Sunday, May 06, 2012

Seriousness Lacking

It would be difficult to count all the foolish things Marco Rubio said on this morning's Fox News Sunday (transcript, here).    Then again, when one is praying to be begged to be the GOP's vice-presidential nominee, saying foolish things almost is a prerequisite.     Asked about unemployment by Chris Wallace, Rubio contended the American people

do need a government whose policies make it easier for them to do these things, not harder. And if you look at the president's record over the last 3 1/2 years, it is a record of policies that make it harder for Americans to start a business or grow an existing business and thereby create new jobs.

As Salon's Joan Walsh quipped, "Friday’s disappointing jobs report confirms that 'the job creators' should be fired, since they only created 115,000 new jobs in April, which isn’t even enough to employ new entrants to the workforce."     Additional jobs aren't going to come from lowering taxes on corporations (whose effective tax rate is lower than that in almost any industrialized country), cutting already feeble (or rarely enforced) regulations, or cutting the heart out of the social safety net.  

In September, 2010 the National Federation of Independent Business concluded that "poor sales" were generally believed by companies to be their "single most important problem."  They were thought, as the graph (below) from Catherine Rampell of the New York Times indicates, more significant than "competition from large businesses, insurance costs and availability, financing and interest rates, government requirements and red tape, inflation, quality of labor, cost of labor and 'other.'"       Still, most Republicans appear to believe demand matters little if at all.    They voted en masse to oppose the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and their soon-to-be presidential nominee wants to cut the size of the federal workforce and the pay and benefits of the employees who remain.  

Shrinking the public workforce has been tried, and recently.     Nationally, the size of the public sector has declined significantly since Barack Obama took office and during the economic expansion which began in June, 2009, the number of public employees has declined by 2.7%.    (By this stage of the Reagan recovery, the comparable figure was +3.1%.)      There now are 607,000 fewer government employees since Senator Obama became President Obama.    By contrast, we have had 25 consecutive months of job growth in the private sector and there are now more jobs in that sector than there were in January, 2009 (graph of public/private payroll employment, way below, from Think Progress).   An odd Socialist, that fellow from Chicago.

Last November, The Hill reported that the Congressional Budget Office found that the 2009 stimulus package

raised gross domestic product by between 0.3 and 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011, which ended Sept. 30. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that GDP in that quarter was only 2 percent total.

CBO said that the stimulus also lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.2 and 1.3 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million.

“CBO estimates that, compared with what would have occurred otherwise, [the stimulus] will raise real GDP in 2012 by between 0.1 percent and 0.8 percent and will increase the number of people employed in 2012 by between 0.2 million and 1.1 million,” a Tuesday report adds. 

By CBO’s numbers, the $800 billion stimulus added up to 0.9 million jobs in 2009, 3.3 million jobs in 2010 and 2.6 million jobs in 2011. 

Truly, the stimulus was smaller than it should have been, economic growth has been disappointing, and wages lag far behind productivity growth.     But there was nothing in Marco Rubio's remarks today, nor in the statements of any Repub politician, which reflects an understanding of either the immediate or underlying problems of the economy.    It's understandable that, as representatives of the "out" party, they would secretly hope that the economy continues to flounder.    It may even be acceptable, in a sort of perverse way, that they exert their legislative influence in a manner calculated to undermine the recovery while the Oval Office is held by a Democrat.       But, given a possibility they will retake the White House, it is disturbing that they exhibit no more understanding of how to strengthen the economy than they do of how to alleviate the nation's other problems.

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