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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Economy and Jobs: Bush v. Obama

The stimulus has failed. Failed, failed, failed, failed, failed. Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele pointed that out yesterday. It's a failure frosted with fail.

"Today marks the one-year anniversary of this failed stimulus package, something the president still claims as one of his signature achievements and which he proclaimed would 'create or save' 3.5 million jobs and keep unemployment below 8 percent," Mike wrote. "Since those early heady days of the Obama administration the American people have seen behind the curtain of rhetoric and watched as millions of jobs were lost and unemployment rose into the double digits."

But don't worry, Republicans have a plan that'll create a bazillion new jobs:

Mike SteeleTime and time again, Republicans have offered proven alternative solutions for job creation and economic growth centered on lower taxes and less regulation, but these ideas have been ignored by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. The president can scold the Republican Party for principled opposition and label us the Party of "no" all he wants but it doesn’t change the simple fact that Democrats completely control Washington and have used their power to go on a binge spending spree instead of providing real economic growth for the American people.

Yeah, about those "proven alternative solutions for job creation and economic growth centered on lower taxes and less regulation"; less regulation has proven to be a great way to create the sort of economic mess we're in. Republicans failed to learn that lesson after Enron and they're failing to learn it now. I think we can throw that in the stupid idea bin. And tax cuts? Wasn't that Bush's approach to everything? Let's look at how good an idea that "proven alternative solution" was proven to be.

Shortly after George W. Bush left office, the Wall Street Journal to a look at his record on jobs over his eight years in office. The verdict?

The Bush administration created about three million jobs (net) over its eight years, a fraction of the 23 million jobs created under President Bill Clinton’s administration and only slightly better than President George H.W. Bush did in his four years in office.


Because the size of the economy and labor force varies, we also calculate in percentage terms how much the total payroll count expanded under each president. The current President Bush, once taking account how long he’s been in office, shows the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records.

As "proven alternative solutions" go, relying on tax cuts and deregulation alone has been proven to suck. You'd think that Republicans would be too ashamed of the failures of their economic policies to even bring them up, let alone try to brag about how well they've worked. But, as I always say, Republicans are shameless.

So, how do Obama's economic policies compare to Bush's in terms of success? If Bush took eight years to create 3 million jobs, then Obama's kicking his butt. After one year, Barack Obama has seen an increase in employment by more than half that many jobs. That's according to IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Writes David Leonhardt for the New York Times, "They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative."

If this is a failure, then eight years of Bush was an absolute disaster. Not that I have any trouble saying Bush was a disaster, it's just that I'm surprised to see Steele all but agreeing with me. In any case, the Republican narrative of a "failed stimulus" has no basis in reality.

"You have to sympathize with the Obama administration," writes Ezra Klein. "It has done more to save and create jobs than any White House in recent memory. It stabilized a financial system that was teetering on the edge of collapse, and that would have sent unemployment skyrocketing if it had fallen. The administration passed an $800 billion stimulus bill that has already created more than 1.6 million jobs and is likely to create 2.5 million by the time it ends. And still it's hammered, on the one hand, for not doing enough to create jobs, and on the other hand, for high deficits, which are a direct product of how much the administration's doing to create jobs."

Meanwhile, Michael Steele, speaking for his party, argues you can have your cake and eat it too -- cut taxes, create jobs, and reduce the deficit. No wonder he's not happy; the president has failed to drag him into an alternate reality where you can deal with a historic recession, prosecute two wars, and still take a bite out of the deficit.

The Republican expectations are a sort of economic porno-fantasy; extremely attractive and fun to dream about, while having absolutely no connection with (or even resemblance to) reality at all.


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