After three raucous nights of soaring oratory, blazing idealism and boundless hope at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama returned to reality on Friday with the release of the government’s latest employment situation report. That report shows that the U.S. economy is clearly better than four years ago, but remains very weak.
The BLS reported that the U.S economy added 103,000 private-sector jobs in August. While this is much better than the 294,000 private-sector jobs lost four years ago in August 2008 and marks the 30th consecutive month of private-sector job growth, it remains far below what a strong economy would produce and what many economists had predicted.
More troublesome, is that the pace of job growth is far below what we typically see during strong economic expansions. For example, since 1980 employment has averaged increasing by 2.2 percent annually during expansions. In the last six months though, employment has increased by a meager 1.1 percent — even below what we saw in 2010 as the economy was struggling to emerge from the Great Recession.
Clearly, the U.S. economy remains too weak.
Not surprisingly, Republicans are blaming President Obama for the current state of the economy — an argument that may well help them win back the White House in November. After all, with more than 12 million Americans still unemployed, voters might well wonder why the president hasn’t done more.
He did try though.
“To create jobs, I am submitting the American Jobs Act of 2011 — nearly all of which is made up of the kinds of proposals supported by both Republicans and Democrats, and that the Congress should pass right away to get the economy moving now.
The purpose of the American Jobs Act of 2011 is simple: Put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. And it will do so without adding a dime to the deficit,” President Barack Obama said on Sept. 12, 2011.
This jobs bill included $250 million of tax cuts and $200 million of additional spending all designed to boost overall economic activity and increase employment. In fact, independent economic forecasting firms estimated that the measure would create an additional 2 million jobs this year. So why didn’t it work? Because we never tried it. Congressional Republicans said “no.”
Ironically, this week marks the one-year anniversary of the day President Obama submitted his jobs bill to Congress. One year later the U.S. economy continues to struggle. Unemployment continues to remain too high. And Republicans continue to blame it all on President Obama.
But wouldn’t an additional 2 million jobs look pretty good right now? Wouldn’t America’s families be better off with a stronger economy?
It is quite possible that Republicans will make history by defeating President Obama this November. But history also will remember how their own intransigence on economic policy helped make it happen.
MICKEY HEPNER is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.