Obama’s congressional strategy to secure support for action against Syria is a mess. But for an example of just how bad it’s going, it’s worth examining how President Obama began his speech this morning in Russia at the end of the G-20 summit.
Typically, any politician who knows he’s about to receive a broadside of unfavorable questions from the press likes to start off the news conference with some “good news.” You know, start from an area of perceived strength before the kitchen gets a little hot.
Curiously, however, the “good news” Obama chose to kick off his news conference was about the economic recovery underway abroad—and in the United States:
“The United States is a source of strength in the global economy … And as we learned today, over the past three and half years our businesses have created 7 ½ million new jobs.”
While it’s true that the United States is the best of a bad lot of economies, President Obama happened to tout this “good news” about 90 minutes after the Labor Department released the August jobs numbers — job numbers that no president should be touting.
The headline numbers — 169,000 jobs added with the unemployment rate falling to 7.3% — are fair. It’s everything else that’s awful. Or, as economist (and part-time Val Kilmer impersonator) Justin Wolfers so eloquently described today’s report:
Summarizing the payrolls report: Bleh. Ugh. Ouch.
— Justin Wolfers (@justinwolfers) September 6, 2013
So what’s so bad? First, it’s never good to come in below expectations. Second, and more importantly, were the downward revisions to June and July’s jobs numbers, eliminating 74,000 jobs from the economy we thought we created. True, just over half those eliminated jobs were public—and not private—sector jobs. But the overall report speaks to an unsettling trend:
Pace of job growth now showing visible downward trend. Last 3m avg: 148k. Last 6m: 160k. Last 12m: 184k.
— Neil Irwin (@Neil_Irwin) September 6, 2013
Ironically, it’s those same public sector jobs (mainly education) that helped to boost jobs in August — which is unusual, as they’ve typically been a drag. Subtract them from the total and the private sector created only 152,000 jobs. And as has been the case since what we call a recovery began, those new jobs come with smaller paychecks.
All of which goes to show just how bad Obama’s Syria strategy must be going if he’d prefer to start the day talking jobs.