Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded—and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down—the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes.
President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”).
As we close in on Election Day, the questions about what Mitt Romney would do if elected grow even larger. Rarely before in American history has a candidate for president campaigned on such a blank slate.
Yet, paradoxically, not a day goes by that we don’t hear Romney, or some other exponent of the GOP, claim that businesses aren’t creating more jobs because they’re uncertain about the future. And the source of that uncertainty, they say, is President Obama — especially his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Act, and uncertainties surrounding Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.
In fact, Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy
Regardless of what happens on Election Day, at the beginning of next year more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts automatically go into effect. That’s equivalent to about 5 percent of the entire U.S. economy—more than the projected growth of the whole gross domestic product next year.
The problem is, if we fall off this fiscal cliff, we plunge into recession. That’s because the cliff withdraws too much demand from the economy too quickly, at a time when unemployment is still likely to be high.
The Congressional Budget Office projects real economic growth will drop at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the first half of 2013, and unemployment will rise to 9.1 percent by the end of next year.
The White House is breathing easier this morning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent—the first time it’s been under 8 percent in 43 months.
In political terms, headlines are everything—and most major media are leading with the drop in the unemployment rate.
Look more closely, though, and the picture is murkier. According to the separate payroll survey undertaken by the BLS, just 114,000 new jobs were added in September. At least 125,000 are needed per month just to keep up with population growth. Yet August’s job number was revised upward to 142,000, and July’s to 181,000.