David Plouffe can consider his job safe for now. After getting roundly criticized for suggesting that the unemployment rate and GDP figures didn’t matter much to ordinary Americans, I wondered whether anyone in the White House press corps would ask the Obama administration to support or repudiate Plouffe, especially after Mitt Romney suggested that Obama fire Plouffe to give him better insight into what those numbers mean. Jake Tapper, as usual, rises to the occasion:
TAPPER: OK. And lastly, comments by Senior Adviser David Plouffe were criticized today. Earlier this week, he said, quote, “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on how do I feel about my own situation: Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?”
And Republican front runner Mitt Romney said that those comments were — he suggested they were out of touch, and he said that if Plouffe worked for him, he would fire him.
CARNEY: Well, I understand that we’re engaged in the – or rather, the Republicans are engaged in a primary campaign, trying to get some media attention. I don’t know where, you know, the voters that some other folks might be talking to — but — or — but most people do not sit around their kitchen table and analyze GDP and unemployment numbers. They talk about how they feel their own economic situation is. And they measure it by whether they have a job, whether they have job security; whether their house – whether they’re meeting their house payment, whether their mortgage is underwater; whether they have the money to pay for their children’s education or they don’t; whether they’re dealing with a sick parent and can afford that, or whether they can’t.
They do not sit around analyzing The Wall Street Journal or other — or Bloomberg to look at the — you know, analyze the numbers. Now, maybe some folks do, but not most Americans. I think that’s the point David Plouffe was making; that’s the point the president was making just moments ago in his statement in the Rose Garden.
Well, more of them can’t do any of those things Carney lists than at the beginning of his term. That is what those numbers demonstrate. Even by that measure, Obama’s failing.
But quite obviously, those numbers do mean something significant to most Americans, and the last Democratic President to deliver stagnation and malaise discovered that a little too late. Jimmy Carter first used the “misery index” as an argument against Gerald Ford, which combined the unemployment rate with prevailing interest rates. Unfortunately for Carter, he made the misery index a lot worse in four years, and people paid attention to that when Ronald Reagan used the point to hammer Carter’s economic policies.
Honestly not sure what else they could say. “No, people totally care but they’re going to vote for me anyway”? And/or “No, people’s sisters are still living in the basement and Home Depot is like a ghost town, but we’ll win”?
Not exactly, but one would expect them to come up with an answer that had some relation to the real world. Very obviously, people do pay attention to these numbers, especially investors, business executives, and other job creators. Ordinary people understand that those numbers play a big part in investment and expansion decisions, so they do take an interest in them. A proper argument would have acknowledged this and argued why the latest numbers show signs of hope, or that these numbers are just a hiccup in the overall recovery.
Whether people agree with those arguments is almost immaterial; it at least shows that the White House is tethered to reality. Arguing that they don’t matter at all is absurd — and it demonstrates a complete intellectual bankruptcy in dealing with the economy and joblessness. They really don’t have a Plan B, and now they want everyone to believe that it doesn’t matter.
Update: Great news, says the White House. They can get unemployment down to 8.2% … by November 2012:
“The president has taken responsibility that we have to do everything we can,” Goolsbee said when asked if the White House will take the blame for Friday’s poor jobs report. “It is his number-one priority. We wake up every day — what can we do to get the growth rate higher?”
Goolsbee said “hundreds of thousands of jobs if not millions” could be created if a payroll tax cut is extended, trade deals are passed, an infrastructure bank is created, a patent reform bill is approved and a deficit deal is reached. He also said that if those things happen, the unemployment rate would be 8.2 percent by the fourth quarter of 2012.
You mean they now want to argue that they can get the jobless rate down to almost the level that they promised it wouldn’t exceed if we just let them spend more money?