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LAMBRO: Hiding the real jobs peril
Tax hikes and budget cuts to hit hard at year’s end
We heard some real whoppers in this year's campaign, but the biggest of them all was President Obama's wildly exaggerated jobs claim.
Let's review this one for historical accuracy, because millions of voters swallowed it hook, line and sinker as he repeated it throughout his campaign as the honest-to-God gospel truth -- even after his bogus jobs number was shot down by reporters and economists alike: "Over the last 31/2 years, we have focused on righting the ship, making sure that we didn't slip into a depression, saving an auto industry, creating 4.5 million new jobs, getting health care done, helping young people go to college," Mr. Obama said.
But Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler said the president's 4.5 million new jobs claim was misleading at best and, others said, flat-out false when you learn the tricky way he came up with his figure. Here's what Mr. Kessler wrote:
"The president loves this jobs figure. But it is quite misleading because it refers to private-sector jobs, not all jobs, and because it is based on a date (February 2010) that puts the president's jobs record in the best possible light," he wrote this summer.
"The total number of jobs -- private and government -- created in the U.S. from February 2010 is 4 million," he added.
However, Mr. Obama's "job growth number is still negative if you start counting from the beginning of Obama's presidency," the Washington press corps' ace fact-tracker explained.
"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job creation in Obama's entire presidency is plus or minus a few hundred thousand jobs, depending on whether you date his presidency from January or February of 2009. At this point, Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president since World War II," he said.
Wow, that's quite a record when you think about it. Even so, millions of Americans who voted for him either believe he created lots of jobs, or it didn't matter to them one way or the other. These are die-hard Obama supporters who are willing to follow him off the cliff if need be in order to demonstrate their loyalty to a failed presidency.
It's been said by some of the president's partisans that we're in an economic era they call "the new normal." That is, persistently high unemployment that will likely continue for many years, creating a large, permanent, jobless class, as we've long seen in Europe where the unemployment rate is now 11.6 percent.
As in Europe, though, the real U.S. unemployment rate is much higher than the average rate that the feds hand out on the first Friday of each month.
The BLS announced three days before the election that October's jobless rate had edged back up to 7.9 percent. Job statistics such as this one can hide politically sensitive unemployment data that go unreported in the national news media.
The 171,000 new net jobs were trumpeted by Mr. Obama and his friends in the news media as a great leap "forward," mirroring his campaign slogan. But Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, told The New York Times, "We're still not making enough progress to bring that unemployment rate down significantly and rapidly."
Many of the job gains were in part-time work for people who sought full-time jobs. Getting even less notice were hourly wages, which barely budged in October and have shown little growth over the past several months.
A report from the National Employment Law Project, a liberal labor advocacy group, said the majority of jobs created since the recession have been lower-paying ones.
September's unemployment decline to below 8 percent, for the first time since Mr. Obama assumed office, was seen by some as a fluke, and a suspicious one at that -- pushed downward by a multibillion-dollar defense spending binge in the closing months of the 2012 fiscal year.
The real unemployment rate rises to 9.6 percent when long-term, uncounted, jobless workers who have stopped looking for work are added to the equation.
Throw in 8 million part-timers who desperately need full-time work, and the rate zooms to 14.6 percent, says University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.
Officially, roughly 12 million unemployed Americans are searching for a job, and 2 out of 5 of them have been looking in vain for a half a year or longer.
The truth is that the mediocre job numbers we've seen this year, as we did last year, have not kept pace with worker population growth.
Economic growth "is weak and jobs are in jeopardy, because temporary tax cuts, stimulus spending, large federal deficits, expensive but ineffective business regulations, and costly health care mandates championed by Obama do not address the structural problems holding back dynamic growth and job creation," Mr. Morici says.
The American economy is in trouble enough, but it will get worse before year's end. That's when the White House and Republicans in a lame-duck Congress must prevent it from tumbling off the "fiscal cliff" and possibly into another recession.
When the clock strikes midnight to kick off Jan. 1, President George W. Bush's across-the-board income tax cuts will expire, if they're not extended or made permanent by then. The hour will also trigger automatic spending cuts that will carve $500 billion from the budget, including deep cuts in the Pentagon that will result in widespread defense industry layoffs.
That, too, is when the president is threatening to play a game of chicken with Republicans on Capitol Hill, vowing to veto any bill that does not raise the two top tax rates for wealthier Americans.
Add a high-stakes debt-ceiling battle and a threatened shootout over the Social Security payroll tax cut, and it'll make this year's nasty campaign wars look like summer camp.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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