Economy

Romney: Decisiveness in action

Mitt Romney is decisive.  Sort of.  You see, he didn’t say that President Obama made the recession worse….but now he’s saying that President Obama made the recession worse.  I swear, this sounds like I’m talking about John Kerry with his “I voted for it before I voted against it” quip.  However, Romney is now apparently full on after President Obama….this week:

Speaking at the annual July Fourth parade here on Monday, Mr. Romney told a crowd of supporters and passersby,“the recession is deeper because of our president,” adding, “it’s seen an anemic recovery because of our president.”

Mr. Romney made a similar assertion earlier when reporters had pressed him on the point near the parade staging grounds, after initially seeming to limit his commentary to the president’s handling of the recovery, which he said, “has been slower and more painful,’’ But then he went ahead and said it, that the president “made the recession worse.”

The problem for Romney is that the experts say the recession ended in 2009 which most are taking to mean that it wasn’t so bad.  He’s done a rather poor job of articulating what he means, unless he’s arguing that it ain’t over yet.  He also said the recovery sucks because of Obama.  On that note, he’s closer to right than the press wants to admit.  I seriously doubt we’re going to see a good, solid recovery with what’s been done so far.

The problem here isn’t Romney saying Obama made the recession worse.  In truth, he’s campaigning in a GOP primary where most of the voters already think that.  The problem is here is a man who’s running for president who can’t seem to decide from one day to the next if Obama is to blame for the severity of the economic troubles in this country.

Stimulus cost $185,000 per job

Pushing back against a claim by Speaker John Boehner, who recently cited numbers from the Weekly Standard noting that the so-called stimulus cost $278,000 per job, economic advisors from the Obama Administration want to set the record straight:

The Council of Economic Advisers report, issued last Friday, states that in the first quarter of 2011, the stimulus bill “has raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by between 2.4 and 3.6 million.”

The White House has long disputed the math of dividing the cost of the stimulus by the number of jobs created – we asked a similar question back in October 2009, when that computation resulted in the comparable bargain of $72,408 per stimulus job, as you can read at this blog post.

Is Rick Perry the tea party favorite?

Given the job creation numbers in Texas and his frequent criticisms of Barack Obama, Texas Gov. Rick Perry seems to be the tea party movement’s favorite presidential candidate; at least at the moment:

The Texas conservative, who’s weighing a late entry into the field of GOP candidates, beats other candidates among members of the Tea Party, the conservative grassroots wing of the Republican Party that’s battling to shape the race for the nomination.

Twenty percent of Tea Party supporters would like to see Perry as the nominee, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll released Wednesday. Perry displaces former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) as the top Tea Party candidate in Marist’s April poll; Huckabee’s since withdrawn from the race.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is the second choice of the Tea Party, at 17 percent, followed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) at 16 percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) at 12 percent.

The poll suggests that Perry might be well-positioned to seize the mantle of the Tea Party should he choose to enter the race. Bachmann made a play for those voters during her announcement this week, and could enjoy increased support after heavy media coverage this week.

Do extended benefits encourage people to stay unemployed

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler thinks that extended unemployment benefits may actually be contributing to our unemployment problem.  According the Augusta Chronicle report, that argument isn’t without some merit either.  You see, people who are on unemployment often ride those benefits until they get a job as good as their previous one.  It’s not hard to sympathize with that.  It’s also hard to not relate to someone who opts to not take a job that pays about what the benefits pay.

“Somebody who’s been on unemployment for a very extended time, and this is not everybody … will say ‘I’m not looking for anything right now but will when my benefits are about to run out,’ ” he said Monday.

He bases his comments on conversations with Labor Department managers around the state who tell him they see people get the most energetic about finding a job when they approach the end of their benefit period. At the same time, some employers, such as temporary-staffing companies, tell him they can’t find workers to fill their openings.

Butler said the unemployment insurance program shouldn’t postpone people’s recognition that they might have to move, take a job in another field or take a lower-paying position.

Gary Johnson: “I didn’t create a single job”

On Wednesday, I noted that Gary Johnson has the best record on jobs of any governor currently seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Gov. Johnson notes that he didn’t create jobs during his time in office:

Presidential candidate Gary Johnson took a slightly unorthodox approach regarding job creation on Thursday. “I didn’t create a single job,” said the former Governor of New Mexico.
[…]
“Don’t get me wrong,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are proud of this distinction. We had a 11.6 percent job growth that occurred during our two terms in office. But the headlines that accompanied that report – referring to governors, including me, as ‘job creators’ – were just wrong.”

“The fact is, I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor,” Johnson added. Instead, “we kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles.”

Of course, Johnson is right. A governor or a president or even Congress cannot “create jobs.” As Johnson notes, government can get out of the way or they can create policies that slow the pace of job growth or are economically destructive. It’s an important distinction that should be made, one that I should have noted in my original post. It’s something that Johnson, assuming he isn’t blocked from appearing in future, can elaborate on in future debates with his counterparts.

Which Republican has the best jobs record?

The economy and jobs are going to be a big part of the Republican presidential campaigns this summer and into next year. All of the candidates are beating up on President Barack Obama and the, frankly, paltry job numbers we’ve seen during this wreckovery. But which governor in the Republican field can boast the best-job numbers? The National Review says Gary Johnson:

According to a National Review Online analysis of seasonally adjusted employment data (looking at the total number of those employed) from the Bureau of Labor website, Gary Johnson has the best record of the official candidates, with a job-growth rate of 11.6 percent during his tenure.

But Johnson, who governed from 1995 to 2003, doesn’t overlap much with the other governors — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Jon Huntsman — who are running. Among the crowd who governed primarily during the 2000s, Huntsman has the best record. During his 2005 to 2009 tenure as governor of Utah, the number of jobs grew by 5.9 percent.

Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have much weaker records. Romney, who governed Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, had an overall job-growth rate of 1.6 percent. During Pawlenty’s time as governor of Minnesota (2003 to 2011), the number of jobs grew by an anemic 0.5 percent.

Of course, some of these comparisons are apples to oranges; Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Perry, for instance, all were governors during the recession, while Romney and Johnson were not. State population changes could also play a role in determining whether a state’s employment numbers surge or decline.

Obama blames convenience for bad economy

Now, I have heard it all.  Of course, I say that every time a politician of some strip says something so idiotic that it boggles the mind, and yet it keeps happening all over again.  Today’s winner is none other than President Obama.  The president, apparently trying to find someone to blame for the crappy economy that isn’t George Bush, today took aim at something else.

From Fox News:

President Obama explained to NBC News that the reason companies aren’t hiring is not because of his policies, it’s because the economy is so automated. … “There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

Convenience is the enemy, huh?

First, this is a man who believes that forking out $260,000 to create one job is a good deal, so I should exactly be surprised by his claim.  However, in this case, he’s wrong.

You see, jobs were lost because the economy took a nose dive.  Between his and his predecessor’s policies, there’s a great deal of uncertainty and fear in many businesses.  They’re not going to hire until they are confident they actually can.  What President Obama is arguing is that these jobs weren’t lost due to a bad economy, but some leap in technology that pushed people out of their jobs.  That would be the only reason why automation would keep unemployment up.  Unfortunately for him, that’s not the case.

Thomas Sowell on Tim Pawlenty

While Tim Pawlenty is being raked over the coals by commentators for declining to go after Mitt Romney on his disastrous health insurance reform bill that eventually became a blueprint for Obama, Thomas Sowell seems to like what he sees in the former Governor of Minnesota:

Tim Pawlenty cites his track record to back up his statements. That includes reducing Ethanol subsidies when he was governor of Minnesota and cutting the growth of state government spending from just over 20 percent a year to under 2 percent a year.

Governor Pawlenty fought Minnesota’s transit unions over runaway pensions and hung tough during a long strike. “Today,” he says, “we have a transit system that gives commuters a ride, without taking the taxpayers for a ride.”

Some fear that Governor Pawlenty doesn’t have the charisma and fireworks rhetoric that they would like to see in a candidate. Charisma and rhetoric are what gave us the current disastrous administration in Washington. Charisma and rhetoric gave people in other countries even bigger disasters, up to and including Hitler.

Politicians and the media may want a candidate with verbal fireworks but the people want jobs. As Tim Pawlenty put it: “Fluffy promises of hope and change don’t buy our groceries, make our mortgage payments, put gas in our cars, or pay for our children’s clothes.”

The only flaw in Sowell’s argument is that voters, including the conservative base of the Republican Party, tend to flock to candidates that build up a cult of personality.

Is Pawlenty on the rise?

Earlier today, I noted the importance of Iowa to Tim Pawlenty’s hopes to capture the Republican nomination. And we’re there is going to be a lot of emphasis on that fact over the next two months, it’s worth noting that he had an excellent week last week:

A successful economic speech, one rival’s campaign implosion and another’s decision to skip an influential Iowa straw poll have given Tim Pawlenty a very good week.

His campaign hopes to keep the momentum going, getting the traction its needs to catapult the relatively unknown former Minnesota governor into a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

The mass staff resignations from Newt Gingrich’s campaign, combined with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s decision to skip Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll, gives Pawlenty an opening on which his campaign could capitalize.
[…]
The Pawlenty campaign’s gameplan has always relied on seizing moments in the race to help build the Minnesotan’s image and popularity.

Pawlenty was the most immediate beneficiary of the Gingrich implosion. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), who was Gingrich’s campaign co-chairman, jumped to Pawlenty’s campaign following the mass resignations of the former Speaker’s staff.

Conservatives have also been swooning over Pawlenty after his “Better Deal” speech in Obama’s backyard, at the University of Chicago, on Tuesday. The plan, which would eliminate a number of deductions while slashing the top individual and corporate tax rates, won crucial praise from the right, whose support Pawlenty will need in the primaries.

Did the stimulus work?

All economic discussion here lately really tends to boil down to the question of whether the stimulus programs by Presidents Bush and Obama worked.  For most Americans, they’re willing to forgive a great many sins if they actually worked.  I could sit down and take a look at what is what, but why bother?  Lawrence Lindsey at The Weekly Standard already did it.

Here’s the part that really stuck with me:

Government policies to “stimulate” growth have not done so. Everyone except flacks for the White House knows that the 2009 stimulus package failed miserably to produce the promised results. But even if you buy the White House’s argument that the $800 billion package created 3 million jobs, that works out to $266,000 per job. Taxing or borrowing $266,000 from the private sector to create a single job is simply not a cost effective way of putting America back to work. The long-term debt burden of that $266,000 swamps any benefit that the single job created might provide.

We spent $266,000 – which has to be paid for via taxation – to create a single job.  Unless that job is Warren Buffet’s equivalent in income, I think we all got screwed on the deal.

However, remember the horror stories we were told of what live would be like without the stimulus, and how awesome we would be doing if we passed the stimulus?  Well, without the stimulus, we were told that unemployment could reach as high as 9%, but that if we passed it we would never see unemployment greater than 8%.  Well, we passed it.  The result?

From Economic Policies for the 21st Century:


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.