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Discussion: (16 comments)

  1. GWB outpaced BHO in raw number of jobs created but GWB’s raw numbers were created in a smaller workforce making his performance that much better.

  2. Max Planck

    Which is a pretty horrid performance, when you consider the “recession” Bush used an excuse to recklessly cut taxes to the level he did was, in fact, the shallowest of the Post WWII era. Considering what Obama had to bail us out of- a full blown economic holocaust- I would say that makes his record all the more impressive.

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    1. I do agree that Obama’s record is pretty horrid given that the magnitude of a recovery is generally understood to be related to the magnitude of the recession. By your own remarks, you’d expect Obama’s “recovery” to be significantly greater than Bush’s. But it wasn’t because his policies have stymied the recovery.

      1. This is not a “recession” in the classic sense of the word.

    2. Max Planck,

      the loss in GDP may have been worse in this recession but recall that when president Bush came into office the economy, the stock market, made about 5 trillion dollars worth of wealth disappear. This recession saw about 7 trillion disappear. When adjusted for inflation I would assume the numbers are closer (assuming 2% a year 5 trillion would be about 6 trillion today). Also recall that the financial markets also froze because of the September 11 attacks. In terms of sheer unemployment rate Mr. Pethokoukis has shown that the Reagan recession was much worse, and the recovery much faster. This performance is definitely not good when compared to previous ones.

      1. You’re playing with yourself by cherry picking numbers to agree with your own point of view.

        Most laughable, to someone like me who had a front row seat to the disaster, was your statement “Also recall that the financial markets also froze because of the September 11 attacks. ”

        Gee- I seem to recall something like that happening with far worse results and duration after September 15, 2008.

        Sheesh- don’t ANY of you make room for objectivity? You’re only kidding yourselves when you don’t.

  3. Turtles Run


    I agree. Obama is at a near pace with Bush despite being handicapped by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

    1. soxfan4life

      The worst economic crisis since the 70’s. The worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.

  4. Of course not.

    “the “recession” Bush used an excuse to recklessly cut taxes to the level he did was, in fact, the shallowest of the Post WWII era.”

    Why was it the shallowest recession, despite the bursting of a giant speculative bubble? The tax cuts.

    Which is not to say that Obama didn’t inherit a terrible problem himself. He just hasn’t had the answers to improve things.

    1. Michael Stein

      @AlanOokm – Bush was pushing for tax cuts before 9/11. The first set of cuts was passed in June 2001. His argument was not recession; it was that the government was running too large a surplus, and the money should be returned to the taxpayers. That would have been fine if we had not had both a war and a recession that made the surplus (and more) vanish. In 2003 a second round of tax cuts was passed.

      It seems to be an article of religious faith among Republicans, not requiring any evidence, that income tax cuts per se spur economic growth. A Keynesian would argue that cutting taxes to put more money into private hands while sustaining the same level of government spending via debt (as Bush did to pursue the needless war in Iraq) is not a supply-side solution; it’s a standard Keynesian pump-priming stimulus.

      Remember, Obama started with the same low personal income tax rates as Bush. If those low rates were really responsible for encouraging investment and employment to pull us out of the 2001 recession, shouldn’t our “job creators” have all the incentive they need already? Apparently not. Republicans once again argue that taxes are still too high, and we require a tax cut on top of the last one.

      Once instituted, however, the Republicans tell us that these cuts can never be rolled back, because to do so would discourage investment and cause job losses. Yet we seem to have recessions anyway – after which, it seems, Dr. Elephant prescribes another dose of permanent tax cuts.

      So what happens after another couple of recessions, when Republicans get those tax rates cut to near zero, and we have yet another recession? Taking Republican arguments to their logical conclusion, I can only conclude that they’ll tell us we need to start taxing the middle class and poor at 90% levels so we can start sending the rich – sorry, the “job creators” – profit-matching incentive checks (i.e., _negative_ tax rates) to encourage them to invest and employ.

  5. heidi bach

    This writer sorts out the subversive element from the DEMOCRAT PARTY, calling them what they are:obamacrats.

  6. Michael Stein

    I’m a little puzzled as to why Mr. Pethokoukis says Clinton is “not quite right.” Clinton did not repeat Stephanie Cutter’s claim comparing Obama’s record to Bush’s. Is he disputing Clinton’s math?

    No, it seems he’s still debating Stephanie Cutter, not Bill Clinton. But OK, let’s go with that. I still can’t figure out how Cutter could be correct about the numbers during Obama’s watch being better than Reagan’s, but the comparison to Bush seemed plausible when looking at the correct data set. (Mr. Pethokoukis erroneously used total employment numbers in his earlier attempt to rebut Ms. Cutter, not the figures for private sector jobs only.)

    Unfortunately, Mr. Pethokoukis is just as bad as Ms. Cutter in not showing his work. He doesn’t tell us the source of his data, though I will assume it’s BLS data series CES0500000001 (seasonally-adjusted) or CEU0500000001 (unadjusted) private-sector workers.

    The far more serious problem is that he also doesn’t tell us what month he chose for Bush’s starting point. There was a stretch from May 2002 through where Bush’s job numbers were wandering around – up a little one month, down a little the next, but with a downward trend. Using the seasonally-adjusted data series and checking every 30-month interval, I don’t show Bush achieving 5 million jobs gained until the July 2003-Jan 2006 stretch, ending a year into Bush’s second term.

    While that was indeed strting from the Bush low point, it was preceded by several month-to-month upticks – not the case for the Feb. 2010 low point in the recession Obama inherited. To put it another way: it took Obama just nine months from the end of the recession to hit bottom and start uninterrupted job growth. Bush didn’t hit bottom and start a sustained job recovery (from a much milder recession, mind you) until 21 months past the end of the recession. Who would you say wins that contest?

    Had Mr. Pethokoukis started instead with the month before Bush’s first uptick, the period would have been May 2002-Nov. 2004 for a gain of 1.7 million jobs. Using the uptick prior to June 2002, Bush would still lose (albeit not by a lot), 4.5 million to 4.2 million. Mr. Pethokoukis has (I’m willing to believe unwittingly) given President Bush a generous number of mulligans by allowing him many more 30-month periods to choose from than are available to President Obama at this time, and also ignoring the fact that Bush needed over twice as much time to reverse the job side after the end of the 2001 recession.

    I have what I believe is another fair comparison. Let’s start from January of each president’s first term through August of the following election year, again using the seasonally-adjusted numbers,. (The unadjusted numbers won’t change the relative outcome – I’ve checked.) Here is the leaderboard:

    Reagan, Jan. 1981-August 1984: 4.1 million jobs gained
    Obama, Jan. 2009-August 2012: 0.4 million jobs gained
    Bush, Jan. 2001-August 2004: LOST 1.6 million jobs

    This test doesn’t cherry-pick a range. It also doesn’t give any of the contenders more bites at the apple than another (which is the hidden handicap Mr. Pethokoukis was giving Bush by scanning into his second term to get a more favorable 30-month stretch than the one starting with his first job uptick).

    If we take the 30-month period from the last month of recession, which also doesn’t allow for cherry-picking ranges where Bush has more to choose from, we get:

    Bush, Nov. 2001-May 2004: 0.2 million jobs gained
    Obama, June 2009-Dec. 2011: 2.3 million jobs gained

    Extending the period to now, and giving Bush the same number of months:

    Bush, Nov. 2001-Jan 2005: 1.1 million jobs gained
    Obama, June 2009-Aug. 2012: 3.5 million jobs gained

    Remember, Mr. Pethokoukis himself picked the June 2009 date as preferable to the 2010 starting point, sneering that it only showed 3.5 million jobs rather than 4.6 million. What he overlooked is that applying the same yardstick to Bush shows a decisive loss for Obama’s predecessor. Oops!

    The summary: if we pick 30 months from lowest job point, Bush does win (as long as we ignore his needing so much more time to halt the slide). Start-of-term to now, Obama wins. End of recession to either 30 months or now, Obama wins both times. Stephanie Cutter wasn’t completely crazy, it seems.

  7. David Every

    I’d love to see the chart corrected for two things: (1) population size (2) dollars spent to get each job in recovery.

    (What was the total cost of the Bush spending+tax cut over 5 years, vs. Obama’s stimulus and spending ABOVE the normal trend — both adjusted as a percent of GDP). I don’t think it’s fair to peg the deficit against Obama completely, since a lot of that is just lost revenues by the recession. But the spending they each had control of, they should own. So adjusted for inflation, was the cost per job created?

  8. Kit Winterer

    Why are we not evaluating NET jobs? Both public and private sector.

    1. Michael P. Stein

      @Kit Winterer – The primary reason we’re discussing private sector jobs is that this is the claim Stephanie Cutter first made, and so Mr. Pethokoukis was trying to refute that claim.

      In addition to that, it may actually be more fair. It neither gives Obama credit for government jobs he created with stimulus money, nor penalizes him for public sector jobs cut by Republican state and local administrations due to a general Republican drive to cut the size of government, regardless of the state of the economy.

    2. David Every

      Kit, to me, think of a job, as increasing the cost-basis for everything you buy. Thus, if you can produce the same thing with fewer jobs, as a consumer you win. (They can charge you less. Or the company can make more profits, which they re-invest, etc).

      So the more efficient, the better the return. So now look at public/private sector jobs.

      Private sector jobs are completely optional/discretionary. You opt to pay for them based on the quality/cost of the goods/services you get. Public sector ones are forced. You pay whether you want to use the good or service or not. Ethically, the former is better.

      But more important is output value. Public sector jobs tend to cost more, and deliver less. If you believe the treasury view at all, then each job moved from the more efficient private sector to the less efficient public one, is actually a loss for the economy. (Production goes down, burdens/overhead goes up). So comparing apples to apples, is easier/better than comparing apples to oranges.

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