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Saturday, December 10, 2016

As you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, remember to have a little sympathy for your Republican relatives.

This was supposed to be their year. They took the Senate along with a vast majority of statehouses. They have a larger majority in the House than at any time since 1928. Rick Perry even got smart glasses.

But the weeks following the GOP’s landslide victories have been full of painful reminders that Barack Obama is still president, and that probably won’t change for at least two more Thanksgivings. They’ve had to endure him rubbing their noses in this fact by forcing them to Google “net neutrality,” delaying their plans for war with Iran, and taking executive action that will put off the deportations of millions of relatives of American citizens. And he hasn’t even invited Mitt Romney to move into the White House yet.

How dare he?

So expect your Fox-viewing kin to be downing antacids before dinner. And those odd packages under their seats won’t be explosives — but emergency rations and gold, in case O’Bungler declares martial law and demands a third term while we’re all in a turkey coma.

But if you make it to dessert and your uncle wants to rub in some election results, here are a few truth nuggets to salt his defensive wounds. To make sure he takes you seriously, tell him you read them all in email forwards.

1. More net jobs have been created under Obama than under both Bushes combined.

That’s right. In less than 6 years, more new jobs have been created under this president than in 12 full years of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. As of last August’s jobs report, 5,142,000 net jobs have been created since February 2009. Compare that to 2,637,000 under H.W. and 1,282,000 under W. And we’ve had about 200,000 new jobs a month since then.

Of course, if you don’t subtract the millions of jobs that were lost as Obama inherited W.’s economy, Obama’s number would grow to over 10 million.

Savvy Fox viewers will throw out two counter-spells to undo this unbearable fact. First, we still haven’t recovered all the full-time jobs lost in the Great Recession. Also, the labor force participation rate is at its lowest point since the 1970s. You could then point out that Baby Boomers have started retiring, which is a good thing, and people are spending more time in school. But I’d concede the point. “You’re right,” you can say, as UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong has. “The economy is crappy. Just far less crappy than it was under both Bushes. And better than just about every other economy in the world.”

And it’s getting better. The rolling average of new unemployment claims — our best measure of layoffs — is at its lowest point since 2000. There haven’t been this many job openings since the end of the Clinton administration, and this could easily be the best year of job creation since 1999. And it could be a lot better — if Republicans weren’t intentionally sabotaging it.

2. If Obama had grown spending the way Reagan or W. did, we’d be much better off.

Like Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan inherited a recession and unemployment over 10 percent. And, much as it did under Obama, our national debt doubled during Reagan’s first term.

Unlike Reagan, who grew spending by 40 percent in his first four years, Obama has cut the deficit every year he’s been in office. The deficit is now lower than it has been since 2008, and even lower this year than what it would have been if we’d implemented Paul Ryan’s radical 2011 budget plan.

Given low inflation and millions of Americans still out of work, this is bad economic strategery. If spending had grown under Obama as it did under W., our gross domestic product would be 2 percent higher and millions more people would be working. And a larger labor force is the only sustainable way to cut the deficit.

“Grumble, grumble, shovel-ready stimulus Solyndra,” your uncle will answer.

Ah. I was hoping he’d bring that up.

3. We need more Solyndras.

Everything Republicans believe about the stimulus is wrong. About 97 percent of economists agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act lifted the economy. And the most maligned part of that law was one of its most successful aspects.

In 2012, Michael Grunwald, who literally wrote the book on the stimulus, countered the GOP’s constant harping on the failure of Solyndra Corp., beneficiary of a loan program that fed billions into clean energy, by saying, “More, please!”

“Solyndra was one of the losers, but the winners might change the world,” he wrote.

Grunwald was right — and the right was wrong. The loan program is now expected to just about break even, but even more important, it has helped create a green-tech industry that barely existed in this country before 2009.

How successful were these profitable cash injections into clean energy?

“The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas,” reports The New York Times‘ Diane Cardwell.

And how did the stimulus make this possible? By doing little things like helping the largest solar plant in the U.S. get up and running.

The affordability of new energy sources, along with America’s oil boom, may be behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to flood the oil market and lower gas prices in hopes of stunting both industries. (Thanks, Obama.)

But the genie is out of the bottle and the world we save may be the one we all currently share.

4. Republicans are paying the richest to get richest-er.

While your uncle is recovering from that news, slip this in: “I really hope Mitt Romney runs in 2016.”

“Me too, I think,” he may reply. “But why?”

“Well, I love documentaries about Mitt Romney losing. Also, I still want to see his tax returns. I think they’re the most important historical documents of the early 21st century. It’s important to know your tax rate is higher than a quarter-billionaire.”

“Um. More pie, please.”

One big reason that President Obama had an easy time making a case about the economy in 2012 is that Mitt Romney was a living example of what’s gone so wrong. Mitt pays around 13 percent in taxes, he claims, while nurses and plumbers pay far higher rates. The richest 400 Americans pay 18 percent on average, probably because they don’t donate as much to their church as Mitt does. That’s down from 30 percent in 1996, just before the GOP demanded a huge capital gains tax cut for the rich in exchange for giving poor kids health insurance. W. cut those rates again and added a huge cut for stock dividends. Because we all know going to the mailbox to get a check is harder work than unclogging a sewer or caring for a sick child.

Tax breaks for investments — and the people who manage them — are supposed to grow the economy. Instead, they massively grow the wealth of the richest .01 percent. Between 1929 and 1980, half of all wealth went to the bottom 90 percent. Since then, only 12 percent has.

Inequality is higher than it’s been since 1928. And you know what happened in 1929.

“Then why hasn’t that libturd Obama done anything about it?”

He has. You’ve just been trained to hate it. But here’s the good news.

5. The Affordable Care Act makes you freer — even if you hate it.

Even if you aren’t one of the 1 in 4 uninsured Americans who has gained health insurance this year, the president’s health law helps you.

At this point your uncle may yell that he lost the plan he loved, or read about someone somewhere who did. Have sympathy. That certainly sucks, and Democrats should have pointed out that some people would lose their plans as the nation moved toward a more secure system — but no more than lose their plans in a typical year. But what about premiums!? They’re much lower than expected and better, in most cases, than they were before the law took effect.

Now if you lose your insurance, you can still get coverage even if you have a pre-existing condition. This gives you the freedom to start a business or retire early. And the law has added at least a decade of solvency to Medicare so it will be there when you retire. Even people who hate the word Obamacare enjoy the coverage they’re getting.

Under eight years of George W. Bush, 7.9 million Americans lost their health insurance. In just this year, 10.3 million Americans have gained coverage.

But the law isn’t perfect, sure. So invite your uncle to help give the insurance industry some competition by fighting for the right for all Americans to buy into Medicare, regardless of how old they are (or how much pie they’ve eaten).

BONUS: Benghazi!

Now that an eighth investigation has shown that Benghazi was a tragedy, not a scandal, be aware that your uncle will not be ready to accept this inconvenient fact. Urging him to do so may lead to a full-on Bill O’Reilly-type break from reality that could unsettle everyone’s stomachs.

So if at any point you want to change the subject, just say, “Benghazi!” And he’ll start talking about anything else.

Photo: George W. Bush pardons the 2007 Thanksgiving turkey, in happier times for your paranoid uncle (White House Photo/Chris Greenberg, via Wikimedia Commons)

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