Thursday, October 20, 2011

GOP Fiddling With Numbers

As the GOP continues its project to make Barack Obama a one-term president by prolonging the economic misery of Americans, facts increasingly are adjusted to fit predetermined notions.

As Media Matters documents, this discussion recently took place on Follow the Money at Fox Business Network:

BOLLING: All right, very quickly, Z99, guys. This is Harry Reid responding to Senator McConnell's blame-game accusation.

REID [video clip]: The massive layoffs we've had in America today have, of course -- are rooted in the last administration, and it's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine. It's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers.

BOLLING: First of all, can I just point something out? Public-sector jobs have increased by almost 160,000 since President Obama took office. What is he talking about?

STEPHEN HAYES (Fox News contributor): Yeah, you're going to hear that clip again and again and again.

Gosh, I should hope so- primarily because it's true. A partner organization of Media Matters explains

The chart below, updated with today's report, illustrates the steady contraction of the public sector and the expansion of the private economy since the Recovery Act actually began to reach the economy in early summer 2009. Since that time, the private sector has seen a net gain of 1.4 million jobs; if public-sector employment had just held steady, without any hiring or firing, the economy would have grown by about 2 million jobs over this period. Instead, budget cuts have eliminated 572,000 government workers on net.

And still, Rush Limbaugh in June claimed of President Obama "The private sector middle class is his target. The public sector middle class are his beneficiaries." Thursday, Limbaugh condemned Barack Obama and argued "In percentages, private sector unemployment is down 5.4% since 2007. Government unemployment is down only 1.8% since 2007, and teacher unemployment is down 1.4%."

Someone wake Rush up and remind him that one of his heroes, George W. Bush, was president in 2007 and 2008, during which most of the private sector job loss took place. Public sector employment lags behind private sector employment, and so has dropped in the past two years as state and local tax revenues declined and politicians realized they could make political hay by making public employees pay for the sins of Wall Street.

Limbaugh leans on Thursday's editorial in the Wall Street Journal criticizing Senate Majority Leader Reid, who unfortunately said "It's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine" before adding " it's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers."

Census Bureau numbers support Reid's point that the public sector has taken the bigger hit. The pattern continued in August as the number of public sector jobs dropped by 17,000 while private sector employment increased by 17,000. In September, the decline in the number of public sector jobs accelerated, dropping by 34,000 while private sector employment, still insufficient, increased by 137,000. Nevertheless, the Journal's editors- after conceding that private employment lately has been climbing- claim "contrary to Mr. Reid, the real U.S. jobs problem continues to be in the private economy. If private employers were hiring at the pace they normally do in an economic recovery, we might be doing fine."

Except that private sector employment growth has been dramatically outstripping public sector job growth. This constitutes, in Matthew Yglesias' term, The Conservative Recovery, which conservatives are complaining about only "because the President is a Democrat named Barack Obama."

Yglesias is right, except: when it comes to The Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh, or a component of the communications arm of the Republican Party, it's necessary only that the President is a Democrat.

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