It's three days after the dismal May jobs report, and now that politicians are done trying to frame those 69,000 jobs added in their favor, it's time for them to figure our how to get the economic ball rolling again.
For the past two years, there has been a pattern to the country’s job growth: the economy speeds up in the winter, cruises through the spring, and slows down as summer approaches. For 2012, it seems that we’re on track for the same ride. The strong gains of January and February gave way to the moderate gains of March and April, which have completely dissipated with the latest jobs report. In May, the economy created 69,000 jobs, and unemployment rose slightly to 8.2 percent.
With regards to Mitt Romney’s renewed attack on President Obama’s economic stewardship, all of the focus seems to be on his assertion that “President Obama has never managed anything other than his own personal narrative.” There’s a little hypocrisy in the blow, given Romney’s complaint that Obama is waging a personal attack against him, but it’s far less important than what follows—-“[Obama] has never created a job and never run a business.”
Despite what the average voter probably thinks, presidential candidates keep the overwhelming majority of the promises they make. And most of the ones they don't keep aren't because they were just lying, but because circumstances changed or they tried to keep the promise and failed. But that's in the big, broad strokes, while the details are another matter. It's easy to put out a plan for, say, tax reform, but even if you achieve tax reform, it's Congress that has to pass it, and they will inevitably shape it to their own ends. This happened to a degree with President Obama's health care reform: it largely resembles what he proposed during the 2008 campaign, but not entirely. He had said he wanted a public option, for instance, but eventually jettisoned that, and had rejected an individual mandate, but eventually embraced it as unavoidable.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney's health care plan...
In an interview with Time’s Mark Halperin today, Mitt Romney elaborates on his goals for economic growth in his first term. In particular, he hopes to see an unemployment rate of six percent:
I can’t possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate will 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’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent and perhaps a little lower. It depends in part upon the rate of growth of the globe, as well as what we’re seeing in the United States.
Mitt Romney is scheduled to give a speech this afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa, where he’ll focus “on the unprecedented growth of government, spending and debt under President Obama.” The American Spectator has excerpts from the address, and they are–for anyone who cares about truthfulness–rage inducing:
President Obama started his days in office with the trillion-dollar stimulus package – the biggest, most careless one-time expenditure by the federal government in history. And remember this: the stimulus wasn’t just wasted – it was borrowed and wasted. We still owe the money, we’re still paying interest on it, and it’ll be that way long after this presidency ends in January.
I briefly mentioned this in my previous post, but the latest Romney video offers a view from Iowa, where—if the narrative is any indication—the economy is in terrible shape. But this message is undermined by actual facts on the ground. For example, the joblessness rate in Iowa has dropped over the last year to 5.2 percent, which is close to full employment:
After he pushed laws to limit collective bargaining for public employees, sparking mass protests last year, it's hardly surprising to discover that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told one of his biggest contributors that he favored right-to-work laws and would take a "divide and conquer" approach to union power. But when a video clip surfaced late last week, showing the governor saying just that, it offered his opponents a major opportunity.
Well, sure, women are the richer sex, if by "richer" you mean "making less money." If you take some tiny demographic slices—single, childless college-educated women in major urban areas—those women make more than men their age. But enough of me blathering. Here's some stats:
Immediately after the jobs numbers were released, the Romney campaign put out an email to highlight President Obama’s “broken promises on jobs.” The problem, as has often been the case with Romney’s rhetoric, is that the argument is built on outright falsehoods. For example:
During President Obama’s Time In Office, The Nation Has Lost 572,000 Jobs And The Unemployment Rate Has Increased To 8.1%.
As far as April is concerned, the jobs report is disappointing; 115,000 new jobs, just enough to keep pace with population growth. Unemployment dropped to 8.1 percent, but labor force participation also declined, which means that joblessness is lower because fewer people are searching for jobs.
What’s interesting is that this runs counter to a host of other economic indicators, all of which point to a brighter picture. According to Gallup, for example, economic confidence is a four-year high, consumer spending has edged up, and small-business optimism has risen to its highest levels since the summer of 2008.
The defining feature of Republican economic policy for the short-term is immediate austerity—big spending cuts to social programs, coupled with tax increases on lower-income people, and a reduction in the size of the federal workforce. Conservatives claim that this will lead to immediate job growth and a more robust recovery.