Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obama and Romney and Reagan on Unemployment

SAD. SADDER. SADDEST. (SADIST?) THE HOWLING from the right, regarding President Obama's "job-killing" policies continues. Mitt Romney can't seem to pull his tax returns out of his know...Still, he wants us to believe that if he's our next president, starting in January 2013, he's going to roll up his sleeves and reverse all the damage done by that evil job-exterminator, Barack Hussein Obama.

There's additional screeching from the right at the state level. Here, in Ohio, for instance, Governor John Kasich wants the electorate to think that every job created since he took office in January 2011 was created by him. Apparently, though, every job lost in Ohio or anywhere else in America during the last three-plus years, including jobs killed in Kenya and on Pluto, must be a direct result of the missteps of Mr. Obama.

Leave aside the fact that many jobs created in Ohio in the sixteen months since Kasich took office are related to a rebounding auto industry, which Mitt Romney, speaking like a man running for "Undertaker-in-Chief," insisted should be left to expire. Leave out, too, all the teachers, firefighters, police officers and social workers axed in recent years as a result of Tea Party tax-slashing job-gashing fervor.

Now Mr. Mitt, the man with the weather vane mind when it comes to staking out positions, is changing his tune in the middle of a song. "Did I tell you how Mr. Obama killed jobs?" he seems to whistle at breakfast. Then at dinner time he whistles a different tune ("Whistle While You Work," perhaps?).

For months, Romney and every other GOP candidate who was running for president have insisted that Mr. Obama is to blame for every job lost since he took office, including Bob the Wood Chopper, a man laid off from work while President Obama was pausing to catch a breath after reciting the oath of office.

So, what about Mitt, when he takes office next January? Same deal? No sir, no sir, no sir. In a recent interview with CNBC Romney said voters who want a strong economy should vote for him, but they "ought to give, whichever president is going to be elected, at least six months or a year to get those policies in place."

Well, for once, the Stormin' Mormon is onto something. Let's take a look at a simple graph of U. S. unemployment. In May 2007, we find, for instance, that U. S. unemployment was at 4.4%. Great news for the GOP! The magical Bush Tax Cuts were working! Unfortunately, the party of tax cuts during wartime, the party that gave us the Trillion Dollar Iraq Mistake, the party that exploded the federal deficit in the first place, also crashed the U. S. economy a year later and job losses in 2008 were staggering.

By January 2009, when the Democrats swept into power the unemployment rate had already surged to 7.8%. But, for purposes of comparisons, let's say our first "Muslim" President deserves a ten-day break.

By February 2009, 240 hours after his inauguration, 8.3% of Americans were out of work.

So, what about just ten days? If we give President Obama just that much of a pass, then he has reduced unemployment, however modestly, to today's 8.2%. Scratch your head if you want; but means any progress from here on in is cutting into a backlog of job losses created when the GOP was last in charge at the White House.

If we give Mr. Obama six months, as Romney says we should give him, then we know by July 2009 unemployment had risen to 9.5%. By Governor Romney's standard (and who knows job creation better than Mitt the Man from Bain) that would indicate the policies of the current occupant of the Oval Office have caused no job losses, whatsoever, but have instead turned around a terrible trend and saved America's battered economy.

Again:  we're at 8.2% today. Sure. We need to keep working, of course; but that's way better than 9.5%.

Suppose we use Mitt's standard of a year. Now we find that unemployment peaked at 10% in October 2009, nine months after Obama took office.

IT MIGHT EVEN BE FUN TO CONSIDER A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON about Mr. Reagan. If we go back to February 1981, giving him just that ten-day pass, we find the U. S. unemployment rate at 7.4%. Fair-minded individuals almost certainly remember that the nation's economy, when the Gipper took office, was in a deplorable state. So:  job losses soared during his first 16 months in office.

Unemployment peaked at 10.8% in November 1982.

Mitt Romney and the Tea Party leaders might genuflect at the mention of Saint Ronald of Tax Cuts, but they certainly wouldn't want you to think this all over. In fact, it took Reagan his entire first term to cut unemployment, so that by January 1985, the rate had fallen to 7.3%, hardly a stunning drop from 7.4% four years previously. Indeed, it's perfectly in line with the painful progress President Obama has managed since he took a seat in the Oval Office, although we can hope, with five months left until the next inauguration, that the final figures in January 2013 will actually be better than those under Reagan.

At any rate, at this point in their first terms, Obama and Reagan would be tied.

SO LET'S TAKE THIS A LITTLE FARTHER. Let's give the GOP their due. In eight years Reagan “tamed” the jobs problem, reducing unemployment to 5.4% (January 1989). In other words, the last great Republican president saw unemployment balloon from 7.4% to 10.8% and then drop again to 5.4% during two terms.

Unfortunately, unemployment surged again under George H. W. Bush, to 7.8%, wiping out all of the Reagan gains, plus a few hundred thousand good jobs more, by summer of 1992. By January 1993, when Bill Clinton took office, the level had dipped slightly to 7.3%. Or to put it another way:  after twelve years of GOP tax cuts and policies, we ended up right where we were when Jimmy Carter left office. (Again, fair-minded people might argue that Mr. Bush had bad luck and that the economy was turning as he left office.)

Regardless, during President Clinton’s two terms in office, unemployment fell to 4.2% in January 2001. We had a budget surplus, too—something every Republican born since 1819 has claimed to really, really, really like.

President George W. Bush, of course, came next (although Romney wants you to forget that period, too). Unemployment spiked to more than 6% by summer of 2003, and then we saw a recovery and a decline again to 4.4%--still never getting back to the level where it was when Clinton took office, and then, Bush Tax Cuts and all, the economy tanked in 2008.

So:  Here's what we know now. If you want to claim that all job losses since the moving van brought Sasha and Malia's books and dolls to the White House are the fault of Dad O., you have to stop and check the figures. Obama is doing as well as President Reagan did during his first term and far better than Bush 41 or Bush 43. All the right wing wolves need to do, if they don't mind facing reality, is check a simple graph.

THOSE BOYS WILL COUNTER BY INSISTING that Obama is a communist. Maybe, if they study the charts they'll feel a little better. And, oh yeah. We've seen Mr. Obama's tax returns and he's not hiding any money in Cayman Island bank accounts, either.

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