A fact plainly in evidence, to anyone willing to look at the data.
It seems that everyone, Right or Left, is critical of Obama’s programs to reverse the massive jobs losses that resulted from the past 30 years of specious economic policy, most of it driven by Republicans. But the evidence is now clear that Obama’s policies are working, and the regressive Republican pattern has been reversed. It will take some time to gain full reversal, no set of policies can overcome three decades of institutionalized economic mismanagement in just a year, but we are well on the way and for that Obama and other Democratic leaders deserve substantial credit and support.
The enormity of the challenge cannot be glossed over. There are many charts showing the dramatic loss of jobs associated with the Great Bush Recession, but this one from Brad DeLong is especially instructive because it is paired with another of his showing what is called variance. What these two spikes, one sharply down and the other sharply up, tell us is that this recession-driven jobs loss is both massive and unprecedented.
Reversing this employment drop is an enormous and extraordinary challenge, unlike anything seen since the Great Depression. In fact, because the actions available to government are much more limited now than then by regulatory restrictions and because the basic economic conditions favoring growth are now more constrained due to the record high level of personal credit debt, the challenge is greater than in any time past. As many have pointed out, this recovery will therefore likely be slower in terms of job growth than earlier downturns.
But the administration’s policies, dominantly the 2009 stimulus legislation, have indeed begun to have a positive effect. While looking just at the aggregate employment statistics as compiled by Arun, the sharpness of employment decrease is again striking for both men and women
while a closer look at the most recent data in Arun’s plot shows that employment ratios for both men and women are now trending upwards, as seen by the upticks visible in the exploded box.
A more refined set of data, looking at net jobs lost and created based on payroll reports,
clearly demonstrates that what were rapidly increasing rates of job loss across all non-farm employment sectors under Bush have now been reversed by Obama. While the construction and financial sectors are still losing jobs on net, albeit at a much slower rate, the rest of the economy is now adding more jobs than are being lost. Since the two dominant components of the BushBubble were exactly excess housing value and funny-money finance, those sectors will likely be slower to recover than others. None the less, they are on an upward path along with the jobs picture as a whole.
Compiling those sectors together, it is clear that what had been a near freefall under Bush has not only stopped under Obama but actually been reversed:
The 2009 stimulus bill certainly should have been larger. It was, however constrained in size and scope by lock-step Republican obstructionism and the BlueDog Democrat’s nearly as obstinate regressive behavior, neither of which are Obama’s fault or the fault of others in the Democratic leadership. In retrospect, however, it is now plain that the real limitation in the bill’s short-term effectiveness was the number of projects that could be immediately undertaken. The regulatory reviews holding up most newly funded projects are just now being overcome, and the remainder of unspent funding in that stimulus bill can now begin to take effect.
With job growth still sluggish and employment remaining high, a second jobs stimulus bill is needed and Obama has proposed one of $150+ Billion that the House has passed. It is, however, again being obstructed by Republicans and BlueDogs in the Senate and likely will die there. Obama and Reid have countered with a series of smaller bills, each of which will try and incorporate what are essentially bribes to try and entice a couple of Republicans to get on board but the effectiveness of this strategy is at best uncertain.
Those who know their US history will recognize this pattern of obstruction from the Right, the same one that hamstrung FDR’s attempts at economic recovery and prolonged that era’s employment depression for nearly a decade. The obstructionism then wasn’t FDR’s fault, and blame for this modern version does not belong on Obama either.
But Obama anticipated these regressive actions by Republicans and BlueDogs in his new omnibus budget proposal, which includes $266 billion in jobs growth funding scattered in bits and pieces throughout. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for reactionary forces to pick them out, because they are structured in such a way that most of the funding will become entangled with funds headed toward districts and states represented by Republicans and BlueDogs. If they excise the funding, they remove the kinds of take-home projects and financial support they depend on to curry favor with their own constituents. Very clever, that.
Looking long-term, it becomes even clearer that Obama’s economic plans are the complete opposite of Bush and other Republican presidents. A review by the non-partisan Tax Foundation shows that carried on through as proposed, Obama’s economic initiatives will reverse the now decades-long trend towards concentration of income and wealth at the very top. As has been the case with other Democratic administrations, Obama’s policies will increase the percentage of income flowing towards the middle-class and the poor while reducing the relative share of net income for the very wealthy.
Obama’s economic policies are in fact progressive, and Progressives ought to embrace them rather than incessantly carping because they are not sufficiently radical. Obama would certainly be more aggressive if he could, but he is obstructed by Republicans and BlueDogs in Congress, the branch of our government that has control of the budgetary pursestrings. All unhappiness from the Left should be pointed in their direction, unmercifully.
Beating on Obama and Reid and Pelosi for not being dictators or miracle workers on economic policy is both unfounded and counterproductive, and should stop. They are in fact doing as much as the current system of government will allow them to do, and certainly being effective in a positive way. In this arena at least, they are due far more praise than criticism.