Republicans apparently had a field day today because the President said, in a press conference, that "the private sector is doing fine." At least, that is the cut-quote you will see in the media and from Republicans ad infinitum from now on till the Sunday talk shows and probably beyond. But there's a reason why. And it's not the one the media is telling you. The reason the media is going to be obsessed with that cut-out of the president's press conference is not, as they would like you to think, that it was Obama's 'big gaffe.' It's what came before and after those words, that the Republicans and the right-wing-lapdog media doesn't want you to hear or pay attention to.
Luckily, we have access to the transcript.
THE PRESIDNET: [...] What I’ve said is, let’s make long-term spending cuts; let’s initiate long-term reforms; let’s reduce our health care spending; let’s make sure that we’ve got a pathway, a glide-path to fiscal responsibility, but at the same time, let’s not underinvest in the things that we need to do right now to grow. And that recipe of short-term investments in growth and jobs with a long-term path of fiscal responsibility is the right approach to take for, I think, not only the United States but also for Europe.Read that again. 4.3 million private sector jobs. Nearly 900,000 alone this year. Contrast with this: even today, Mitt Romney is going around saying that people who lost jobs as teachers, firefighters and public safety officers - thus putting our children and community at a greater danger - deserved what they got.
Q What about the Republicans saying that you’re blaming the Europeans for the failures of your own policies?
THE PRESIDENT: The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government -- oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.
And so, if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is, how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry. Because the recipes that they’re promoting are basically the kinds of policies that would add weakness to the economy, would result in further layoffs, would not provide relief in the housing market, and would result, I think most economists estimate, in lower growth and fewer jobs, not more.
In the context of severe public sector job losses - that is, job losses for teachers, police officers and firefighters - ushered in by Republican governors and doubled down by DC-Republican refusal to send additional federal help to keep teachers employed and construction workers working and building our infrastructure - the private sector is in fact doing relatively fine. So much so, in fact, that an analysis by that liberal oasis Wall Street Journal shows that the unemployment rate would be at 7.1% without the public sector job losses that the Republicans forced.
The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn’t been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.Put in visual form, it would look like this:
The Journal does note that had public employment not dropped so precipitously, fewer people would have left the labor force, which would have pushed the unemployment rate up. However, I will also note here that this analysis is based solely on the numbers of additional paychecks we would have should public employment have remained at December 2008 levels. It does not account for ripple effects of that additional employment: namely, the fact that if that many additional people had jobs, they would be more free to spend money in the economy, creating greater demand for products and services, which would in turn create more jobs for people producing those products or services, creating even more jobs (which would again enable those people to spend money, keeping the virtuous cycle going).
So, it is entirely possible, and more than likely, that had public employment not been forced down by Republicans in Congress and in the states, actual unemployment rate now would be lower than 7.1%.
And that is just the jobs in government. It doesn't even take into account the other aspects of the President's American Jobs Act (remember that?), which would make prudent investments in the private sector by rebuilding our schools, roads, and bridges, investing in our physical and technological infrastructure and reconfiguring corporate tax credits to make them available for actual job creation rather than for outsourcing, for example. Had all of those common-sense, traditionally bipartisan measures been enacted along with helping teachers and firefighters stay on the job, unemployment would in fact be a lot better today than it is.
The corollary to this is simple: Republicans, not the president, are demonstrably responsible for today's employment situation. Now go back and read the part of the press conference I quoted (or the whole transcript, if you wish). You will see that the President was distinctly pointing out the evidence for this very fact.
And therein lies the answer as to why the media and the right wing (I'm having trouble telling the difference) decided to jump on the "gaffe." That was their only chance to avoid the truth about the Republicans irresponsibility on the economy. The Republicans cannot have people hearing the truth about the President's economic record (4.3 million private sector jobs created in the last 27 months), and the media cannot miss a chance to force a horserace.
Because if the American people got a wind of the truth about how President Obama has been working day in and day out to create jobs and how the Republicans have been singularly focused on making this country fail for their political gain, they might screw up the right wing business model. In order for the media and the right wing business to "do fine," they need to smear the president.