We’ve really come down to closing arguments now in the presidential election, where candidates usually lay out the best positive case for voter support. As I’ve noted since the debates, Democrats seem to be going in the opposite direction, stepping up personal attacks against Mitt Romney rather than argue for another four years of Barack Obama. George Will notices the same trend, even with Obama himself and his campaign, and writes in the Washington Post that President Hopenchange has gone “empty and strident”:
Energetic in body but indolent in mind, Barack Obama in his frenetic campaigning for a second term is promising to replicate his first term, although simply apologizing would be appropriate. His long campaign’s bilious tone — scurrilities about Mitt Romney as a monster of, at best, callous indifference; adolescent japes about “Romnesia” — is discordant coming from someone who has favorably compared his achievements to those of “any president” since Lincoln, with the “possible” exceptions of Lincoln, LBJ and FDR. Obama’s oceanic self-esteem — no deficit there — may explain why he seems to smolder with resentment that he must actually ask for a second term. …
His only notable new idea in this campaign is to alter the First Amendment in order to empower government to restrict the amount of permissible political speech — speech about the composition and conduct of government. Nancy Pelosi pledges that if Democrats control the House, they will pass this constriction of the Bill of Rights on the first day.
All politicians are to some extent salesmen. But Obama, having devalued the coin of presidential rhetoric by the promiscuous production of it, increasingly resembles a particular salesman, Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman:
“For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that’s an earthquake.”
Why the empty stridency of the last days of Obama’s last campaign?
That question is easy to answer. Obama has no record on which to run. His biggest accomplishments have been passing a sweeping health-insurance mandate few wanted, Dodd-Frank regulation that has already begun costing people hikes in banking fees as well as jobs from lost capital investment, and the Lily Ledbetter Act — which his own running mate admitted wasn’t much of an accomplishment anyway. On the core issues of jobs and the economy, Obama has no real argument, and no real plan to change the current trajectory of stagnation and decline.
That doesn’t mean Obama isn’t attempting to make an argument out of it, no matter how half-hearted and deceptive. Earlier this week, Team Obama released this chart through social media as their argument for Obama as a job creator:
Obama created 5.2 million private-sector jobs in 31 months, the campaign claimed, insisting that they have fixed a broken economy. In my column today for The Fiscal Times, I dismantle that argument with a few charts of my own — and the proper context of this chart:
When Obama took office, the US had 110,985,000 private-sector jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Establishment Survey, the source of the data in Obama’s chart. As of the data for September 2012, the US has 111,499,000 private-sector jobs, for a grand total increase of 514,000 jobs in nearly four years. That’s one-tenth of the jobs Obama claims were created.
Part of the disconnect is that the US continued to bleed jobs from the recession that started before Obama took office. How about from the start of the recovery – which, readers will recall, began four months after Obama got his $800 billion stimulus plan passed in Congress? As of June 2009, the US had 107,933,000 private-sector jobs, which means we have gained 3.566 million jobs in this sector during the entire 40-month recovery.
That’s an average of 89,150 jobs per month – which doesn’t come close to keeping pace with population growth. Economists put the threshold for new jobs in relation to population growth at 125,000 per month. In order to regain the jobs lost during the recession, we’d need to see job growth at a level of 250,000 sustained over as long as five years. This is one reason why Obama’s chart doesn’t show any numbers on the axes, which would indicate just how weak even the better months on this series have been. In the 31 months Obama cites, we have hit or surpassed the 250,000 mark only five times.
The column includes charts that show the actual amount of job growth in relation to the population. We’ve seen plenty of the civilian population participation rate, which shows the workforce (those with jobs and actively looking for work) in relation to the population; this hit a 31-year low in August and has steadily declined through the recovery, for reasons noted above. One metric we don’t mention as often here is the employment-population ratio, which measures employed workers against the general population. This actually looks more dramatic:
The Obama recovery started in June 2009, and the stimulus bill passed in February 2009. Neither have had any real impact on improving employment in the US; we’re stuckbelow the bottom level of the recession.
With a record like this, it’s small wonder that Obama and his team have nothing but “empty stridency” in their final days. They’re as out of arguments for another four years as they are out of ideas for what to do with them.