So, the latest job numbers are out. In February, 227,000 jobs were added. Now if we look at total employment at the beginning of 2009, when Obama took office, we see that we are at a net deficit of ~864,000 jobs. Now I will grant this is an arbitrary measure since it is hard to argue that that the president has any influence on job numbers in the first months of his presidency, but I will go with it since this is what the punditocracy on both the left and the right like to use as a benchmark.
Now the conservative establishment is all over this, telling us “yeah there is job growth, but not NEARLY good enough” and “look at all the jobs lost since Obama became president.” Pundits and politicians on the right claim things would be MUCH better if Republicans were running the show. They argue the anemic growth is due to regulations, high taxes & run away government spending, not the fact that trillions of dollars of middle class wealth and income was wiped out by the housing and financial collapse.
Is there anyway we could compare? hmmmmmm …..
Oh wait! The first term of George W Bush might be a good comparison. There was a recession due to the dot-com bubble and there was the aftermath of 9/11. And as a convenient coincidence, Republicans controlled the House for those years and the Senate for half the time – compared with Democrats controlling the Senate for the last three years and the House for half the time. So as far as party based head to head match ups, this one is pretty damned close. So, let’s look at the numbers.
OBAMA Jan’09 thru Feb ’12
Net change in non-farm payrolls: -864K
Net change in private sector employment: -274K
Net change in public sector employment: -364k
BUSH Jan’01 thru Feb ’04
Net change in non-farm payrolls: -2,021K
Net change in private sector employment: -2,716K
Net change in public sector employment: +715K
Wow! I would say that is a pretty stark contrast. Obama and the Democrats look way more successful than Bush and the Republicans given similar circumstances. Bush and the Republicans lost 2.7 million private sector jobs and added 715 thousand government jobs (a complete anathema to conservative principles) whereas Obama and the Democrats have lost 274 thousand and 364 thousand respectively. I would argue that if Obama had been able to push through an even larger stimulus his numbers would be even better (both public and private). On the economy’s current course, barring an Iranian incident or the disintegration of the EU, Obama is well on track to besting Bush’s impressive net loss of 13 thousand jobs in his first term.
Any rationale for supply side economics has been dead for some time and the Obama presidency has served to put another nail in that coffin. Not because he has been a model Keynesian, he hasn’t, but because he prevented the brutal austerity that Republicans would have imposed upon us, austerity that would have driven us out of the Great Recession ditch and right off a Great Depression cliff.
This all leaves poor Mitt Romney with really no leg to stand on. The best he can do is argue that things would be just a little bit better if we resorted to demonstrably failed tax policies. That is it. That is his only raison d’être for becoming president, and an extremely weak one at that.