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Whose course should we chart?

The stimulus bill (not to be confused with TARP, which was passed by Bush) was Obama’s first major act to improve the ailing economy. Republicans opposed it vehemently. So how did it perform? If you divide jobs into those lost before the stimulus, to those lost after the stimulus, it looks like this:

from Robert Shapiro, via Ezra Klein.

Not bad, but it could be better. In order to keep up with population growth, our economy needs to add around 150,000 jobs every month.

I posted a chart of jobs lost under Bush and Obama back in February, but there were some complaints that temporary government jobs (like the census, or stimulus funded jobs) were distorting the graph, so here’s a graph that not only includes more recent data, but only counts private sector jobs:

from Steve Benen.

Note that you can see the same graph, but with all jobs (private and public) here.

The Stimulus Bill did a lot of good, but there is more to be done, so Obama introduced a new bill that is targeted at small businesses (the majority of new jobs are created by small businesses). Not surprisingly, Republicans blocked the bill at the end of July, just before the summer Congressional break. Congress is starting up again this week so Democrats will have another chance to pass the bill.



  1. It’s too bad that in psychological terms, data that contradicts belief tends to be ignored.

    Obama passed a stimulus package. It doesn’t matter what the effects are; the hard conservatives will continue to paint this as a negative despite what liberals (and, the way I see it, moderates) see as the facts.

    The Beck-Limbaugh-Palin machine works in a very specific way: if you want something to be true, all you have to do is say that it is. It doesn’t matter how many graphs or charts, how much documentation or what numbers you throw at it.

    People have a tendency to look to their leaders for the final word on what they should believe. Until Beck-Limbaugh-Palin confirm the information that this data set provides, Obama will never earn the respect of their audiences.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  2. Chris wrote:

    It looks like the Republicans will band together again to block even this bill. Clearly, they’re less interested in fixing the economy than they are in preventing the country from coming out of the recession while a Democrat is president.

    Obama could propose a bill that encapsulates every Republican economic-policy wish, and I almost think the GOP would still oppose it. In truth, of course, they’d support their dream bill — but not just because it would put more money in the pockets of the wealthy, but because it would both prolong the recession and increase the deficit, things which would then be blamed on — you guessed it — Obama!

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  3. Also, I really wish FactCheck or PolitiFact would run articles on these graphs. I’ve seen them many times and want to believe that they’re true, but I’ve never completely accepted them at face value.

    And while it would help to have them broken down at all, it very much needs to be somewhere absolutely neutral where left and right alike can meet and see the truth for what it is. (Not that it will stand the test against those who claim that either site is politically biased when its contents don’t match their predispositions, but it would certainly be a good start.)

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  4. I’m barely willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to blocking bills. Some of these bills that get blocked may be touted as being designed to save the economy but in reality the content of those bills might not be what the Republican representatives believe is good for the country on the whole.

    More than likely, it’s a mixture of both. The bills probably contain things that are good and things that are bad, and the Reps aren’t willing to sacrifice letting the bad through just to get the good. At least, that’s the way they tend to describe it when seriously pressed by the media (which they very often aren’t).

    The public doesn’t like to get into details, and the government certainly doesn’t like to give them.

    It’s a political game of cat and also cat…

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  5. patriotsgt wrote:

    These graphs are accurate, however they don’t portray the effects of the baseline necessary job growth to qualify a positive number. Correct me if I’m wrong (i know you will anyway), but if we need 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth, does this chart include that, ot omit that. If it’s omited then in all but 2 months the net result would be a negative number. Am I reading this correctly?

    My second point is the government alone, including the President and his majority, cannot bring us out of this recession alone. The Private sector has to be the driving force. I believe the private sector is sitting on the sidelines, not because they don’t like Obama, Reid and Pelosi, but because the playing field is uncertain. What I mean is the rules, regulations and costs are changing or being talked about changing and they cannot accurately forcast costs. The total HCR costs, regs the WSR costs and regs, the possible cap and trade, the possible energy legislation. These uncertainties cause business to take the wait and see approach.
    The other uncertainty is the unintended consequences of legislation passed that will have to get fixed later. For instance the consumer protection that got passed in the spring and now is implemented put protection from abusive credit companies in place, however now most everyone’s cost of credit has risen. Some examples:
    For myself, I’ve never missed any payment, had a fico of 780, had my same CC for 10+ years and they raised my rate by 10%. I shopped for other cards but found none permanently comparable.
    I’d like to help my wife start a small business, but inquiring about a loan shows I would have to use venture capital, which is much more expensive. Her business would generate about 10 jobs, but I can’t figure the exact costs, because washington is still figuring out what that will be and contemplating additional legislation.

    The uncertainty in the business world is what is really holding the economy back. THis is of course just from my perspective, but others I know and talk to echo my thoughts.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  6. patriotsgt wrote:

    @ Chinagreenelvis – saw #4 after mine posted. You’re exactly
    Both sides know how to play hardball. When Bush needed money for the wars the bills always came out 100’s of billions higher than what was asked for, because of the pork padding. He lost his moral majority by not vetoing them, but I really hold Reps and Dems accountable for that. Nowadays, it’s hidden stuff or where the funding is coming from. If they had bills that just dealt with the title we wouldn’t have all this political posturing. Strip all the non subject items out so the public knows exactly what they are voting for.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Both graphs are directly from raw data published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can see the data yourself at

    Since I gave links for both graphs in the original post, questioning whether they are “true” or not seems designed only to cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Maybe you should apply for a job at FNC.

    We can argue about what the numbers mean, but there is not much to argue about on the raw numbers themselves.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  8. I myself have never meant to cast doubt on the graphs – I’ve only had my own reservations about them. I also admit that I have not put a backtrace on the source that the original numbers come from, but then I assume that if I haven’t taken the time to do it and I lie very much in the middle and question more things than I believe, people to the right of me aren’t going to put in even the smallest amount of effort to verify the graphics for themselves. This is the major reason I’d like to see the factcheckers tackle it.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  9. tenthirtytwo wrote:

    Elvis, a point you may not be aware of or might not understand is, the people we are talking about reaching on the right won’t care who does the fact checking.

    It should come as little surprise to anyone that most all fact checking sites are seen as liberally or left biased by the right. Snopes, politifact, factcheck, etc. I’ll leave it to the readers to decide what that means.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  10. dnono wrote:

    @patriotsgt sorry for getting sidetracked re your CC rate – but please tell me that USAA is not the culprit in this case. I know they’re not always the most aggressive with rates – but they do tend to be extremely fair.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  11. patriotsgt wrote:

    @ dnono- no it is not USAA. It was a big name who has pretty good commercials where they sometimes chase romans.

    I forgot about USAA, but will check them out. Thanks

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  12. Ten, you’re probably mostly right. I think I’d be less interested in reaching the far right than the slightly right, and the further that group gets isolated from the mainstream by it’s own kind, the sooner this country can realize that we’re headed in the right direction and we can get four more years of Democratic leadership and who knows, maybe another four to eight after that.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    1032, I always find it hilarious that the right considers FactCheck to be liberal, since it is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which is very conservative. See

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink
  14. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    I believe it was the great political philosopher Stephen Colbert that said, “Reality has a well known liberal bias.”

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    I’m not sure if he was the first person to say it, but here’s the link to a transcript of the Colbert’s controversial monologue at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where he said it. It is at the end of the ninth paragraph.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink
  16. It seems entirely possible that those people who see a liberal bias on FactCheck simply can’t come to terms with the idea that perhaps members of the GOP lie, falsify, mislead, and self-contradict somewhat more often than those of the Democratic Party. Either that, or Democrats are much less obvious in their scheming and have refined the art of subtle deception.

    I think when Democrats lie, they work hard to cover their tracks. Republicans lie as if they assume everyone is too stupid to notice.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 7:39 am | Permalink
  17. russell wrote:

    Post a chart of running unemployment. Just the “official” unemployment. I tried posting BLS data link, but this CGI tosses posts with urls.

    To insist we are in recovery denies the obvious. Working folks are plain suffering, regardless of your political persuasion.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  18. Iron Knee wrote:

    The question is not whether people are suffering. They are. The question is, which plan — Republican or Democrat — will improve the economy? The Republicans had plenty of time, and all they did was make the economy worse. Since 2010, the economy has improved, slowly but surely. Don’t the Democrats deserve more time before we kick them out and return the government to the people who screwed up the economy in the first place?

    Friday, September 17, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink