Monday, April 18, 2011

History was not his best subject

Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia was elected to Congress last year with support from local Tea Party groups, the Club for Growth, and disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Like most Tea Partiers, Graves is a bit history challenged. Yesterday, while being interviewed by Contessa Brewer, he said this:
BREWER: They've had the lowest tax rates under the Bush-era tax cuts in years. How come we haven't seen massive job growth?

GRAVES: Well, what we've seen is massive job loss that began in about 2008, and I believe that was under Barack Obama.

BREWER: One. 2001.

GRAVES: No, not two — the job losses began in late two thousand and —

BREWER: Yes, sir. The numbers support what I'm saying.

Graves believes Obama was president in 2008. Most people with properly functioning memories or an elementary school knowledge of history or civics will know that George W. Bush was president in 2008. However, he is correct in saying there were massive job losses that year. As to when the job losses began, they're actually both right--in their ways. Bush presided over two recessions, one at each end of his presidency. Bush began his presidency with massive job losses and ended his presidency with even more massive job losses. In between, the Bush "recovery" didn't produce enough jobs to keep up with growth in the population. Let's look at some numbers.

Just so our conservative friends don't cry foul, let me lay out a few conservative assumptions. I'll crunch my numbers according to their rules. First, only private sector jobs count. Government jobs are not real jobs. Those pay checks brought home by soldiers, sailors, teachers, politicians, and civil servants aren't real pay checks. And government employees can't lose their jobs, because they never had "real" jobs to start with. Second, presidents are responsible for every jot and tittle of the economy from the day they take office. If Obama can't blame Bush for the recession at the beginning of his presidency, Bush can't blame Clinton for the recession at the beginning of his presidency. That's only fair. Because presidential terms begin in Late January, I'll give January 2001 to Clinton and January 2009 to Bush.

After Bush became president, the private sector lost jobs for sixteen straight months (Feb. '01 to May '02), a total of 2.82 million jobs, one of which was mine. Over the next fourteen months (June '02 to July '03), only three months showed private sector job gains and the rest showed losses, a net loss of another 583 thousand. That's a total of 3.403 million jobs lost in his first two and a half years in office. Following that catastrophic beginning, the private sector gained jobs for forty-eight consecutive months, had one bad month (Aug. '07), and five more good months, for a total of 7.379 million new jobs. The economy lost jobs for the remaining twelve months of the Bush presidency (4.629 million)--once again, my job was among them--finishing up his presidency 653 thousand in the red.

At some point in June '05, the economy had replaced the 3.403 million private sector jobs lost during Bush's first two and a half years. However, by then 5.537 new workers had entered the labor force. Some of those people got jobs that don't count with the government, but most of them were hoping, but unable, to enter the private sector. During the rest of the Bush recovery, the private sector put on 3.976 new jobs. During that time, the labor force grew by another 4.822 million. During the last year of the Bush presidency, while the economy hemorrhaged 4.629 million private sector jobs, the labor force grew by 561 thousand. The final count is that the Bush years lost over a half million private sector jobs, while the labor force grew by over ten million.

That sounds like massive job losses to me. These losses and failure to keep up with population growth happened while the Bush tax cuts were being made and were in effect. It's Republican and conservative dogma that putting more wealth into the hands of the already wealthy--in the form of tax cuts--will result in them investing in ways that will benefit all Americans. The rich will create jobs and the benefits of making them richer will trickle down onto all of us.

Since Rep. Graves wanted to talk about job losses under Obama, let's talk about them. The single worst month for private sector job losses (841 thousand) was January 2009, the last month that Bush was in charge. As soon as Obama took over, the losses slowed. There were still huge losses, but they got smaller and smaller until March 2010 when the private sector created more jobs than it shed. One million eight-hundred thousand new jobs have been created since then. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force actually decreased during Obama's first two years in office, by 180 thousand. Almost nine million private sector jobs were lost during 2008-09.

Total employment is far below what it was when Clinton turned his record budget surplus over to Bush. The labor pool has increased by almost ten million in that time. Even with big tax cuts and loopholes for the rich and for large corporations, the private sector hasn't been able to absorb all of these people who are able and want to work. The public sector had absorbed some of those people, but Republican majorities in state houses and the House of Representatives are trying to lay off as many of those people as possible. Of course, according to the conservative assumptions I laid out above, none of those people had "real" jobs to start with and the the it's Obama's fault they aren't bringing home paychecks any more. Those same conservatives tell us that the only reason those millions aren't bringing home pay checks is that they're all lazy, drug-addicted hobos. But that's a topic for another post.

Sources for figures:
Private sector job creation and losses.
Total civilian labor force.

No comments: