With the news this week that there’s been net job growth during President Obama’s term, Mitt Romney lost one of his favorite critiques of the presidential incumbent. Not to worry though, there’s always Obamacare to criticize, right?
The reason the video kills what remains of Romney's bid for the White House is because of what it tells us about his understanding of the basic facts of the American situation: He thinks there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy.
The overwhelming majority of voters who back President Barack Obama do so because they are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing," Mitt Romney told a closed-door gathering of about 30 major donors earlier this year, according to video of the event that has surfaced on the Internet.
he ranks of America's poor remained stuck at record levels, although dwindling unemployment benefits and modest job gains helped stave off what experts had predicted would be the fourth rise in a row in the poverty rate.
With joblessness persistently high, the gap between rich and poor increased in the last year, according to two major census measures. Also, the median, or midpoint, household income was $50,054, 1.5 percent lower than 2010 and a second straight decline.
A cynical Republican strategy: block all efforts to strengthen the economy, then exploit the economy’s weakness.
Does anyone remember the American Jobs Act? A year ago President Obama proposed boosting the economy with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment. Independent analysts reacted favorably. For example, the consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that the act would add 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2012.
Just 38 percent of Americans rated Romney's speech last week as "excellent" or "good," according to the new Gallup poll released Monday. That pales in comparison with John McCain in 2008 (47 percent), Barack Obama in 2008 (58 percent), and George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004 (51 and 49 percent).
NOT since 1933 had an American president taken the oath of office in an economic climate as grim as it was when Barack Obama put his left hand on the Bible in January 2009. The banking system was near collapse, two big car manufacturers were sliding towards bankruptcy; and employment, the housing market and output were spiralling down.
Hemmed in by political constraints, presidents typically have only the slightest influence over the American economy. Mr Obama, like Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and Ronald Reagan in 1981, would be an exception. Not only would his decisions be crucial to the recovery, but he also had a chance to shape the economy that emerged. As one adviser said, the crisis should not be allowed to go to waste.
Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard..
The hot read of the weekend is a piece from New York Times economics writer David Leonhardt titled Obamanomics: A Counterhistory. The gist: The Obama team came into office thinking a lot about how recoveries in the aftermath of financial crises were liable to be much worse and drawn out than normal recoveries, and yet it didn't attack the problem with the requisite gusto. Sure, there was the $800 billion stimulus. And the Fed took unprecedented measures to bolster the economy. But it wasn't enough, and there was no thinking ahead that the economy might need even more beyond the initial push. This is despite the fact that some of Obama's advisors clearly had anticipated the possibility that things might be much worse than realized. Leonhardt notes that in the early days, Obama and his aides were reading the work of economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, who were about to publish their famous book: This Time Is Different, which spelled out the gory history of post-crisis recoveries.
The problem with Mr. Romney’s “blame Obama” mantra is that Mr. Obama is not responsible for the deep and protracted recession that predated his administration and is at the root of the persistently high unemployment. Job creation under Mr. Obama’s term far outpaced the job growth following the first recession of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2001. New evidence released this week showed recent employment has been stronger than previously tallied.
Mr. Obama is not free from responsibility for the economy. He did not push hard enough for a larger stimulus and more robust housing relief. He also changed focus prematurely from creating jobs through stimulus to reducing the deficit through spending cuts.
But Mr. Romney doesn’t criticize the president for those mistakes. He criticizes the use of government to help the economy — including the stimulus, the auto rescue, health care reform and financial regulation — all the while calling for more tax cuts and deregulation, policies that inflated the bubble and led to bust. He wants to couple those policies with savage budget cuts, fantasizing that a swift reduction in the deficit would boost economic growth.
A new study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has found that over the past 65 years, tax cuts for the rich have not led to economic growth and instead are linked to greater income inequality in the United States.
Remember when we thought the Republican primary voters had picked the most stable option? We may have to rethink this, people.
It didn’t seem to be a lot to ask, but when the crisis in the Middle East flared up, Romney turned out to have no restraining inner core. All the uneasy feelings you got when he went to London and dissed the Olympic organizers can now come into full bloom. Feel free to worry about anything. That he’d declare war on Malta. Lock himself in a nuclear missile silo and refuse to come out until there’s a tax cut. Hand the country over to space aliens.
What about the argument, which I hear all the time, that Mr. Obama should have fixed the economy long ago? The claim goes like this: during his first two years in office Mr. Obama had a majority in Congress that would have let him do anything he wanted, so he’s had his chance.
The short answer is, you’ve got to be kidding.
As anyone who was paying attention knows, the period during which Democrats controlled both houses of Congress was marked by unprecedented obstructionism in the Senate. The filibuster, formerly a tactic reserved for rare occasions, became standard operating procedure; in practice, it became impossible to pass anything without 60 votes. And Democrats had those 60 votes for only a few months. Should they have tried to push through a major new economic program during that narrow window? In retrospect, yes — but that doesn’t change the reality that for most of Mr. Obama’s time in office U.S. fiscal policy has been defined not by the president’s plans but by Republican stonewalling.
The most important consequence of that stonewalling, I’d argue, has been the failure to extend much-needed aid to state and local governments. Lacking that aid, these governments have been forced to lay off hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers and other workers, and those layoffs are a major reason the job numbers have been disappointing. Since bottoming out a year after Mr. Obama took office, private-sector employment has risen by 4.6 million; but government employment, which normally rises more or less in line with population growth, has instead fallen by 571,000.
In early 2009, President Obama took over, amid the worst recession since the Great Depression. Obama signed an $800 billion spending increase at the same time that GDP and tax collections tanked. The combination of these two factors--growth in spending and a drop in revenue--exploded the deficit to $1.4 trillion. In 2010 and 2011, the economy and tax collections improved modestly, and the deficit shrank to $1.3 trillion annualized.
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