more important than avoiding a partial government shutdown. Thirty-one percent (31%) disagree and say avoiding a shutdown is more important.” Not surprisingly, 54% of Democrats want to avoid a shutdown while 76% of Republicans think deeper spending cuts are the priority. The point of the political spear, however, is the all-important unaffiliated vote, of which a remarkable 67% also prioritize spending cuts over avoiding a federal government shutdown.
Similarly, while 69% of Democrats would keep funding the government at current levels until a spending agreement can be made among members of Congress, “74% of GOP voters and 70% of unaffiliateds would rather have a shutdown until an agreement on deeper cuts can be reached.”
Members of the Obama Administration are drinking their own Kool-Aid. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis asserts that “the policies and programs of this Administration are working.” Indeed they are, in the way that a leech works on a patient; the patient improves in spite of, and not because of, the treatment.
But that’s just their red Kool-Aid; we can’t forget about their green Kool-Aid, which was also on offer on Friday as both Obama and Solis touted the Administration’s “green energy” obsession. According to the president, “But we have to keep up the momentum, and transitioning to a clean energy economy will help us do that.” And according to Solis, “The growth of the clean energy economy will bring significant changes to the American workplace and require workers to acquire new and different skills.” Anyone catch that “require” bit? Since when has government requiring millions of people to “acquire” skills or anything else helped do anything but swell the ranks of government bureaucrats?
If there’s one thing you can count on “Progressives” for, it’s to ignore the lessons of history, even very recent history, with their belief that any big-government plan that goes wrong was simply due to its not being big enough or implemented by smart enough people. Nevertheless, a few European examples of “green jobs” are instructive.
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