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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Double Digit Unemployment: The Blame Meme

The announcement of double-digit unemployment is usually an automatic meme-generator for the out-of-office party, so we can expect a lot of Fox News and wingnut jabber about how it’s all President Obama’s fault. It probably won’t matter much to them that most thoughtful voters will connect it to the Bush meltdown.
Alert Dems will respond that this is the 22nd consecutive month of job loss in America, so the trend started at the end of ’07, when the ‘mission accomplished’-‘heckuva job Brownie’ guy was running things. Dems will also remind the commentators that it’s amazing the rate isn’t worse considering we are only a year from the worst economic meltdown since the crash of ’29. More to the point, it would be worse, if not for the Obama/Democratic stimulus, and it would be a lot better, if not for the GOP-led opposition to the stronger stimulus most dems wanted.
As Paul Krugman argues in his New York Times column:

…early this year, President Obama came into office with a strong mandate and proclaimed the need to take bold action on the economy. His actual actions, however, were cautious rather than bold. They were enough to pull the economy back from the brink, but not enough to bring unemployment down.
Thus the stimulus bill fell far short of what many economists — including some in the administration itself — considered appropriate. According to The New Yorker, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that a package of more than $1.2 trillion was justified.

Krugman is pessimistic about the president’s prospects for securing a significant cut in unemployment before the mid-terms, a point of view shared by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in his Salon.com post earlier this week:

If Obama and the Democrats lose one or both houses of Congress in the midterms, it will be because the president learned only the most superficial lesson of the Clinton years. Healthcare reform is critically important. But when one out of six Americans is unemployed or underemployed, getting the nation back to work is more so.

In today’s L.A. Times, Reich is quoted saying of the jobless rate announcement,

It’s an important political threshold…the 10% is going to give Republicans more ammunition to criticize the [Obama] administration and force the hand of the administration to at least appear to be taking additional steps to remedy the situation.

The one encouraging sign in the unemployment report is that hires of temp workers are up, usuallly a harbinger of hiring for more stable jobs.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, declared the “recession is very likely over” in September. If he’s got any leverage left to help make good on his pronouncement, now would be a good time to deploy it.

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