Editorial: “It’s still the economy stupid”

On opinion and front pages of papers across the country, reporters and columnists alike declared that the slow rate of jobs being added to the economy continues to be a dagger in the heart of President Barack Obama’s campaign for reelection. True enough. After all the hoopla and feel-good campaigning at last week’s National Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C. — where the central message was contrasting a Democratic Party that supports economic justice for the middleclass, as well as adequate spending on education, health care, Social Security, Medicare and other programs that protect the welfare of the nation’s vast majority of people, compared to a Republican party that caters to the wealthiest few and would cut benefits to most Americans — the central issue of this campaign is still about the economy.
But the nation’s media do a disservice in educating their readers about this election when they continue to focus on the present headlines without putting those numbers and the corresponding news in perspective.
Yes, as Saturday’s news reported, the nation only added 96,000 jobs in August, which was below expectations, instead of somewhere around 120,000 (ok, but not great) to 150,000 (the average number of jobs added each month for the past year.)
But the issue in this election isn’t about what the job status is today, but which policies of the two major political parties would be more apt to help the economy expand over the next four years, or might put it back into a tailspin.
Today’s job growth, then, might be compared to the last year President George W. Bush was in office — when the full force of his tax cuts and deregulation of the finance industries were in effect. Here are the facts: During the first eight months of 2008, the nation lost an average of 137,000 jobs per month (just over 1 million jobs). It got worse in September and October, averaging 351,000 jobs lost in those two months! Then the bottom fell out of the economy. That November and December, the nation lost 1.3 million jobs — the largest two-month job loss since September and October of 1945. The worst, in other words, in 73 years.
Moreover, in 2008, private employment in the nation declined by 3.2 million jobs — the largest net loss, as measured by the Current Employment Statistics survey produced by the U.S. Department of Labor, since such statistics began in 1939.
Yes, the president is on the defensive, and his nomination speech last Thursday reflected that. He inherited an economy that was in shambles. It took almost two years to reverse the job losses that the Republican House and George W. Bush set into motion. And it has taken the past two years — battling with House Republicans all the way — to reverse those numbers and get them into positive territory. To date, the economy has added jobs for 30 consecutive months. That’s progress. The numbers aren’t as good as the president has wanted, or that the nation needs to get the unemployment rate down to a more respectable 5.5 or 6 percent, instead of the 8.1 percent it stands at today. But it’s still better than the 10-plus percent that it was at the depth of this Great Recession — which was a direct result of the policies put in place by the Bush administration, and which are the pillar of the Romney-Ryan ticket: more tax cuts for the wealthiest 10 percent and more cuts to middle-class benefits, while reversing the regulations put on the finance and other industries.
Yes, as President Clinton famously said, ‘it’s (still) the economy, stupid.’ But you have to be brain-dead, or brainwashed, to believe the same elixir implemented by President George W. Bush and that lead to economic disaster would be good for the nation’s economy today or for the foreseeable future. Yet, the Romney-Ryan plan is little more than a direct replica of those policies.
Insanity is defined, in part, by insisting on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result — testament to the dearth of viable ideas held in the Republican Party’s quiver. What they are exceedingly good at, however, is blaming the other guy for not solving the problems they created. That’s their game plan. It will be a tragedy if it works.

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