Sunday, June 12, 2011

“We got them [Republicans] cornered on Medicare"

There should be a picture of a wolf here Caption: Just waiting for the sleigh to pass by again.

Image credit: Arrr!.

This, according to Robert Reich, is one of the excuses offered by DC Democrats for their shameful inaction on the economy. That inaction is clearly a deliberate policy, as this statement from Austan Goolsbee, President Obama's advisor on economics, said early last week:
"We do not have a sense of panic from one month’s jobs numbers, nor should we be having a sense of panic in general," Goolsbee said, speaking to a gathering of personal finance writers and editors at the White House on Wednesday. "Over the last six months, we have had added a million jobs in the private sector, which the president’s the first to say 'That’s not enough. We’ve got to do more, and get that higher.' But I really do not think that you take a variable series like the monthly job numbers, you don’t want to overreact to one month’s numbers that are different from what has been the trend."

Austan Goolsbee: No Economic Crisis
Now, Goolsbee is an economist, which tells me that the man is either a lunatic, a liar, a complete incompetent, or far too feckless to be in the job he's in. Let's examine why, shall we?

First, there haven't been a net of a million jobs in the last six months. Here are the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) numbers for unemployment for the last six months, which is December through May:

BLS Job Growth Month by Month, Dec. 2010 thru May, 2011
MonthJob growth
December, 2010 103,000
January, 2011 36,000
Februrary, 2011 192,000
March, 2011 216,000
April, 2011 244,000
May, 2011 54,000

Which adds up to the economy adding about 845,000 jobs more than what it lost in the last six months. So, this number isn't even a million before you note that the workforce has grown by more than that in that time.

In addition, according to this BLS table, in 2010 employment shrank by a net of 813,000 jobs, while the employable population grew by roughly two million people (NOTE 1). If you assume that we've added another million in the first half of this year, the Obama Administration has lost another 2.9 million net jobs since it took office, on top of the millions of net jobs (roughly ten million, if one compares the workforce size in 2001 vs. 2009 (NOTE 2)to the net growth in jobs during that time) the Bush Administration lost while it was in office. The only reason the official unemployment rate isn't through the roof right now is that there are so many people either employed part time, or completely off the unemployment rolls thanks to having been out of work for more than 100 weeks.

We in the Land of Not DC have been living with diminished expectations and the imminent threat of economic collapse for almost four years now. I'm hard pressed to imagine how anyone other than a barking mad, brain-dead worthless excuse for an economist wouldn't think this is a serious issue. Yet this clown has been Obama's chief economic advisor.

As I wrote more than two years ago, you can tell a lot about a potential government executive by who he chooses for his advisors. Read that link and tell me we couldn't have seen Libya and the continued operation of the black sites coming.

To return to the quote that is the title of this article, and the source for it, I'll quote Reich's conclusion:
Americans are scared, with reason. We’re in a vicious cycle in which lower wages and net job losses and high debt are causing consumers to cut their spending — which is causing businesses to cut back on hiring and reduce pay. There’s no way out of this morass without bold leadership from Washington to rekindle consumer demand.

If the Democrats remain silent, the vacuum will be filled by the Republican snake oil of federal spending cuts and cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. Democrats — starting with the President — must have the courage and conviction to tell the nation the recovery is stalling, and what must be done.

The Swamp of Washington and the Morass of the Economy
Reich wrote this after having interviewed a few Democratic "leaders" over the last few days. That's where this article's title comes from, which Reich says is what one or more of those "leaders" said to him when he asked why they weren't doing anything to create jobs. They clearly feel no need.

And here is, once again, where I differ with Prof. Reich. This isn't a case of Democrats being afraid to tell us what's going on. They simply feel no need. They figure that we, labor and progressives, will continue to support them no matter what. I have little reason to think they're wrong. Given the large number of people out there who still think that criticizing Obama is tantamount to racism, or at the very least, a sign that one is not a serious progressive, why should I? The Democrats are right - as long as the Republicans look all scary and whatnot, they can just pretend to be protecting Medicare and Social Security, and plenty of those allegedly serious people will gladly carry their water. They've been doing it for years, and they clearly don't see the need to change what they're doing.

Heck, even Ariana Huffington has caught on, if only slightly:
[T]he president, even on the heels of the latest round of depressing numbers, is oddly passive. "This economy took a big hit," he said Friday. "It is just like if you had a bad illness, if you got hit by a truck, it's going to take a while for you to mend."

Being hit by a truck is not a bad metaphor -- but he left something out. If you get hit by a truck, you are taken to a hospital for major interventions. When you are wheeled through the emergency room doors on a gurney, people react; they move purposefully and quickly; machines are brought out; desperate measures are taken. But that's not at all what happened with the economy. Instead, the economy got hit by a truck, was wheeled into the ER, and those in charge largely left the patient to heal on his own while they went into a back room to talk about the long-term building plan for the hospital. And, every now and again, they come out to tell the patient: "Remember, you were hit by a truck. It's going to take a while to mend."
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg recently released a report in which he warned the administration that, as HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal put it, "backward-looking campaign messages about who is to blame for the recession or whether the recovery efforts are succeeding are doomed to failure." What voters want, according to Greenberg, are real solutions that "ask the richest to pay their fair share of taxes," invest in "education and innovation" and "confront the power of money and the lobbyists." As he puts it: "There is a real economy out there that's not changing."

Something We Can Say With Certitude: The Economy Stinks!
[links from original]

I say "only slightly", because she goes on to call the Obama Administration's policy "surrendering" to Republicans. It's not surrendering. Obama's choice of advisors demonstrates that clearly. It's what the President believes in.

That's where we are at the mid-point of 2011. We're no closer to getting the real economy in gear than we were in late 2008. This is clearly just fine with the folks who run the Democratic Party. I've gotten a chuckle whenever someone describes the Republican Party as "the Party of Hoover" lately. It should be abundantly clear that the Democrats are the ones doing nothing useful to help the economy, just as Hoover refused to do anything useful to help ordinary Americans after Black Thursday. They became the party of Hoover in 2009, when they spent an entire year making sure that the health care "reform" bill didn't improve health care, or even make it more accessible for the average American (NOTE 3).

What the Republicans are these days, I'm not sure. The "Party of Nero" might be the closest I can come to an actual political figure. Unless you prefer the Party of Homer. Any metaphor for lunacy or pig-ignorance will probably suffice.

Until progressives and labor finally decide that they've had enough of this, and will be willing to put up with Republican leadership long enough to demonstrate that they will not blindly support the Democratic Party no matter how much it screws us, nothing will change. And by "nothing", I mean the slow-motion train wreck that is our economy, the continued slide into government lawlessness, and the slow erosion of our ability to educate and defend ourselves.

For anyone who has or is tempted to say that this makes me irresponsible, crazy, or otherwise unfit to have an opinion on this matter, then you are welcome to do one of two things:

* Suggest an alternative plan, with at least some comprehension of the difficulties and how you would deal with them, or

* get lost.

Really, it's that simple. I am open to suggestions, because I don't like the prospect of even two years of Republican rule any more than you do. But I am mortally tired of the schoolyard name-calling posing as serious commentary from the Democrats' useful idiots. There are few options, and near as I can tell, none of them are happy ones. What we're really discussing is which path holds any hope at all.

And if you don't see that, go somewhere else. You're getting the kind of government you deserve, and that would be just fine if you weren't also inflicting it on me.

NOTE 1: I'm using the "non-institutionalized" population growth here rather than the growth of the BLS's idea of how big the work force is. The reason is the long-term unemployed. If you look at the BLS stats, you'll note that in 2010, the work force was actually smaller than it was in 2009, even though the eligible population grew by two million. In the face of such obvious dishonesty, the eligible population growth is the most viable number. Hell, no one's just retiring early these days.

[UPDATE:Changed "was in 2008" to "was in 2009" in this note. "2008" was a typo.]

NOTE 2: This is based on the growth in the size of the work force, as determined by the BLS, though basing it on the size of the eligible population yields a similar number.

NOTE 3: If you don't know why I write this by now, let me just sum it up this way: Being forced to buy insurance that you can't afford to use isn't the same as having access to health care. That's particularly true when none of the new insurance regulations have an agency with a budget to enforce them. Someone will have to handle and adjudicate millions of complaints annually, and that someone most certainly will not be the United States Department of Justice. Anyone who thinks otherwise is welcome to point out where in the budget there are several billion dollars set aside to do this.

UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not alone. As Lambert puts it, "not voting for evil is simple, cheap, and non-violent." Frankly, I'm starting to think that we'll be very lucky to not see serious violence in the next decade or so. What anyone with any sense would get from what I wrote is that there are a whole lot of folks out there with nothing to lose, and more all the time.

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