“Very Good” Report, But It Takes A While To Clean Up After Republicans

I was watching CNN this morning when the new—and “very good“— jobs numbers (as Mark Zandi characterized them later on MSNBC) came out. Guess who CNN, the network that tries hard at times to be a watered down version of Fox “News,” had on to comment on the numbers? No, come on, guess.

Oh, I knew you couldn’t guess. It was, uh, Grover Norquist. I’ll spare you what Grover had to say (that is something you could guess), but the point is there was no one on the panel of guests to counter the nonsense he spouted. I guess all the good guys were busy congratulating those conspirators at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for another job well done making Obama look good.

In any case, the numbers for October signal a continuing improvement. There were 184,000 private sector jobs added—32 months of consecutive growth—which represents the largest gain in eight months (government jobs continue to decline, as 13,000 more were lost, split fairly evenly between federal and state).  Because of the increased number of folks entering the job market (always a good sign), the unemployment rate rose to 7.9, from last month’s 7.8 (which, of course, the right-wing labeled a conspiracy).

What often gets lost in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report are the revised numbers for the last two months:

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised from +142,000 to +192,000, and the change for September was revised from +114,000 to +148,000.

That revision represents 84,000 more jobs added over the previous two months than previously reported.

So, although there is still a lot of Republican economics to fix, things are, indisputably, getting better and better.

Before I go, let’s play the guessing game again. What would you guess Fox “News” was doing after these “very good” numbers came out at around 7:30 C.S.T.?

Oh, I know, this one was easy, given what Fox has been doing for the past three weeks:

You gotta hand it to those guys. They are not ashamed of what they do.

By the way, in case you can’t quite figure out what that graphic in the right hand corner says, here is a better look:

Obama is one bad cat. One cover up isn’t good enough for him, he has to have two, or, who knows, possibly more. Perhaps next week’s Fox graphic will be a trifecta of intrigue: “Cover-up of the Cover-up of the Cover-up.”

Stimulus: “It Did What It Was Supposed To Do”

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, was asked about the latest jobs report on The Daily Rundown this morning:

LUKE RUSSERT: The stimulus worked a little bit, you think, here?

ZANDI: I think it was a success, yes. It did end the recession; it jump-started our recovery. It’s not a source of long-term economic growth—it was never intended to be—but it did what it was supposed to do.

Voters should remember that the positive news in February means 24 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, and they should remember this too:


Lincoln Spinning-In-His-Grave Days

Perhaps you didn’t hear what our two area House Republicans, Ozark Billy Long and Vicki Hartzler, were saying this weekend at the NObama-Fest, also known as Lincoln Days, the annual gathering of Missouri Republicans, which this year was in Springfield.

Ozark Billy, swelled with what looked like pride, but it could have just been the free ice cream served at the University Plaza Hotel, said:

We promised we’d cut a $100 billion dollars. Last week we made the largest cut since WWII. We got the $100 billion cut!

Well, I won’t quibble with his numbers here—the actual cuts are about $61 billion—because there are nifty ways of claiming that 61 = 100, but I will point out again that the House GOP budget which Ozark Billy is so darn proud of will kill about 700,000 jobs, according to John McCain’s former economic adviser, Mark Zandi, who is chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Fortunately for American workers, Ozark Billy’s job-slaughtering budget achievement has as much a chance of surviving the legislative process as the Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops with Pancetta and Apple Cream at Metropolitan Grill ($36), when Billy’s in town.

As for Rep. Vicky Hartzler, still glowing from her whoopin’ of long-time 4th District Democratic congressman Ike Skelton, she did not disappoint her tea party fans. She also enthusiastically embraced the job-killing House budget resolution, but to be fair to her, Hartzler isn’t much worried about the resulting job losses.

True to her conservative Christian beliefs, she demagogued the Obama administration’s move to stop defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act:

This week our president shockingly…instructed his Justice Department to not defend the law of the land, which is to protect marriage between a man and a woman…

She claimed that the “few men in robes” who changed the definition of marriage were “throwing out a 5000-year tried and true—what we consider wise policy…This could be the Roe vs. Wade of our generation.

Now, I don’t know about you, but 5000 years is a long time ago. I’m glad we’re not using 5000-year-old medicinal techniques today, for instance.  We’ve made progress.  Learned a few things.

Except when it comes to understanding homosexuality. 

According to the Hartzlers and the Longs, we haven’t learned a damn thing in 50 centuries of human thought, at least when it comes to sharing the sometimes mixed blessings of marital bliss with those who enjoy up-close-and-personal time with someone of the same sex.  How can that be? 

Oh, I know. For most Christians, it’s that Old Testament thing. The Christian version of Sharia law.  Vicki Hartzler would be the first in a long line of Christian hypocrites to oppose even the implementation of Sharia flatulence laws, yet she joyfully celebrates codification of an ancient biblical view of human sexuality.

And speaking of flatulence, Hartzler also had some unkind and untrue things to say about the root of all evil for the anti-choice movement:

Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about young women. They’re all about profit. It’s time we defunded them and take that money back.

That line received much applause.  But when the applause died down, I waited for Hartzler to tell us who would help the almost 2 million income-poor women who get medical care and family-planning assistance via Planned Parenthood, should her and Ozark Billy’s cuts survive. As Gail Collins put it,

There are tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles. But they’re attached to a political movement that sometimes seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth.

How true.  Hartzler said,”Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about young women.” Using her reasoning, neither does she. And neither does Ozark Billy. And neither does the Republican Party.

And as Collins pointed out at the end of her column, through a misplaced and untimely fixation on abortion—and now it will be gay marriage, again—the GOP has become unmoored from any real concern about jobs, jobs, jobs.

Did I mention that the party’s budget will kill 700,000 of them?

While We Were Away, Republicans Were Trying to Kill The Economy

While the mess in Wisconsin drags on, the economic recovery remains fragile and anemic.

And the Republicans in Congress—almost unnoticed—are doing everything they can to exacerbate its fragility and deprive it of much-needed iron—government spending.

Most every economist this side of Rush Limbaugh understands that there is a deficiency in demand in our economy.  That’s one reason (but not the only one) why American businesses are sitting on a Chris Christie-size pile of cash.   But what to do about the demand problem is the issue.

The Republican answer is austerity.  Crippling austerity, it turns out.  Last week, Speaker Boehner famously said he doesn’t much care (“so be it”) if the GOP spending cuts kill jobs, because they would be government jobs.

But yesterday, the Financial Times published a story indicating that it won’t just be government workers who take a hit from Republican budget-cutting hysteria. The headline was:

Goldman sees danger in US budget cuts

The story began:

The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned.

Even if—to avoid a government shutdown—Democrats managed to whittle down the budget cuts in a compromise deal with Republicans, say, to $25 billion, that will still “lead to a smaller drag on growth of 1 percentage point in the second quarter.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, and former John McCain campaign adviser, concurs:

The betting is that we’ll see cuts somewhere close to $25-, $30 billion that take affect beginning in the second quarter of this year. And that could shave growth by as much as a percentage point. So it would weigh on growth. It would have longer lasting affects, but near-term it would be a negative.

Kudos to at least one Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who said,

This nonpartisan study proves that the House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession. Just as the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, the Republican budget would snuff out any chance of recovery. This analysis puts a dagger through the heart of their ‘cut-and-grow’ fantasy.

Unfortunately, the cut-and-grow fantasy is not that easy to kill.

Paul Krugman, wrote a few days ago:

It’s amazing how this whole crisis has been fiscalized; deficits, which are overwhelmingly the result of the crisis, have been retroactively deemed its cause. And at the same time, influential people around the world have seized on the idea of expansionary austerity, becoming ever more adamant about it as the alleged historical evidence has collapsed.

Since the fall of 2008, there has emerged two diametrically opposed approaches to solving our (and the world’s) economic predicament:

(1) Stimulate the economy through government (deficit) spending until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain a strong recovery

(2) Drastically cut government spending because deficits are a drag on the economy

It appears to me that the balance of economic opinion—from real economists—agrees with (1).  But Republicans—energized by anti-government deficit-phobes in the Tea Party movement—have successfully changed the debate from nurturing the economy back to health and creating jobs to killing labor unions, dismantling government programs, and making draconian cuts in government spending.

It’s fair to ask: What does killing Big Bird and collective bargaining have to do with lowering the unemployment rate?

Mark Thoma, Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon, wrote in The Economist:

Policymakers are not taking proper account of the risk of an extended period of stagnation. We should be pursuing additional fiscal stimulus along with quantitative easing as insurance against a stagnant economy that persists into the future, in fact this should have happened months ago.

He wrote that in October of 2010.

But Thoma is a real economist.  He doesn’t just play one on TV or radio.  And as Krugman said,

From where I sit, it looks as if the ascendant doctrines in our policy/political debate are coming precisely from people who don’t know and don’t care about technical economics. The revival of goldbuggy sentiment, the fear of hyperinflation in the face of high unemployment, the continuing force of the notion that tax cuts don’t increase the deficit, aren’t coming from some subtle battle among mathematical modelers; they’re coming from the same people who reject evolution, climate science, and more. They don’t need no stinking technical analysis. The truth is that the economics profession is proving far less relevant to public debate, even in the face of economic crisis, than was dreamed of in our philosophy.

Now, whether you think it good or ill that professional economists have lost their clout, the fact remains that in their place have come fiscal and monetary policy geniuses like Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck and, God forbid, Ozark Billy Long.  People like these three have more to do with how we are fighting this crisis than those who have spent a lifetime studying economics.

And if that doesn’t scare you, then you must be a wealthy Republican.

[J.S. Applewhite / AP (left, center); Cliff Owen / AP]
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