When it comes to politics, it ain’t over ’til its’ over. And even then it may not be over. With the presidential election just days away, the contest remains close enough to ensure some jangled nerves and nail-biting among Republicans and Democrats. Still, the latest news and numbers should give President President Barack Obama a boost as he delivers his closing argument to voters.
Should Obama emerge the victor when the dust settles after Tuesday, his closing argument will become the winning message. And voters convinced to reward Obama with a second term on the strength of that message will — and should — expect him to live up to its vision and promise.
thedailybeast.com — It's important not to read too much into any single data point. The October jobs report, released Friday morning, is a positive data point. The economy added 171,000 positions, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent. But it also highlights some important positive trends in the long-suffering U.S. labor market. Here are a few important takeaways. After a lull, jobs growth seems to be accelerating. Payroll jobs are becoming more plentiful in the U.S. And that's hard to ignore. The U.S. economy added 171,000 payroll jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So far in 2012, the economy has added an average of 157,000 payroll positions per month; for the last four months, the economy has added over 170,000 payroll jobs per month. In other words, strength seems to be accelerating.
thenation.com — Three months ago, TheNation.com kicked off a new campaign: “#TalkPoverty: Questions for Obama and Romney.” At the outset of the #TalkPoverty effort, I promised to hound both campaigns for answers. In the end, it didn’t really require hounding as far as the Obama campaign was concerned—they agreed to respond when I first contacted them. The Romney campaign, on the other hand, initially expressed openness before sending an e-mail last Thursday: “We will not be participating. Thanks for the offer.” It seems that the Romney campaign prefers to continue its strategy of speaking about “the poor” without saying anything of substance about antipoverty policies, or speaking in a manner completely untethered from reality, or outright lying. I promised both campaigns that we would run the answers without any interpretation, simply let their responses speak for themselves. Here are the answers from the Obama campaign:
prospect.org — One of the casualties of Hurricane Sandy is the premise that America’s biggest economic problem is deficit reduction. That’s because the United States just became a much larger version of the Netherlands. Once we get through the election, official Washington may be willing to talk about this. President Obama’s leadership in helping flooded communities cope with the damage nicely positions him to lead an effort to prevent future super-storm damage. The new normal is here, the legacy of our denial of the reality of climate change. The federal government needs to do a comprehensive assessment of the public investment necessary to protect our coasts, which will run into the trillions of dollars. One consequences of that reality is that it blows away past assumptions about deficit reduction. The government needs to begin a multi-year public investment program.
nytimes.com — If President Obama is re-elected, health care coverage will expand dramatically, taxes on the wealthy will go up and Wall Street will face tougher regulation. If Mitt Romney wins instead, health coverage will shrink substantially, taxes on the wealthy will fall to levels not seen in 80 years and financial regulation will be rolled back. Given the starkness of this difference, you might have expected to see people from both sides of the political divide urging voters to cast their ballots based on the issues. Lately, however, I’ve seen a growing number of Romney supporters making a quite different argument. Vote for Mr. Romney, they say, because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy. O.K., they don’t quite put it that way. The argument is phrased in terms of “partisan gridlock,” as if both parties were equally extreme. But they aren’t. This is, in reality, all about appeasing the hard men of the Republican Party.
prospect.org — Natural disasters are often highpoint moments for the public sector, reminding us of the power of common institutions that allow citizens to help each other in times of need. The residents, say, of sunny Los Angeles needn't do anything special at this moment, because they have already been doing something—helping fund FEMA with their tax dollars so that it has the capacity to respond to unexpected events like a "Frankenstorm." But here's a question: If most of us take for granted that we should be there for our fellow citizens during natural disasters, using the tool of government, why is it so controversial that we should also lend a helping hand during man-made economic disasters?
prospect.org — Job growth is important, but what might be even more exciting news is that the unemployment rate went from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent. Wait—isn’t unemployment the number we want to go down immediately? Unemployment is a measure of people looking for work. As people are unemployed for longer periods of time, they become discouraged and give up on trying to find a job. When they do this, they are no longer counted as unemployed, which leads to an artificial decline in the unemployment rate—it’s not that the economy has added jobs; it’s that there are fewer people looking for them. Rather than indicating a weaker economy, this rise in unemployment is a sign that the labor force is gaining strength—enough so that it is now starting to bring people who had dropped out back into the labor force.
robertreich.org — The two most important trends, confirmed in today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are that (1) jobs slowly continue to return, and (2) those jobs are paying less and less. Today’s report showed 171,000 workers were added to payrolls in October, up from 148,000 in September. At the same time, unemployment rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent last month. The reason for the seeming disparity: As jobs have begun to return, more people have been entering the labor force seeking employment. The household survey, on which the unemployment percentage is based, counts as “unemployed” only people who are looking for work. Overall, the jobs trend is in the right direction. The President and Democrats can take some comfort. The most disturbing aspect of today’s report is the continuing decline of wages.
nakedcapitalism.com — On June 7, 2001, HR 1836 the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was signed into law. This was the first and largest of several tax cut bills passed during the Bush Administration. It was estimated to cost $1.35 trillion with most of its benefits going to rich. So this should have spurred job creation. Give money to the “job creators” and they will create jobs, no? You could argue that the rich do create jobs, but these bubble jobs aren’t stable or permanent and are created at great cost to the non-rich. The quality of these post-bubble created jobs is generally poor. After 10 years of turning our economy over to the “job creating” rich, we are only just back to the level of private jobs we had in January 2001. In other words, the job creators in exchange for their trillion dollar tax cuts gifted the rest of us with a lost decade.
Austerity is back in the news, and the news about austerity is never good. We've only had de facto austerity on this side of the pond. So as usual, the news is from Europe, where the austerians are going full-tilt boogie. Our homegrown austerians, like their European counterparts, tell us that the kind of severe austerity underway in Europe is necessary to reduce the deficit. Everything from food stamps to Medicaid and Medicare — everything except defense spending — must be cut in order to reduce the deficit.