VOL. 125 | NO. 197 | Monday, October 11, 2010
Analysis: Jobs Report is Bleak News for Democrats
TOM RAUM | Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – The die is cast, and it's grim news for the Democrats. There's nothing now that Congress or President Barack Obama can do to before the November midterm elections to jolt the nation's stagnant economy.
Friday's government report – the last major economic news before the midterm elections – showed the nation continued to lose jobs last month, reinforcing the bleak reality that it probably will be years – not months – before employment returns to pre-recession levels below 6 percent.
That tightens the pressure on Democrats ahead of the Nov. 2 elections. And it also casts a dark shadow well into the 2012 election season and beyond.
"We won't see under 6 percent for five years," David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York, said Friday after the Labor Department reported that 95,000 more jobs were lost in September and the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent. "It's going to be a slow recovery."
Democrats, who now control the White House and both chambers of Congress, are sticking with a positive line: The economy is moving too slowly for anybody's comfort, but Obama and his congressional Democratic allies have laid the groundwork for future prosperity. They are blaming the downturn on the policies of Republican George W. Bush's eight-year presidency.
Republicans, meanwhile, were quick to say Friday's new jobless report only underscored the weakness of Democratic policies of big government and taxes. It represented "the final verdict on the failed policies of this White House and Democratic Congress as voters head to the polls," said GOP party chief Michael Steele.
Unemployment has now topped 9.5 percent for 14 months in a row, the longest stretch since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Congress, meanwhile, has left town until after the midterms, failing to decide what to do about wide-ranging Bush-era tax cuts that are due to expire on Jan. 1. Uncertainty over those tax cuts itself is contributing to the lack of hiring as businesses, especially small ones, attempt to figure out what their tax burdens will be next year.
Obama and Democratic leaders want to let the tax cuts expire for wealthier Americans but extend them for the middle class. Republicans and some Democrats want to extend them for everybody, arguing that this is no time for any tax hikes.
The jobless level remains high even though Washington has hurled trillions of dollars at the problem. The efforts include an $814 billion stimulus package and the $700 billion financial institution bailout. Also, the Fed has held the short-term interest rates it controls near zero for months and has flooded the nation's financial system with hundreds of billions of dollars in newly created money.
Polls show little appetite for additional spending on stimulus, and a darkening view of Obama's ability to deal with the economy. An AP-GfK poll last month showed people disapprove of his handling of the economy by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. A new CBS poll shows approval at just 38 percent.
"Both parties are culpable" for the policies that helped lead to the worst recession since the Great Depression and for continued high levels of unemployment, said Ross Baker, a congressional scholar at Rutgers University.
"But Democrats are more vulnerable. After all, they control all the political branches of government. Inevitably, it will greatly hurt the Democrats considerably more than it will hurt the Republicans."
GOP leaders have been taunting Democrats with "where are the jobs?" after each month's disappointing jobs report.
But that refrain was first sounded by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., before she became House speaker. As the economy was slowly coming out of the 2001 recession, she asked in an October 2003 television appearance: "Mr. President, where are the jobs?"
But that month saw 203,000 new jobs and 6 percent unemployment, notes former Bush strategist Karl Rove. "Her party would kill for such a rate today," he wrote earlier this week. "Instead, they will be killed at the polls," he added.
Private businesses did add 64,000 jobs in September, but that was the weakest showing since June. And the gain was outpaced by a wave of government layoffs, including census jobs and the largest cuts by local governments in nearly three decades.
Economists say that at least 100,000 new jobs must be created each month just to keep pace with growth in the labor market.
EDITOR'S NOTE – Tom Raum covers economics and politics for The Associated Press.
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