Friday, November 02, 2012

Despite unrelenting Republican efforts to sabotage the economic recovery, plus excessive timidity by Obama & the Democrats, the US economy really does seem to be improving

That's one implication of the latest jobs estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported in today's New York Times:
In the last assessment of the job market before the presidential election, the Labor Department announced Friday that the nation’s employers added 171,000 positions in October, and more jobs than initially estimated in both August and September. [....]

The report showed persistent but modest improvement in the American economy, and broad-based gains in just about every industry except the government. It was based on surveys conducted too early in the month to capture work disruptions across the East Coast caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“Generally, the report shows that things are better than we’d expected and certainly better than we’d thought a few months ago,” said Paul Dales, senior United States economist for Capital Economics. “But we’re still not making enough progress to bring that unemployment rate down significantly and rapidly.” [....]
Brad DeLong's reaction:
Adding in 171K of September-October employment growth to 84K of upward revisions, we now think that the U.S. economy in October had 255K more jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis than we [thought] yesterday [on the basis of calculations] employed in September. That is a noticeably stronger economy, and that is very nice to see. The "2" in the hundred-thousands place makes me very happy...
Of course, Brad knows very well, and has frequently reminded us, that the pace of recovery from the economic crash of 2008 could and should have been better than it has been.  But it also could have been a lot worse—as it has been, for example, in most of Europe, where they've been following contractionary economic policies of the sort favored by US Republicans.

=> By the way, I don't mean to suggest that all the Congressional Republicans have deliberately been sabotaging the economic recovery, though that's the effective consequence of everything they've been doing since the beginning of 2009.  Some of them probably have been knowingly sabotaging the recovery, on the grounds that preventing Obama's re-election and regaining control of Congress are the most vital priorities, justifying any means to accomplish those ends.  Some others, though, are probably committed to contractionary economic policies on the basis of sincere ideological fanaticism (or simple economic illiteracy); others seem to be driven purely by considerations of partisan advantage, without much concern for the substantive consequences one way or another; and others have no doubt managed to rationalize their agenda of all-out sabotage, obstructionism, recklessly irresponsible economic brinksmanship, and partisan hyper-polarization by convincing themselves that the partisan agenda of the Republican Party actually serves the public interest—which it clearly doesn't.  (Self-deception is common in politics, as in everyday life, and the line between consciously deceptive propaganda and half-conscious self-deception is not always clear-cut.)

I don't pretend to be able to specify the proportions, and some of those categories no doubt overlap in practice.  But the substantive consequences are indisputable.  Whether deliberately or in effect, the Congressional Republicans have been doing just about everything they could get away with to sabotage economic recovery ... and the unwillingness of Obama and the Democrats call them out on this, with vague and intermittent exceptions, is a little baffling.

—Jeff Weintraub