By Bob Cesca: The jobs slowdown this past month isn't the worst news in the world, despite what you might be reading on various alarmist blogs. On Friday when the numbers were released, my home away from home, The Huffington Post, posted a scary headline photograph of a ball of fire. Literally. The entire above-the-fold graphic to accompany the weak jobs report was fire. Just fire. As if the world is exploding.
The unemployment rate went up by one-tenth of one percent, from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent. The economy only added 69,000 new private sector jobs. And so we're all doomed, evidently.
The reality of the jobs report isn't so much that we're backsliding into another recession (we're not), but that 1) we were almost entirely unprepared as a people for the depth of the "Great Recession," 2) there are way too many people leaning on the panic button over the deficit and debt instead of robust spending on job creation, and 3) the corrosive nature of our news media (traditional and digital) and our party politics in this era has allowed the Republicans to sabotage the economy with impunity.
If we look at the monthly jobs graph going back to the beginning of the recession, we can clearly see the crisis as it truly is. It's been a mess-and-a-half for a great while, but since the full force of the president's stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), took effect, the jobs situation has greatly improved and more or less stabilized with positive "jobs added" numbers for more than two years. As of February of this year, the economy has been adding private sector jobs every month without exception, and the trend continues.
But those additions have been inconsistent. Way up for a group of months, then lower in other months. April and May of this year happen to be two of those lower months. And you know what? Last August was dismal, too, with only 52,000 jobs added. September was back up to 216,000. January was relatively huge with 277,000 jobs added. The stimulus money is slowly disappearing and there's nothing else on the horizon, especially give the conventional wisdom that austerity is more important that infusing cash into the economy when -- point of fact -- private corporations are sitting on record cash assets and not spending beyond the bare minimum to keep themselves and economy on life support.
What else can the president do to circumvent the congressional Republicans, who are filibustering and obstructing all of his efforts to add jobs? Not much else, given their sabotage strategy. They literally filibustered the American Jobs Act, and no one really noticed. No one is really noticing their ongoing strategy of economic sabotage either -- their disgusting effort to stymie the recovery and therefore hurt the president's reelection odds. Not to sound too radical here, but this is virtually criminal behavior. They're toying with the national economy for the sake of defeating Barack Obama and electing Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney! The most cynical, inauthentic, jittery, maladroit, barely-lifelike Republican candidate in modern history.
And the press won't cover this. What we should be hearing from every objective news outlet (the few that remain) is that one of the two major political parties in America is sabotaging the economy for political gain, and then lying about any positive results on the record. The focus, spurred by an unrelated crisis in Greece of all places, has been on the deficit and debt rather than a cornucopia of positive economic indicators.
In spite of Republican sabotage, the president has presided over a significant turnaround from where we were in 2009.
GDP is growing steadily. Jobs are being added every month. Unemployment is slowly declining. The deficit is shrinking. Middle and working class taxes are lower. Inflation is nearly an entire percentage point below the average that began in the middle 1920s (long term average is 3.43%, while our current rate is 2.3% and dropping). The price of oil dropped below $90 last week and stockpiles are huge -- the highest level in 22 years. New home sales are up by 10 percent over a year ago. Moody's Analytics is calling this a "genuine rebound" in housing and mortgage rates remain tantalizingly low. Consumer debt is declining and corporate profits -- despite the president's false reputation as a profit-hating commie -- are nearly double what they were in the boom times of 1999. 9.75 percent at the end of 2011, compared with 5.7 percent in the final quarter of 1999. The Dow has doubled since the deepest, darkest days of the Great Recession and some analysts suggest that the DJIA should be around 20,000, not 13,000, given all of these positive indicators.
But we don't hear these things in the news or from the Republicans, whose hero is President Reagan -- a president who, as Krugman pointed out yesterday, was in fact a Keynesian. Instead, the Republicans are trying to feed the American people pitches for more tax cuts that will only balloon the deficit and debt -- the two indicators which the press and the Republicans are screaming most about, and exploiting as a means of blocking further job creating measures. It's unprecedented. It defies logic and reason. They're emphasizing the apocalyptic deficit and debt, while blocking measures to grow the economy and proposing measures that won't grow the economy and will only create more debt. And the press isn't reporting it because they're too busy navel-gazing and worrying whether they'll sound too liberal, despite reality's "well-known liberal bias," as Stephen Colbert once said.
So no, the economy isn't crashing and burning, even though the Republicans really, really want it to. However, we can only imagine what kind of recovery might have happened if half of the country was more tethered to reality rather than politically motivated sabotage.