JOBS REPORT: The White House had been bracing for what was expected to be a devastating jobs report today. Obama had previously said that the unemployment rate was likely to keep going up toward 10%, and forecasters predicted that the economy would shed some 350,000 jobs, which would up the jobless rate from 9.5 to 9.6%. Surprisingly, the report showed that unemployment actually went down in the month of July, to 9.4%. The economy only shed some 200,000 jobs. In most times, this would be a horrible jobs report. But given how bad things have been lately, today brought a possible sign that maybe the worst is behind us.
First, some caveats from an Economics minor. One thing that could be impacting jobless numbers is that some people have given up on looking for a job, and therefore are not counted among the unemployed. Also, we could still see the jobless rate rise in coming months, because consumer spending and business investment has yet to pick up.
But let's be honest, this is very good political news for Barack Obama. The Republicans harped all last month about job losses. They sent their cabal to the House floor asking "where are the jobs?" Today's report was not only well publicized in the media as being good news, but it also spurred a major stock market rally. Now, Obama can confidently say that his policies have helped turn the tide. It's also becoming clear from the analysis I'm reading that the correlation between stimulus spending and jobs might be more tan just a liberal talking point. The biggest job growth is coming in the health services sector, and in state and local governments. Those were among the sectors that were specifically targeted in the stimulus. Economists say that job losses would be more around 500,000 (close to the January high) without the stimulus package. Republicans have been rooting so heavily for failure, and they have staked their political future on its failure. They will be in a lot of trouble if the plan continues to succeed.
The political impact of this report can be potentially far reaching beyond just the economy. Democrats now have some tangible progress to bring home to their constituents during the August recess, and it could allow for some breathing room for health care reform and energy legislation.
We shouldn't become too jubilant, however. The report was merely "less bad" than other recent reports, and the unemployment rate is still very, very high. I just hope that we've turned a corner.
CONGRESSIONAL ODDS AND ENDS: A couple of news items from the United States Senate:
-Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has evaded a potentially tough challenge from Rep. Carolyn Maloney in next year's Senate primary. Maloney announced today that she will not be entering the race, after facing significant pressure from senior Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and the White House. This is good news in the sense that Gillibrand has a clear path to the nomination and can focus her attention on potential Republican opposition. However, the threat of the liberal Maloney running against her made Gillibrand vote like a solid lefty. Hopefully this won't change as we inch closer to battles on health reform and other issues.
-Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) have been cleared by the ethics committee of any wrongdoing for their involvement in a VIP mortgage program. I'm happy about Dodd, because he is in the election fight of his life in Connecticut, but sad about Conrad, because the stubborn centrist could benefit from being knocked down a peg or two.
-The Senate gaveled in today just to approve some nominations by unanimous consent. One of them was the nomination of Utah Governor Jon Hunstman Jr. (R) to be ambassador to China. He will presumably be handing the state over to Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert. Huntsman was one of the more reasonable potential Obama foes out there among Republicans, and his confirmation probably permanently takes him out of the President's path.
HEALTH CARE: This is an exchange The Big Picture and I had about how to counter conservative mobs at Town Hall meetings this month. The conversation started from a post in blogger Ezra Klein's chat (he also answered some questions from The Big Picture and myself!). Enjoy, and we'll see you tomorrow!
Silver Spring, Md.: Found out that my congresswoman Donna Edwards is having a health care town hall this evening at 6 at the Oxon Hill library. Given that she's a liberal black woman and outspoken in favor of a public option (and who would favor single payer) I'm a little worried about right-wing astroturfers showing up and getting way, way out of hand. What could those of us who support her do to help, do you think?
Ezra Klein: Show up.
The Big Picture: You should round up some friends and go to support Donna Edwards tonight! I REALLY wish I could go. Could be a real battle royale, showdown at the OK Corral. On the other hand, you don't want to pick fights with a bunch of racist gun-toting bizarros who probably have concealed shotguns and who are so ideological that who knows where they would stop.
Which is why the best approach is really to shame them with real stories. "Just say no to health care for this dying woman?! Just say no?!?" I'd like Obama to give a speech like that, with a sympathetic woman on stage with him.
The Strike: Yeah, we can’t say it enough times, that IS the approach to take. It can’t be an abstract thing. I watched Sicko again the other day, and if for some reason Michael Moore hadn’t lost a lot of credibility for being right about almost everything, I think we should be showing that movie over and over again. It was all about the excesses of the private insurance industry, and how it took the lives of people’s loved ones.
The Big Picture: Yeah where has he been? I think working on a movie about the financial crisis and who's responsible and who's suffering, which is obviously worthy, but nobody is as good as him at this. I don't really get what Obama and his strategists thought was going to be a good public approach. I always assumed Obama, when he started making this his top priority in July, was going to base it around personal stories and emotion. Bill Clinton of course would be great at this as well - "tell me your question again" "I feel your pain". Very poor. The struggles in Congress have been pretty predictable, but losing the message war, against Bizarros who are defending private insurance against reform, how are we possibly losing that battle? How have we allowed those Bizarros to align with old people wanting to protect their Medicare? Liberals created Medicare, we're the ones who support it, we're trying to strengthen it - the right is still opposed to the existence of Medicare, and yet they've become its defenders? What?