4.9% Unemployment or, “The Myth of Obama’s Economic Incompetency”

This morning the Department of Labor issued its routine report on job creation in the prior month, and the Obama Administration is probably feeling pretty good about themselves as yet again we’ve seen positive private sector jobs growth, and the big headline from the report will be that at 4.9%, the unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been since almost a year before Obama took office.

So can we please put the “Obama wrecked our economy” rhetoric to bed, conservatives?

I know, we can’t because as I’m sure you will all be carping about soon, the labor participation rate — a high-level view of the number of work-eligible adults that are employed — is still lower than it has been historically. You’ll of course ignore things like Baby Boomers retiring, technology that has developed in the last forty years that have made certain jobs obsolete, and large corporations leaving the country to go and exploit countries with weaker labor protections. Yes, the labor participation rate is important, but it’s by no means a fair or accurate representation of the labor market, because do we really care if 16-18 year old kids focus more on school than their career? Do we really find it upsetting that people with physical impairments don’t have work at the same rate that people who are relatively malady-free do?

No, we’re going to ignore your pedantic quibbling over the unemployment rate. Why? Because the Department of Labor is tabulating it the same way they did for Carter, for Reagan, for both Bushes, and for Clinton. This is how you make sure measurements stay consistent. And the truth, the real truth, is that if things had gone differently in 2012, Romney had won, and this jobs report came out this morning, you’d be singing from the highest rooftops about President Romney’s robust economy.

It’s time, conservatives, to give up the ghost. Maybe conservatives and liberals will be battling about tax rates forever and ever, but this trope that Democrats crash the economy has to just stop. And no, you don’t get to give the credit to the Republican congress that was blocking Obama’s efforts every step of the way; that’s like giving a criminal a medal when a cop stops them from robbing someone because in your mind the cop wouldn’t be getting the medal if the crook wasn’t breaking the law.


Maybe Obama doesn’t personally deserve all the credit for the economic recovery, but the larger point is that despite all the shrieking and moaning from his political adversaries, he has overseen an economy that has recovered. It hasn’t recovered fully, and there are deep, systemic problems that exist within it today, but no one can deny that the economy is back to where it was, and slightly better in most regards than it was before it all went to shit in the Great Recession.

On a related note, I always love seeing right-wingers say stuff like, “If Obama fixed the economy, why come you say we need Bernie or Hillary to fix it?” Which to me is like asking why we’re patching a pothole in the road when at least we have a road to drive on.

To me the bottom line is actually kind of a simple one: No president’s economic record is going to be perfect. Economies don’t stop and start when a president clocks in and out of the Oval Office. Economic trends take years to change, and decisions made today may not be felt until years later. I’m not saying that all these consecutive months (years now) of private sector jobs growth, or the fact that the unemployment rate is now lower than it was he took office by nearly half all somehow means he’s perfect and his record will show that.

All I’m saying is that those things can, should, and do disprove the conservative meme that Democrats in general, and Obama specifically, is economically illiterate and incompetent. Just like evolution and climate change, those are facts that don’t depend on conservative belief to be true.

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About James Schlarmann 1452 Articles

Comedian, writer, founding contributor of The Political Garbage Chute, holder of zero world records or lifetime achievement awards.

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