When Joe Biden said “I’ve never met two guys more down on America across the board,” he meant Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — who provoked the vice president’s snipe during their debate by insisting, utterly falsely, that unemployment is still worsening across the nation. But the vice president’s complaint also applies to the Republican leadership at large, in Congress and across the right-wing media, where the talking points on U.S. economic prospects and progress are always negative.
Certainly the Republicans have tried to do their part to sink the economy, as last year’s manufactured debt crisis demonstrated beyond doubt. But whenever the news is good, they insist that the encouraging data must be inaccurate or even manipulated – as former General Electric boss Jack Welch proclaimed in his infamous tweet about the newly improved unemployment data last week.
This week the right-wing propaganda machine disparaged a big reduction in new jobless claims as a statistical anomaly, supposedly based on California’s failure to report its data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington. The only problem with this theory is that California officials did report those numbers.Meanwhile both the mainstream and right-wing media largely ignored the latest report by the Financial Times and the Brookings Institution, which found that the United States is “the sole bright spot” in a sluggish world economy.
Just how much uplifting data must appear before the persistent naysayers admit that the economy is improving? It is true that the numbers cut against their political interest, so they’re likely to deny any signs of economic health unless and until they can claim credit. Yet the signs are present and increasing.
On Friday, the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit will again exceed $1 trillion, mostly as a consequence of the Bush tax cuts—but the good news is that tax revenue went up anyway by 6.4 percent, solely because of growth in jobs and income. (And in fact, the deficit was lower than last year, thanks to a reduction in government spending as American troops left Iraq.) So the president is reducing the deficit, as promised, in the only sensible and equitable way that can be done—by eliminating the cost of a pointless war abroad and stimulating growth at home.
Consumer confidence—another key indicator—has risen to the highest level since September 2007, according to a survey released today by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. The measure climbed to 83.1, jumping almost five points from the August rating of 78.3. Reuters reported that the new number significantly exceeded the expectations of most analysts, “who expected the rating to drop.”
There is more almost every day. Ask the bankers, who also seem to have noticed positive indicators (when they take a break from raising money for Romney). The chief financial economist for the Bank of Tokyo, for instance, told the Los Angeles Times that even if the new jobs numbers require correction—as such statistics almost always do, “the [improved] direction of the labor market is real.”
Reporting record profits for JPMorgan Chase on Friday, Jamie Dimon released a statement saying that the housing market has “turned a corner.” His company’s investment banking unit earned more in underwriting fees for equity and debt instruments—another indicator that firms are finally putting money into plants and equipment, rather than continuing to sit on trillions of dollars.
Polls suggest that the setbacks of the past few years have left voters with little patience for White House boasts of economic progress. But recent improvements open space for President Obama to say that things are finally getting better—and that changing course toward the radical right would be dangerous and foolish.