This morning's jobs report, by all measures, was pretty good: unemployment down below 5% since well before the Great Recession, 14 million jobs added in the Obama recovery - 5.5 million in just the last 2 years - and even finally some wage growth.
And it is good news, unless you ask the ever angry warrior of the Left Bernie Sanders, who has now been reduced to parroting Republican talking points to belittle the tremendous progress President Obama has made and the stunning recovery America has come through under him. The unemployment rate is really 9.9%, said Sanders, in campaign rhetoric reminiscent of Mitt Romney's unskewing of polls.
Has he lost his everloving mind? The unemployment rate is what it is, and it has been measured that way for decades. The average weekly hours for those who are employed (counting part-time and full-time) was pretty close to full time hours, at 34.6. Discouraged workers accounted for only 623,000 out of a jobs report set the civilian labor force at 159 million - indicating that the drop in labor participation rate from mid-2000s to now has largely come from babyboomer retirements and an aging population, not discouraged workers.
There are only two non-mutually exclusive logical conclusions here: (1) Bernie wants retirees to have to come out of retirement and work, and/or (2) he wants Americans to work dramatically more hours.
BernieBros will tell you that Sanders is merely talking about U6 (even though Sanders never actually mentioned the term U6), an alternate measure that counts people who ever looked for a job in the last 12 months (even if they are currently not looking work such as school or family obligations) as well as the involuntarily part-time employed as completely unemployed.
Since this is not actually reported as the unemployment rate though, if it is what Sanders wants to use, it is incumbent upon him to be explicit and explain what it is - even if it doesn't fit on a bumber sticker - instead of hiding behind vague claims of "real" unemployment. The burden of why he thinks counting those not actually looking for and the undermployed (whether by one hour or 20) as completely unemployed is a better measure of unemployment. Bernie is of course not taking the time to do so, making his pronouncements a disingenuous Republican attempt to undercut President Obama.
Interestingly enough, the drop in U6 since the high of the recession is just as dramatic as that of the rate reported. It dropped from 17.1% at the height of the Great Recession to 9.9% this month. Bernie won't tell you that either, and neither will his fundamentalist fanboys.
But it's not about the numbers for Sanders or his fans. It never has been, and his lack of explicitness and explanation is all the more proof. There is no true intention of actually discussing the numbers. Like Republicans conspiracy theorists on the employment recovery under President Obama, Bernie's true intention is to revive his talking point that is being destroyed by President Obama's success.
You see, if what President Obama is doing is actually working, and working well to recover the economy, it undercuts the need for a "revolution". If what President Obama is doing is working, that means we need to continue to protect and strengthen his policies, not upend the whole of the economic order to fix things in America. If what President Obama is doing is working, it means we need a competent, leadership-oriented maintenance president to protect and expand the Obama recovery, not an untested revolutionary to launch new experiments.
In other words, if President Obama's policies are working, the entire basis of the Bernie Sanders candidacy evaporates in one New York minute. All that agitation, riling up people in faux anger, railing against the "establishment", sticking it to "the man" - all fall apart like a house of cheap cards. All that poutrage and pretense about how nothing matters but income inequality and how all other life and death issues should take a back seat to the Great Revolution is dust.
Bottom line, hardline Sanders fundamentalists cannot, under any circumstances, accept that significant economic recovery is happening under the current president and the current structure. If they acknowledge that reality, it becomes difficult to make a case for revolution. The ugly truth is that these revolution peddlers need to have people's lives getting worse, not better, and barring such wish being a reality, they desperately need to cling to that pretense.
That's why Sanders saw it necessary to run and jump on today's good jobs numbers - they undercut the very premise of his candidacy. He put in his obligatory remarks about how it was better than the worst of the recession (I will never cease to be amazed at his capacity to state the obvious), but that he then felt the need to say "not good enough" and "it still sucks" tells us that he's rushing to reiterate his campaign's false premise: that America sucks and that it cannot be fixed by working within our system of government.
In essence, Sanders and the GOP have the same premise for their political relevance: Obama is not doing it right, fast enough, soon enough, good enough. But just as the Republicans' case comes unraveled by the facts, so does the case for the Sanders candidacy.
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