Poor, poor Mitt Romney. With the release of the Jobs Report on Friday, his favorite talking point about the economy was pulled out from under him. Imagine a magician pulling a table cloth and leaving all the delicate glasses and fine china unscathed on top while the table is unprotected. Mitt Romney's constant use of the talking point that under President Obama we've had "43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent" was the cloth that protected all of Romney's fancy policy ideas from the truth about what is really happening in the economy beneath the cloth. And now the truth has been exposed. The economy is getting better under President Obama, and we are on the correct path to recovery.
On Friday night, Rachel Maddow began the first segment of The Rachel Maddow Show with a walk through the history of conspiracy theories during presidential campaigns, and then treated us to all the hilarity that ensued when the Jobs Report came out and former General Electric CEO Jack Welsh sent out a tweet questioning whether or not the administration had tampered with the report. If you missed it, the video and transcription is below the fleur-de-orange in this diary.
Rachel finished the segment by interviewing Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget Policy Priorities, and then she offer some sage advice to Republicans.
I will say my take on this to my Republican friends who are watching, and I know you're watching because I can hear you complaining sometimes. Here's the thing about complaining about these numbers. You're not helping even your own guy. You heard what Jared just said there about how we are getting improving jobs numbers. We are getting accelerating economic growth, right? If you are going to lie about the numbers, you can only lie about the numbers for so long before people stop believing your conspiracy theory. And eventually, your candidate is going to need a theory and a case to the country for why he should be elected even though the economy is getting better. Denying that truth and thereby precluding him from making that argument, will not help him get elected president. Word to the wise that you will never take from me, I know.You might interested to learn what Mitt Romney has been trying to do since the Jobs Report came out on Friday. According to CBS, Romney is not too thrilled about the idea of having to give up one of his favorite talking points, which is that under President Obama we've had "43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent." Mitt Romney certainly wanted to change that to "44 straight months" but the Jobs Report did not cooperate. Since Mitt Romney wasn't out promoting Jack Welsh's conspiracy theory, I think it is safe to assume that he worked too hard to look like a sane, moderate Republican at the debate on Wednesday night to screw that up by signing on to the conspiracy theory.
So Romney started looking for a new talking point about the unemployment numbers. First during a campaign stop in Virginia on Friday, Romney had this to say:
We don't have to stay on the path we've been on. We can do better. There was a report that just came out this morning on job creation this last month. There were fewer new jobs created this month then last month. And the unemployment rate as you noted this year has come down very, very slowly, but it's come down nonetheless. The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work.Except, that explanation just doesn't hold water because as Ezra Klein explained while guest hosting The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on Friday night (you can also find the video and transcription of that segment below the fleur-de-orange in the same diary).
What Mitt Romney's getting at there; when you look at a report like this when the employment rate is dropping but there aren't that many new jobs, you worry immediately that you're seeing a kind of trick. In particular, you worry that the unemployment rate dropped because discouraged workers gave up and they stopped looking. That did not happen this month. The number of people participating in the labor force went up, which means the rate didn't drop because there were fewer people looking for work. Average hourly earnings also increased.That one didn't resonate and was wrong, so Romney tried another approach.
'If the...participation of our adults in the workforce were the same as at the time (Obama) got elected, why our unemployment rate would be about 11 percent," Romney said while campaigning in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Friday evening, almost 12 hours after the new unemployment rate was announced.And that's not quite true either because a lot of baby boomers have retired. Paul Krugman debunked that claim in his column for The New York Times on Sunday.
But isn’t that just because people have given up looking for work, and hence no longer count as unemployed? Actually, no. It’s true that the employment-population ratio — the percentage of adults with jobs — has been more or less flat for the past year. But remember those aging baby boomers: the fraction of American adults who are in their prime working years is falling fast. Once you take the effects of an aging population into account, the numbers show a substantial improvement in the employment picture since the summer of 2011.With those two arguments failing, Romney decided to bring pack the "over 8%" theme but he spiced it up a bit on Monday in Newport News, Virginia.
"We've seen the slowest recovery from a recession in history," Romney said here Monday to a crowd listening to him in the pouring rain. "As a matter of fact, I just read that if you look back 60 years, and you look at all the months we had with unemployment about 8 percent before President Obama, there were 39 months in all 60 years with unemployment above 8 percent. With this president, there've been 43 months under one president alone. He does not understand what it takes to create a real recovery. I do."When I read that I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website where they do provide the unemployment rate for each month going all the way back to 1948 (which I assume is why Romney only uses 60 years. It's really 64 years, but close enough). The numbers Romney quoted were correct. Unemployment was above 8% under two presidents since 1948; the entire 12 months of 1975 under President Gerald Ford and 27 months (from November 1981 to January 1984) under President Ronald Reagan for a total of 39 months. But I have to wonder why Romney left out the fact that it was Republican presidents the other occurrences happened under.
Something else Romney leaves out of that argument. The fact that just before President Obama took office our country was on the brink of another Great Depression. How convenient that the Bureau of Labor Statistics only provide the numbers going back to 1948. What about the years before 1948? I was not able to find monthly numbers but I was able to find annual numbers.
U.S. Annual Unemployment Rates 1929 - 1947
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Hoover the president that was supposed have had all the business experience? I read an interesting article about presidents and business experience a few months ago.
Romney has made business experience the main reason to elect him. Without his business past or his projections of business future, there is no there there. But history shows that time in the money trade is more often than not a prelude to a disastrous presidency. The less experience in business, the better the president.So businessmen don't make good presidents. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that businesses and government have completely different sets of priorities and goals. You know like for profit insurance companies vs. Medicare. The goal of health insurance companies is to make a profit for their investors; and they sure can't be happy that Obamacare now limits that profit to 20%/15% of all premiums. Medicare operates on 3% overhead. It's goal is to provide quality affordable health care to senior citizens. If the goal of private insurance were to provide affordable quality health care, do you think they would be happy with only 3% to cover overhead?
In a scholarly ranking of great presidents, a 2009 survey conducted by C-Span,6 of the 10 best leaders lacked sufficient business experience to be president by Romney’s rumination. This list includes Ronald Reagan, the actor, union activist and corporate spokesman, and John F. Kennedy, the naval officer, writer and politician. There is one failed businessman on the list of great presidents, the haberdasher Harry S. Truman.
By contrast, two 20th century businessmen — George W. Bush, whose sweetheart deal with the Texas Rangers made him a multimillionaire, and Herbert Hoover, who came by his mining fortune honestly — were ranked among the worst presidents ever by the same historians. Bush left the country in a sea of debt and an economic crisis rivaled only by the one that engulfed Hoover.
The Wrong Résumé: The Myth of the Businessman-President
Perhaps we should count our blessings that Bush didn't crash our economy until the end of his presidency. Can you imagine if he had pulled it off earlier? It's frightening to imagine what the unemployment rate would look like now if that had happened. I suspect we would think that anything in the 8% range would look fantastic if we had fallen into another Great Depression. It's amazing that in the case of the Great Depression it was World War II that brought us out of it. In the case of the 2008 Financial Crisis, the fact that Bush took us into two unfunded wars certainly played a part.
On Monday night's The Rachel Maddow Show there was a segment covering Romney's desire to increase the defense budget, which HoundDog has already written an excellent diary about (Rachel Maddow Puts Romney's $2 Trillion Proposed Defense Budget Expansion into Historical Context). This couldn't possibly mean that Romney thinks taking us into another war is a way to solve our economic troubles the way WWII brought unemployment down after the Great Depression?
Romney needs a new talking point and I do not think claiming that the longest streak of unemployment over 8% in 60 years is an argument that is going to produce the result Romney needs. There's a big difference between that and the other runs of unemployment over 8%. We weren't on the brink of another Great Depression during the 12 months under Ford or the 27 months under Reagan. If Romney had the answer to stop the economy from crashing, why didn't he speak up in September 2008? Nancy Pelosi remembers the very day she was warned the economy was going to crash. She recounted it during an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show last month:
But the fact is, is that four years ago, September 18th, it was just a week ago; just a week ago, in my office, the Speaker's Office, and the presence of the Republican and Democratic leader in the House, leaders in the House and Senate, the chairman, the chairman of the Fed, said to us after Secretary Bernanke described a terrible meltdown of our financial institutions, the chairman of the Fed said if we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday. This is the place they had taken us to. This is the place that President Obama and House Democrats tried to take us from. This is the place that the Republican majority has blocked any of President Obama's initiatives to do more to help individual families in our country.Where was Mitt Romney then? Why didn't he volunteer to help? Oh wait! We do know where he was when the economy was on the brink of falling off a cliff. I wrote a diary about this before, but in case you missed it, he was in the room with John McCain. If Mitt Romney cared so much about his country, why didn't he have any solutions to offer then?
It was almost exactly four years ago that Mitt Romney watched up close as John McCain agonized over how he should respond to America’s spiraling financial crisis. What McCain ultimately chose to do, six weeks before the election, was to suspend his campaign and return to Washington to meet with President Bush and Congressional leaders. But that strategic gamble — which now takes its place in the annals of political misfires — came as a result of a somber meeting earlier that day with his economic team at a Hilton hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The attendees included several of the candidate’s big donors in the finance industry, a few political advisers and Romney.Romney still needs "a theory and a case to the country for why he should be elected even though the economy is getting better." We know the whole "43 straight months above 8%" won't gain traction because who cares? Unemployment is below 8% and going down.
Romney had been an informal adviser, fund-raiser and campaign surrogate for McCain since dropping out of the G.O.P. race seven months earlier. Well before the meltdown of the markets that summer, the former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital C.E.O. had emphasized his vast experience in the private sector. As he told one campaign audience in Sarasota, Fla., in January 2008: “I will not need briefings on how the economy works. I know how it works. I’ve been there.”
That day in the Hilton conference room, however, Romney did not distinguish himself as McCain struggled to decide what course he should recommend in Washington. Holtz-Eakin recalls “nothing specifically” that Romney had to offer. The other McCain senior staff member is more emphatic: “The reality is he didn’t take command. He wasn’t a Marshall-type figure who conveyed an understanding of both business and politics. But the truth is, no one else had any clue what to do, either.” Then he added, “There wasn’t a single person in the room, including Romney, who had any specific policy recommendation.”
What theory and case will Romney come up with next with less than a month until the election?