Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why don't liberals care about jobs

Soon after the election, after the initial shock wore off, the inevitable question came from everyone's lips.  "What the hell just happened?"  Even supporters of our 45th President were surprised by his victory.  And, pretty quickly, the conventional wisdom gelled around one theme: Jobs.  Or, as Bill Clinton once put it, "It's the economy, stupid!"

Then the Monday morning quarterbacking started.  "Why didn't the Democrats talk more about jobs? If only they had, we woulda won this thing."  Fair question.  So why didn't liberals talk about jobs?  Why isn't it a prominent theme across our platform?  Simple:  JOBS. AREN'T. A. PROBLEM.  At least, not at a national level.  At unemployment less than 5%, basically everyone that wants a job has one.

Talk about the unemployment rate with a conservative for just 30 seconds, and you'll hear that old gem, "Unemployment doesn't count all the people that have stopped looking for work."  It's a handy argument.  It neatly undercuts the number without offering any clarity, whatsoever.  So what's a liberal to do?

Instead of looking at unemployment rates, why don't we talk more about how many people are actually working?  It certainly takes away the "stopped looking" argument.  Is it because it's too hard to figure out?  Nope.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics is, true to its name, LOADED with labor statistics.  Free for the accessing (unless our President decides that should be shut off too).  Just take a look at this graph below, pulled today.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, total non-farm employment, 2000-2016
So there it is, in black and white (and red).  This graph shows how many people had a job (other than on a farm) every month over the last 17 years.  What can we learn here?

  • After 9/11, we had a recession.  We didn't pull out of that until 2004, George W. Bush's 2nd term.  
  • Things looked pretty good for Bush 43 in his 2nd term.
  • The housing crash hit at the end of Bush 43 and Barack Obama rolls into office during the most dramatic drop in the economy since the Depression.  
  • Even so, the total employment numbers didn't dip below the levels of the post-9/11 recession.
  • Then, in 2010, and through the next six years, there was a steady and strong increase in the number of people working, at the same rate of recovery (look at the slopes of the lines) that Bush 43 enjoyed post 9/11.
So you see, to any person versed in the facts, there was nothing to talk about when it came to bringing more jobs.  It's not that they didn't care; it was that it was a fiat accompli. Why would you talk about bringing jobs back?

What we are left with is the cognitive dissonance created by the conservative media machine with inane and unsupported counterpoints like "well that doesn't count all the people who stopped looking for work."  It's been repeated so often, along with other themes, that, in spite of the fact that the people hearing the message actually HAVE jobs (along with their friends, relatives, and neighbors), they still believe to their core that unemployment is still a problem.

Now there are states and certainly counties across America that are suffering.  But those are state issues and fall at the feet of the governors in control of those states.  Everybody has heard their own governor talk about how they're going to create conditions for business to come into their state.  And it's at this local level that we, as liberals, need to be plugged in.  We need to bring our own ideas and messages for prosperity to our cities, counties, and states.  Because that's where the solution will come.  Which, by the way, is where the Democrats ARE ACTUALLY FAILING.  Get local.  That's where things actually get fixed.

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