July 10, 2015
When President Obama took office, the economy was on the verge of collapse and losing 800,000 jobs per month. By the time of the general election in 2012, the economy was creating 100,000 jobs per month and the unemployment rate dipped just below 8%. When that occurred, many prominent Republicans were in denial and alleged that the Obama Administration was “cooking the books.”
During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney promised to reduce the unemployment rate to 6% by the end of his first term. Since his defeat, the unemployment rate has fallen below Romney’s stated goal and is now 5.3%. In addition, the economy has been creating over 200,000 jobs per month over the last 1.5 years. If this kind of economic growth had occurred during a Romney Presidency, the GOP would be holding ticker tape parades for him.
Now that President Obama has met and exceeded Romney’s goal of a 6% unemployment rate, the GOP has begun to disparage the clear economic progress this country has made since the dark days of 2008–09. The Republicans have cherry picked two obscure statistics never mentioned before January 20, 2009 in an attempt to convince the American people that the U.S. economy is still in poor shape.
As a starting point, the GOP has moved the goal posts on the unemployment rate. The 6% unemployment rate promised by Romney is the one measured by what is called U3. This measure — which has been in place since 1994- doesn’t count so-called “discouraged workers” who have been out of the labor force for over 6 months.
Before Obama was elected, the GOP touted the U3 measure as the gold standard for measuring unemployment. During the Bush years, former Reagan Administration Treasury Department official Lawrence Kudlow wrote columns celebrating the so-called “Bush boom” and and would cite the U3 measure of unemployment in his columns. As we know, Romney relied upon the U3 measure when he promised to reduce unemployment to 6% by January 2017.
Now that the economy is creating the most jobs since the Clinton Administration, the GOP has suddenly begun to talk about the U6 measure of unemployment. This statistic includes so-called “discouraged workers” in it’s calculation and the U6 unemployment rate is currently 10.5%. What the GOP doesn’t mention is that U6 unemployment has steadily declined since it peaked at 17% in 2009.
The U6 unemployment measuring stick isn’t the only obscure economic statistic that the GOP became obsessed with beginning at high noon on January 20, 2009. We’ve also been hearing from them about the labor participation rate (LPR.) The GOP likes to tell us that Obama is a failure and the economy is doing poorly because the LPR is at it’s lowest rate since 1978.
The Republicans’ talking point on the LPR is disingenuous because they don’t give us any of the historical and demographic context regarding the LPR. The LPR steadily increased between the 1970s and 2000 due to the entry of women into the labor force.
The LPR peaked at 67% in 2000 and began to decline that year largely due to the retirement of the baby boom generation. By the time Bush left office in 2009, the LPR had been reduced to 65%.
Since Obama took office, the LPR has continued it’s decline. At the present time, the LPR is around 63%. What this means is that the LPR has declined at the same rate during the Obama Administration as it did during the Bush Administration.
According to government economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the LPR would have declined no matter who was president, and independent of the state of the economy. You won’t hear about that on Fox News and a.m. radio!
The Republicans’ discovery of these heretofore obscure economic statistics is part of a P.R. campaign aimed at winning the next election. The GOP wants to convince the American people that the economy is worse now than it was in 2009 so they can be returned to power.
Our opponents also don’t want the American people to remember their own terrible record on the economy the last time they held all of the levers of power in Washington, D.C. The GOP is counting on collective amnesia — they hope the American people will forget that President Obama inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and had to pull us out of the ditch.
Our job as Democrats is to refresh those hazy memories because the propaganda of the GOP depends upon the voters having bad memories. We need to be proud of our record and run hard on it. If we don’t mention it, nobody else will.
The stakes next year couldn’t be any higher. Are we going to hand over the country once again to the GOP and its policies that ruined our economy before and that will destroy the hard earned progress that we’ve made since 2009? I’m confident that if we do our job, the voters will make the right choice and vote for continued progress by electing a Democratic President and Congress.