Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Dems ahead of curve but neither party working toward full employment

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“Anything over four percent is not cause for celebration.”

Mitt Romney is absolutely right … but as you may have guessed, there is a catch.

Romney was talking about how anything above a 4% unemployment rate wasn’t acceptable. And he’s absolutely right.

The catch? Romney doesn’t have a single proposed program that addresses the unemployment issue. And President Barack Obama, Romney’s challenger in the fall, does have numerous programs that will lower the unemployment rate, though not to the level of 4%.

The last president to average as low as 4% was Lyndon B. Johnson. And given the changes to the unemployment rate during Reagan’s time, the actual unemployment rate doesn’t reflect the true state of employment insecurity.

The unemployment rate has been falling, and the job numbers are good if not great. Though, the unemployment rate looks better in part because the share of Americans as a part of the labor force has reached a 30-year low. So the battle for the White House could come down to “we are doing a lot better” vs. “we should be doing way better.”

For those who think President Obama is in really good shape for the fall election, the electorate, especially in toss-up states, will hear a lot of “we should be doing way better.” That message will be hard to resist.

If the 2012 presidential campaign comes down to who will do a better job in getting you a job, Obama would get close to 500 electoral votes and the Dems would win close to 400 House seats and win every single contested Senate race.

Romney, along with John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell, are much better at whining about how bad things are as opposed to doing something about that pain.

The card Romney is playing is the “Morning in America” card. A lot of people think of that as Ronald Reagan’s 1980 slogan when it was his 1984 slogan. Then again, Rick Santorum thought it was 1976 during his time in the campaign.

“I’m going to get America strong again,” Romney noted in that same speech. Economically, most Americans would kill to have 1980 back again. The “strong America” cry was false in 1980 and it rings more false in 2012. Infrastructure, education, a lack of commitment to building American jobs are all reason why neither Obama nor Romney will get American “strong” in the next four years.

One of Obama’s lines in the campaign was creating jobs for alternative energies that couldn’t be exported to India or China — jobs that would stay in the good ol’ US of A. The problem in 2012 is that even Obama’s supporters have no idea where we stand on that. How many jobs have we created? How many jobs are indeed still around? The American people want/need to know.

Romney is counting on the 1980 malaise that was partially true and partially part of the GOP hype machine. Americans have been beaten down the last few years either because they have lost their job, suffered with a job, or know someone who has lost a job and suffered through their job. Even if the Obama Administration is happier with the job numbers, many Americans are still not happy.

If Romney thinks he’s 1980 Reagan, he should note that the unemployment rate in Reagan’s first term is similar in numbers to Obama’s numbers (though worse in a few ways compared to now). Be careful what you wish for.

The challenger gets the benefit of the doubt, even when that challenger has literally no plan to help fix the situation. In 2010, the GOP didn’t retake the House and almost grab the Senate because they had a plan. They railed against Obamacare and unemployment and took control of the House. And we still don’t have any help from them.

Things may be better but they still aren’t good.

Voters believed Reagan in 1980. Voters believed the GOP in 2010. The voters got let down.

When the election cycle really kicks in around Labor Day, when Romney has a running mate, then we should have a long-term discussion about how to get more Americans working. Tax credits to companies, tax cuts to rich people, tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas, state and local officials bidding against each other for companies to come with no guarantees that they’ll stay when the next bid comes around — these are a lot of what the United States has tried to get jobs for Americans. And they have all failed.

While the Dems have had the advantage over the years in job creation, they had a golden opportunity in 2009 to revolutionize job creation in the United States, and blew that chance.

Ironically, the one area where Obama will help long-term job growth — the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) — still won’t kick in for most Americans … until 2014. This is IF Obama is re-elected, IF the Supreme Court doesn’t play politics, and IF the Dems can take one or two houses in Congress.

When people can start their own businesses after they can buy affordable (relatively speaking) health care, the job dynamic has the potential to change dramatically for the better. Those who can’t afford to quit can leave jobs they don’t want for a chance to do something they want to do. And those jobs won’t be shifted overseas.

Other than Obamacare, assumes it remains pure, politicians in Washington really haven’t done a whole lot to change the job dynamic. The Dems want small changes and the GOP wants no changes. That isn’t enough for the American economy to thrive. Until someone in power figures that out, we’ll be fighting about crumbs.


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