Rachel Maddow did a really good job of laying out just how completely insane these so-called negotiations going on right now over raising the debt ceiling, a manufactured, purely political crisis are, when there's a real crisis going on with the lack of jobs and one that's going to me made worse by these cuts in government spending they're debating.
And sadly it looks like the Obama administration has completely bought into Republican framing on the issue that somehow reducing our deficit right now is going to make the real crisis with jobs better and not worse.
As she noted in the beginning of the segment, Republicans were more than happy to take credit for good job numbers this spring which they're now trying to lay at the feet of President Obama. And as she noted, Steve Benen has a really good post on that here -- Post hoc ergo propter hoc:
There’s a fair amount of talk today about who’s to blame for the weakening job market. It got me thinking about how Republicans play this game.
When the jobs reports were looking quite good in the early spring, Republican leaders were eager to take credit for the positive numbers they had nothing to do with. Needless to say, GOP officials are no longer claiming responsibility, and are in fact now eager to point fingers everywhere else. It’s a nice little scam Republicans have put together: when more jobs are being created, it’s proof they’re right; when fewer jobs are being created, it’s proof Obama’s wrong. Heads they win; tails Dems lose.
With this in mind, let’s consider the recent developments the way a Republican would. Here’s a chart showing private-sector job creation in the latter half of 2010, when stimulus money was still being spent, and when Democrats enjoyed the congressional majority.
And here’s a chart showing private-sector job creation so far in 2011, after stimulus spending largely ended, Republicans took control of the U.S. House and most of the nation’s gubernatorial offices, and the national discourse pivoted from jobs to the deficit and debt.
As Steve and Rachel noted, even if you might not be able to specifically blame this on House Republicans, it's worth asking just who made things worse?
Rachel went on to point out that the main reason for these horrid jobs numbers that just came out are because of the huge number of losses in government jobs.
Matthew Yglesias posted this chart which Maddow featured in her segment over at Think Progress this Friday -- CHART: Over 500,000 Government Jobs Lost Since Obama’s Inauguration:
So should we blame today’s bad jobs numbers on Barack Obama’s big government policies? Again, I doubt it. What we continue to see are decent—though not great—private sector job numbers offset by tumbling public sector employment:
For a while temporary census-related jobs masked the underlying trend, but we’ve been steadily shedding government work. Maybe you think that’s a good thing. Certainly most of President Obama’s critics from the right claim to believe it’s a good thing. But what happens when you shed public sector jobs amidst an already weak economic climate is the sharply reduced incomes of the former teachers and whatnot lead to them spending less in their local communities. In total, we have about 500,000 fewer people working for the government since Obama’s inauguration even though the national population is larger than it used to be.
Maddow continued with explaining that the reason we're seeing these massive layoffs is because of budget cuts and quoted some of David Leonhardt at the New York Times here -- The Cost of Austerity:
We are also committing an unforced economic error. We’re cutting government at the same time that the private sector is cutting.
It is the classic mistake to make after a financial crisis. Hoover and even Roosevelt made a version of it in the 1930s. The Japanese made a version of it in the 1990s. Now we are making it.
A mistake as Rachel noted, is now being brought to Washington D.C.:
MADDOW: An unforced economic error, a fumble, a mistake. State and local governments cutting their budgets dramatically, in many cases because they have to, and the one entity that can really help them out, the federal government, now heading not toward helping them out, but towards cuts of their own. Big ones. This, which we mainly have to thank local and state governments for, this is what Republicans are insisting be brought now to Washington.
And John Boehner says we have a spending problem and a debt problem, but as Rachel pointed out, he hasn't had much to say on our jobs problem and she wondered if Boehner thinks that jobs problem is just going to fix itself. They keep pretending that their policies of trickle-down economics are going to work and if you just reduce "uncertainty" and taxes and regulations, that's magically going to create jobs, which Maddow didn't mention here.
Boehner apparently believes in the magical confidence fairy as a job creator instead of taxing the hell out of the wealthy and ending tax breaks for off-shoring where they have to spend their money in investing in the United States, their businesses here and our workers or it will just end up being paid in taxes to the government instead.
Boehner apparently also finally decided to acknowledge the defaulting on our debt would do harm to our economy, but as Steve Benen pointed out, that didn't stop him from thinking that threatening to crash our economy and choosing that risk was somehow an acceptable political strategy -- Boehner acknowledges risk:
As much as I’m glad to see Boehner acknowledge reality, and take some satisfaction in seeing the House GOP’s own leader shoot down irresponsible rhetoric from his own caucus, it’s that last point that stands out for me.
The Speaker, as of this morning, believes failing to raise the debt limit puts the nation, to use his words, “in jeopardy.” He conceded that failure would also make unemployment worse.
What Boehner left unsaid, however, is that he’s proven himself willing to pursue his hostage strategy anyway. In other words, the Speaker knows full well that failing to raise the debt ceiling would put Americans in danger, but he’s choosing to create this risk on purpose anyway. Give Boehner what he and his fellow Republicans demand, or he’ll deliberately “put us in an awful lot of jeopardy.”
Why this isn’t a national scandal is still a mystery to me. For all the talk about what will or won’t get cut, how this will or won’t affect the economy, whether the agreement will be large or enormous, the strategy itself is often lost in the shuffle. John Boehner and his party are threatening to crash the economy on purpose unless Democrats meet their demands. The Treasury, the Fed, economists, Wall Street, and business leaders have all pleaded with GOP leaders not to do this, but Republicans ignored them all.
There is no precedent for this, and it shouldn’t be treated as somehow normal. Indeed, it’s often hard to believe policymakers who claim to be patriots would deliberately put us all at risk this way.
And yet, here we are.
Another element that always seems to be missing from these discussions which are rare enough already in our sorry excuse for "news" these days are our trade laws which reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. Why that isn't part of the discussion going on right now with job losses frustrates me to no end, but given that our corporate media profits from companies doing business overseas that have no loyalty to the United States and our workers here, I don't find it surprising.
Maddow wound up her segment with a pretty scathing critique of these negotiations that are going to be going on over the weekend and into next week.
MADDOW: This really is Washington in crisis mode. The crisis in Washington is a political crisis. It is a crisis over the debt ceiling, which is a vote they take every year. Because of that vote, because Republicans are saying they're not going to go along with it this year, debt and deficit issues are the crisis in Washington. That's the weekend, beltway crisis, everybody come to work on Sunday thing going on in Washington. That's why Washington is in a panic.
But outside of that political crisis of our own making, outside of politics, this is a real crisis. This chart comes from Calculated Risk which is a really good blog about the economy. It shows all the recessions since the second world war, all the hard times in your parents' lives and your grandparents' lives and maybe even your great-grandparents' lives. The lines show how steep the job loss was in those recessions and how quickly the economy recovered in each of those recessions.
And this is a real crisis. Our economy has been almost unfathomably sick. That's us, that bottom line there. And we have not stopped getting better as you can see. That line even outs and flattens out on the right. The private sector is not hiring enough and the government instead of acting counter-cyclically, the government is making it worse by cutting its own budget and laying people off.
And this weekend in Washington, this is what the two political parties are meeting about; what they are discussing, what they are discussing, the topic of discussion in this big crisis, everybody go to work on on Sunday in Washington, what they are talking about is how to cut spending more, how to make this terrifying picture, worse.
Here's the site she was referencing and their chart -- Employment Summary, Part Time Workers, and Unemployed over 26 Weeks.