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America is working: Jobs and the economy are growing



It’s a perennial promise of presidential candidates, and especially Republican ones. George H.W. Bush said the goal of his economic policy was “jobs, jobs, jobs.” In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney repeated the refrain. In 2016, consistent with his empty boasts on every other topic, Donald Trump promised to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

Trump would wind up with the worst jobs record of any president in modern American history — leaving office with a smaller workforce than when he started. And for anyone who shouts “but COVID,” reply: What’s a president for if not to manage a crisis?

The plain fact is that, since 1989, just 1.3 million net jobs have been created in terms with Republicans in the Oval Office — compared to more than 49 million jobs created under Democratic presidents. It doesn’t mean that one party has the answer to prosperity, but the numbers are real, as the May jobs report shows.

In Bill Clinton’s two terms, the economy added 18.6 million jobs. In Barack Obama’s, 11.6 million. And so far in Joe Biden’s tenure, more than 15 million jobs have been created — the latest being a hotter-than-expected 272,000 in May, even as interest rates remain high. The unemployment edged up a tick to 4%, not a number worth worrying the least bit about. Recall: In the worst of the pandemic under Donald Trump, unemployment hit 15%.

Meanwhile, hourly wages are up 4.1%, outpacing inflation.

Yes, we said the word. Even though the economy is just about as healthy as they come, it remains a serious problem. Prices rose so much early in Biden’s term, Americans are still coming to grips with what a trip to the supermarket might cost them. The fact that wages are up too, and that the hiring machine is damn near miraculous, can’t override what they say they feel in their daily lives.

Thus, Americans’ economic confidence remains in the red, with a hefty share saying high prices remain their single most important issue.

Let others try to diagnose why so many are so sour when the United States is outpacing other advanced countries in just about every imaginable economic category.

Biden has hardly been a passive steward of the economy. The Inflation Recovery Act was a massive intervention, as was the CHIPS and Science Act. There have been no massive, gimmicky tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy and corporations as there were under Trump, and no high-drama trade wars whipping the economy in one direction or another.

Student loan relief is lifting a very real burden off the backs of millions of young and middle-age people. U.S. oil production has hit record levels even as the country is making unprecedented investments in clean energy. And all this while maintaining and strengthening the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans said would be a historic job-killer.

The figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show an economy that’s the envy of the rest of the world, even with inflation worries, although galloping prices have been largely reined in by the Fed. We have long responded to the question: “Who will win the election?” by retorting, “What is the unemployment rate in October.” We will learn the answer to both in a few months.

 

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