The New York Times’ Paul Krugman posted a nice chart over the weekend, mocking Republican rhetoric about President Obama being a “job-killer.” It struck me as a little hard to read, so I recreated the image using the same data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s a pretty straightforward exercise: compare President Obama’s record on private-sector employment (the blue line) to private-sector employment during the Bush/Cheney era (red line). The x axis shows the months in office, and since President George W. Bush was in office for eight years, while Obama still has a year to go, the red line is longer.
Keep in mind, during the Bush/Cheney era, congressional Republicans – who eagerly approved two massive tax-cut packages – were certain the GOP economic agenda would work wonders. These same Republicans have spent the last seven years insisting that the Obama agenda would push the nation into economic ruin.
And yet, here we are. How do Republicans explain images like this one? How do GOP officials account for strong job growth in an era of “Obamacare,” higher taxes, and environmental protections? In general, the party prefers to either change the subject or throw around wild-eyed conspiracy theories.
But let’s not stop here. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum added yesterday that Obama’s performance “is even better than it looks.” Kevin posted a related chart showing government expenditures during both administrations, making clear that in the Bush/Cheney era, the economy benefited from a steady increase in government spending, while in the Obama era, government spending declined, creating a kind of austerity that serves as a drag on economic growth.
In other words, the closer one looks, the more extraordinary the last few years appear. Sure, Bush inherited a mild economic downturn, but he was able to implement the economic agenda he believed would work. It didn’t. Obama, on the other hand, inherited the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression, had to overcome spending cuts and a shrinking public sector, and still managed to turn the private-sector job market around while cutting the unemployment rate from 10% to 5%.
We can, of course, have a related conversation about just how much a president’s policies affect the economy, but that’s not generally the fight Republicans pick. On the contrary, GOP officials, pundits, and candidates much prefer to argue that Obama’s approach to health care, regulations, taxes, Wall Street limits, and the environment are a recipe for economic disaster because, well, just because.
I can appreciate the Republicans’ persistence, but it should be discouraging for the right that reality keeps getting in the way.