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“The Alleged Socialists Are Saving Capitalism”: Why You Don’t Know Obama Has Created 4.5 Million Jobs

The terrific June jobs report may be the signal we’ve been waiting for that we’re finally turning the psychic corner. The overall jobs number was great at 288,000, and the unemployment rate was down to 6.1 percent. But the most important number was that the employment-to-population ratio, which many economists think of as the truest measure of the jobs market, was up a bit to 59 percent, a high for the recovery, indicating that maybe more people are finally out looking for work than staying home.

A lot of liberals puzzle over why the Obama administration isn’t getting more credit, or doesn’t do a better job of making sure it gets credit, for such good economic news. There are a lot of theories, and most of them hold varying amounts of water. But the main reason to me is fairly obvious: Liberals don’t speak as one big fat propagandistic voice on this subject in remotely the same way conservatives do when a Republican president is in power.

Before I get into all that, I want to review some numbers with you, because unless you’re a hyper-informed political junkie, I doubt you know them. How many net jobs has the economy created during Barack Obama’s presidency, and how many did it create during George W. Bush’s tenure? Notice first that I wrote “has the economy created” rather than “did Obama create/did Bush create.” I think it’s a better description of reality.

I also should note that I just measured the numbers under each president—I gave Bush the numbers from January 2001 to December 2008, and Obama the numbers from January 2009 to the present, with the following asterisk. January 2009 was when Obama became president, but he didn’t start until the 20th, of course. That was a particularly awful month, with 798,000 jobs lost. So I think it’s reasonable to give Bush, whose policies helped cause the meltdown anyway, two-thirds of that 798,000. (January 2001, by the way, was a tiny number, 30,000 jobs lost, but just to be consistent, I assigned only 10,000 of those to Bush.)

Here are Bush’s numbers: It’s 8.657 million jobs gained, and 7.121 million jobs lost, for a net job-creation number of 1.536 million. Pathetic. It’s interesting to look back over the numbers from 2001. The economy stank. The month of 9/11, we lost 242,000 jobs. Want to ascribe that just to the attacks? In August, we’d lost 158,000. The decent Bush years were 2004, 2005, 2006, and part of 2007, but even then the numbers were hoppy and inconsistent: 307,000 jobs added in May 2004 and just 74,000 in June, for instance.

And what about Obama’s numbers? I’d bet that even if you’re an Obama partisan, you think they’re not all that different from Bush’s. After all, 2009 was miserable: minus 798,000, minus 701,000, minus 826,000, and so on. The numbers went into the black in early 2010, but dipped back into the red in the summer. But remember, since October 2010, every report has been positive—the now 45 straight months of job growth that the president and his team, to little avail, crow about.

But they’ve added up, because under Obama, the economy has added 9.425 million jobs and lost 4.887, for a net gain of 4.538 million jobs. That’s a 3 million advantage over Bush. Now, 6.5 million jobs doesn’t put Obama up there in Clinton (22 million) and Reagan (around 16 million) territory. But remember—he has 30 months to go yet. Let’s say we average a gain of 250,000 a month the rest of the way. That’s another 7.5 million. And that would edge him up toward Reagan territory. And that seems conservative, if anything. If the recovery gets genuinely humming, we could start seeing months between 300,000 and 400,000 next year. It seems unlikely to happen, but God would it be hilarious if Obama, with everything the Republicans in Congress have done to keep the economy in a state of contraction, ended up surpassing Reagan.

[UPDATE: I rechecked my math this morning, and it’s a good thing I did. I had originally given Obama nearly 2 million more jobs created than the actual numbers reflect. Obviously, I want to be accurate here. I added and re-added these three times.]

But all that’s speculative. After all, there could be a recession coming, too, though most experts don’t seem to fear that much. So let’s just talk about the up to now, the 6.5 million net jobs. As I said before, I bet you didn’t know that. Why?

Two main reasons. One, the administration doesn’t go a great job of trumpeting it, and I think for good reason. Officials may feel constrained from doing too much boasting because a lot of people’s perception and experience is still worse than that. A lot of these aren’t great jobs, and the economy is still only doing real well for the top 5 or 10 percent.

The second reason is that figures on the broad left simply aren’t superficial cheerleaders. The two men who are probably the most influential economic voices on the left, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, have both been pretty harsh critics of the administration’s economic policies, as have other liberal economists. They, and less well-known but still prominent people such as Dean Baker, look at the numbers and report the truth as they see it. Democratic politicians are cheerleaders in varying degree—there’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the rah-rah end, but most Democrats don’t brag too much for the same reason the White House doesn’t.

And the media voices on the left—the folks on MSNBC, say—try to accentuate the positive in political terms, but they don’t ignore the bad news by any stretch of the imagination. MSNBC talks a lot about obstreperous Republicans, a theme to which I certainly contribute on air, but the network also offers a consistent diet of news features on and interviews with people stuck in the dead-end economy and having a hard time of it, segments that usually demand the government do more.

Now, imagine that a Republican president produced 45 straight months of job growth coming off the worst financial crisis since the Depression. Lord, we’d never hear the end of it from Fox and Limbaugh and even from CNBC. They wouldn’t care about the reality that a lot of the jobs are low wage. They’d just trumpet the bottom-line numbers as evidence of their president’s Churchillian greatness.

That’s how they are, and nothing’s going to change them. The important question now, as I said up top, is whether we’re really turning the psychic corner. Corporations have been hoarding record profits, banks still aren’t lending they way they should be, businesses have been skittish about large-scale hiring. It’s a big game of economic chicken, and it certainly has a political element. Most of these corporate titans and bankers and business leaders are Republicans. I don’t think most of them would intentionally hold the economy back because they don’t like the president, but I do think they take their cues from elected Republicans more than from Obama. When the Republicans stand up and say repeatedly that the president’s policies are failing, failing, failing, these private-sector titans hear them, and it influences what they do.

It may be that we’re finally working our way through all that. Happy days aren’t yet here again, but, once again, Democrats, the alleged socialists, are saving capitalism from the supposed lovers of capitalism who almost destroyed it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 7, 2014

July 8, 2014 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, Jobs | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Just Shouldn’t Be Possible”: Job Creation Trips Up GOP Message Machine

The more America’s job market improves, the tougher it is for Republicans to explain what’s happening. According to GOP talking points, tax hikes, regulations, and “Obamacare” are dragging down the economy, making it impossible for employers to create jobs.

And yet, the unemployment rate is at a six-year low, we’re on track for the best year for jobs since the Clinton era, and we just broke the record for the most consecutive months of private-sector job gains. For the right, this just shouldn’t be possible.

So how do Republicans reconcile the reality and their rhetoric? At least at Fox News, the answer is to ignore the inconvenient truths. Dylan Byers noted:

We won’t do the screen shots this time, but per usual FoxNews.com is the one major news site downplaying Thursday’s positive employment report. CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are all leading their sites with the news (in large fonts, no less). Fox News has it buried in fine print on a sidebar.

It’s hard to argue that such a decision is a matter of unbiased editorial judgment.

Ya think?

Given recent history – good news is ignored, bad news is trumpeted – it’s probably safe to assume the right’s not-so-subtle approach is intended to keep the bubble intact for conservative audiences.

But even funnier was House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) unintentionally hilarious statement in response to the new jobs report.

The headline clearly says the press released relates to the “June 2014 Unemployment Report,” but remarkably, the Speaker of the House managed to issue a statement that ignores the June 2014 Unemployment Report.

“The House has passed dozens of jobs bills that would mean more paychecks and more opportunities for middle-class families.  But in order for us to make real progress, the president must do more than criticize.  From trade to workplace flexibility, there’s no shortage of common ground where he can push his party’s leaders in the Senate to work with us.  Until he provides that leadership, he is simply part of the problem.  For our part, we will continue to listen to and address the concerns of Americans who are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’”

Look, it’s the day before a major national holiday. It’s quite possible that Boehner never even saw the job numbers and this statement was written days ago and released to the media by some poor intern stuck in a largely empty office.

But given the importance of jobs to the American public, is it really too much to ask that Boehner put a little effort into this? Let’s unpack the response to jobs data that managed to ignore jobs data:

* “The House has passed dozens of jobs bills.” Actually, it hasn’t. If you look at Boehner’s list of “jobs bills,” it’s primarily a bunch of bills written for and by the oil industry, encouraging drilling everywhere. Here’s the challenge for the Speaker’s office: put together a jobs bill, subject it to independent scrutiny, find out how many jobs it would create, and get back to us. We’ve been waiting for three years. It hasn’t happened.

* “[T]he president must do more than criticize.” Well, he has. Obama has sent real, independently scored bills that would create jobs. The House Republican majority has so far failed to even vote on them.

* “Until he provides that leadership, he is simply part of the problem.” Boehner is practically allergic to leadership, unable to convince his own far-right caucus to listen to him on most issues, making this a curious line of attack. Regardless, the president, unlike the hapless Speaker, has lowered unemployment and has presented real plans to expand on this progress. Can Boehner say the same?

* “For our part, we will continue to listen.” To whom? I can think of a whole lot of measures that Americans have urged Congress to pass, which Boehner has ignored entirely. Who exactly does the Speaker think he’s listening to?

* “[A]ddress the concerns of Americans who are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’” They’re right here. If the Speaker’s office looked at the jobs report before commenting on the jobs report, this would have been obvious.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 3, 2014

 

July 4, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Jobs, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pennies On The Dollar”: Congress Is Squandering The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

It’s the first Friday of the month, which means a jobs report. And this one isn’t bad. The economy added a net 195,000 jobs in June, with upwards revisions of 70,000 in April and May. Which means that, so far this year, the economy has added more than 1 million jobs. To repeat a point, this is why the 2012 election was so critical for Democrats—a Mitt Romney win would have given Republicans a chance to claim credit for the current job growth, and use the political capital to push a highly-ideological agenda.

But back to the numbers. Federal government employment dropped by 5,000, a likely result of sequestration, and part of an overall decline of public employment—since 2010, the public sector has shed more than 600,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.6 percent, with a slight drop in long-term unemployment. Still, more than four million people have been out of work for longer than six months.

In other words, despite the improving economy, we’re still stuck in a period of mass unemployment. And, thanks the GOP’s categorical opposition to spending–and stimulus in particular—there’s no chance of relief for the economy.

What’s frustrating—and, given the cost of long-term unemployment to individuals, families, and communities, cruel—is that conditions are perfect for another round of large-scale government spending. Not only are there millions of potential workers (to say nothing of an overall demand shortfall), but—as Suzy Khimm notes for MSNBC—interest rates are still at historic lows. But that won’t last: “Already,” she writes, “there are early warning signs that this era of absurdly cheap borrowing will eventually come to an end: The interest rate on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes—the benchmark for long-term borrowing rates—rose to 2.66% on Monday, the highest rate since August 2011.”

There’s still time to act on this unprecedented opportunity by investing in new infrastructure: We could take advantage of these low rates, borrow, and use the cash to rebuild our roads, bridges, airstrips, and pipelines. The subsequent economic growth—from more jobs and a faster recovery—would be more than enough to pay back whatever we owe when the economy is stronger.

But Republicans have not budged from their commitment to spending cuts, monetary tightening, and other austerity-minded policies. They warn that greater public debt will lead to inflation and low growth, ignoring the extent to which inflation has held steady at just under 2 percent for the last four years, and disregarding the disastrous results of austerity in Europe, which has plunged several countries, including the United Kingdom, into a second recession. Because of this, their House majority, and their ability to filibuster in the Senate, there’s no chance Congress will move on new stimulus, or anything else that could boost the economy.

The sad fact is that the GOP’s dysfunctions—its hyper-ideological approach to government, hostility to liberalism, and opposition to compromise—will keep the United States from capitalizing on one of the great opportunities of the last 20 years. Thanks to GOP-driven gridlock and Washington’s myopic focus on debt reduction, we have squandered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rebuild this country at pennies on the dollar, and bounce back from a long decade of mismanagement and neglect.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 5, 2013

July 6, 2013 Posted by | Economy, Jobs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Down On America”: As Economy Improves, Republicans Remain In Denial

When Joe Biden said “I’ve never met two guys more down on America across the board,” he meant Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — who provoked the vice president’s snipe during their debate by insisting, utterly falsely, that unemployment is still worsening across the nation. But the vice president’s complaint also applies to the Republican leadership at large, in Congress and across the right-wing media, where the talking points on U.S. economic prospects and progress are always negative.

Certainly the Republicans have tried to do their part to sink the economy, as last year’s manufactured debt crisis demonstrated beyond doubt. But whenever the news is good, they insist that the encouraging data must be inaccurate or even manipulated – as former General Electric boss Jack Welch proclaimed in his infamous tweet about the newly improved unemployment data last week.

This week the right-wing propaganda machine disparaged a big reduction in new jobless claims as a statistical anomaly, supposedly based on California’s failure to report its data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington. The only problem with this theory is that California officials did report those numbers.Meanwhile both the mainstream and right-wing media largely ignored the latest report by the Financial Times and the Brookings Institution, which found that the United States is “the sole bright spot” in a sluggish world economy.

Just how much uplifting data must appear before the persistent naysayers admit that the economy is improving? It is true that the numbers cut against their political interest, so they’re likely to deny any signs of economic health unless and until they can claim credit. Yet the signs are present and increasing.

On Friday, the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit will again exceed $1 trillion, mostly as a consequence of the Bush tax cuts—but the good news is that tax revenue went up anyway by 6.4 percent, solely because of growth in jobs and income. (And in fact, the deficit was lower than last year, thanks to a reduction in government spending as American troops left Iraq.) So the president is reducing the deficit, as promised, in the only sensible and equitable way that can be done—by eliminating the cost of a pointless war abroad and stimulating growth at home.

Consumer confidence—another key indicator—has risen to the highest level since September 2007, according to a survey released today by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. The measure climbed to 83.1, jumping almost five points from the August rating of 78.3. Reuters reported that the new number significantly exceeded the expectations of most analysts, “who expected the rating to drop.”

There is more almost every day. Ask the bankers, who also seem to have noticed positive indicators (when they take a break from raising money for Romney). The chief financial economist for the Bank of Tokyo, for instance, told the Los Angeles Times that even if the new jobs numbers require correction—as such statistics almost always do, “the [improved] direction of the labor market is real.”

Reporting record profits for JPMorgan Chase on Friday, Jamie Dimon released a statement saying that the housing market has “turned a corner.” His company’s investment banking unit earned more in underwriting fees for equity and debt instruments—another indicator that firms are finally putting money into plants and equipment, rather than continuing to sit on trillions of dollars.

Polls suggest that the setbacks of the past few years have left voters with little patience for White House boasts of economic progress. But recent improvements open space for President Obama to say that things are finally getting better—and that changing course toward the radical right would be dangerous and foolish.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 12, 2012

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Make Up Another Lie”: What To Do When A Talking Point Gets Taken Away

Every day for months, the attack on President Obama was the same: the unemployment rate is above 8 percent, so voters have no choice but to consider him a failure — no matter how severe an economic catastrophe he inherited.

This changed on Friday when recent gains pushed the jobless rate to 7.8 percent, the lowest rate in four years. Obama is now overseeing the best election-year improvement in unemployment figures since Reagan’s “Morning in America” re-election bid in 1984.

If you’re a Republican, what do you do? As it turns out, there are two schools of thought.

The first is, keep repeating the attack anyway, even though it’s no longer true. Restore Our Future, the Republican super PAC, expanded an ad buy this week in three swing states describing the jobless rate as “over 8 percent.” Karl Rove’s American Crossroads attack ad shows viewers an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, rather than the actual one.

Why let facts and good economic news get in the way of a perfectly good attack?

The second is the one adopted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: move the goalposts. The Republican presidential hopeful is now arguing, “[I]t looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent.” Ryan said the same thing this week.

Like far too much of Romney’s rhetoric, this is wildly misleading:

[The charge] assumes all things are equal in the labor force, when in fact it is constantly churning and evolving. In particular, besides the aftermath of the Great Recession, the composition of the labor force has been affected by the retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation.

Our colleagues at WonkBlog explored this issue earlier this year, showing that the peak of the labor force participation rate, or LFPR, was reached during the end of President Bill Clinton’s term and that since then it has been on a downward track…. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in March estimated that just over half of the post-1999 decline in the labor force participation rate was explained by long-running demographic patterns, such as the retirement of the baby boomers.

In other words, Romney/Ryan would have you believe the sharp improvement in the job market doesn’t count because of demographic trends. That’s marginally better than simply repeating false and out-of-date attacks, but there’s no reason to take the GOP rhetoric seriously.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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