Reckless And Feckless Austerity

David Plouffe, the architect of President Obama's 2008 campaign, has drawn a lot of criticism for saying he doesn't believe the national unemployment rate will prevent the president from being re-elected.

From the outside, that may seem like a nonsensical notion to entertain, but polling does support his claim in that a majority of voters do feel that the president hasn't done enough to rectify the situation, but they also don't blame him for it.

One possible explanation for this is the fact that one of the largest causes of joblessness right now is austerity at the state and local level. Austerity in politically-important battleground states, to be specific. States where Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have imposed deep spending-cuts while also finding time during their busy job-killing schedules to do things like ban abortions, mandate drug-testing for welfare recipients, and piss on unions.

A new report in the New York Times shows that, over the last two-years, state and local austerity has accounted for roughly one million net job-losses either in the form of lay-offs, or a reduction in the rate of hiring while the population continues to grow.

Federal payrolls have been roughly flat for years (even as the population has been growing). But state and local payrolls grew over the last decade, by almost 20,000 jobs a month on average.

Since the crisis began and state and local taxes began plummeting, though, governments began to cut back. At first, the federal government stepped in, with the 2009 stimulus bill, and sent fiscal aid to states. Then the aid stopped.

In round numbers, state and local governments have cut about a half million jobs over the last two years. If they had continued to hire at their previous pace — expanding as the population expanded — they would have added about a half million jobs.

In other words, the state and local austerity of the last two years has cost the economy about one million jobs.

Here it is in graph form:

For many Americas, especially ones living in key battleground states currently being ruled by the likes of Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and John Kasich, this is the reality of our current economic downturn. And these Republican governors just may be one of the Democrat's saving graces in 2012.

Of course there are things congress could do to help lower unemployment between now and 2012, but let's face it, they won't.

In hindsight, we are fortunate that the senate and the presidency are still controlled by Democrats. Because if they weren't, the reckless and feckless austerity measures being imposed at the state level would certainly come to fruition at the national level.

Now faced with the reality of such austerity at the hands of their Republican overlords, it seems unlikely battleground-state voter's opinions on who to blame will change between now and the next election. And they don't blame President Obama.

  • Vernon

    perhaps some context would help:

    QUESTION: Axelrod likes to say that every campaign has inherited [inaudible]. You know, an environment in which unemployment is [inaudible] percent when the president runs for re-election, what’s — what’s the Obama narrative about that?

    PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I don’t — you know, we’re a long way from 2012. We’re a long way from knowing what’s going on in the world and exactly what the economy is and who are opponent is.

    I would make a general statement, though, because there is a lot of attention focused on the unemployment rate. The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.

    In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.”

    There’s a — a “help wanted” sign. You know, the local diner was a little busier this week. Home Depot was a little busier. These are the ways people talk about the economy. They don’t talk about it in the terms of Washington.

    And so their decision next year will be based upon two things, okay, how do I feel about things right now, and then, ultimately, campaigns are always much more about the future, and who do I think has got the best idea, the best vision for where to take the country?

    I would submit to you that a healthy percentage of Americans, far more than a majority, believe the president has a very sound vision for where the country needs to go.

    So, you know, people won’t vote based on the unemployment rate. They’re gonna vote based on, “How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?”

  • DH Fabian

    Agreed, and this does appear to be the consensus. One factor that the media seems to have overlooked is that we have seen for ourselves just how far the Republicans have gone to block this administration. It is bizarre to see just how openly the right wing now puts their own party ahead of the country. A lot of people have figured out that the current Republicans are entirely willing to destroy the United States.

    I think most Americans — even many Republicans — are deeply offended by the fact that the Republican Party leadership is actually blackmailing the US government and the people. This truly is a stunning development.

  • DH Fabian

    I think the problem that Republicans didn’t anticipate is that the public actually has been watching as Republicans have gone to ludicrous extremes to block the Obama administration from accomplishing anything — and that includes blocking one of their own proposals the minutes that Obama said, “Sounds OK to me.” They aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they are putting their party well ahead of the best interests of the country, even to the degree of endangering the US. That’s very serious, and very scary.

  • Zen Diesel

    In hindsight, I am sure those states who got duped into voting in Republican governors wish they had a do over. Obama has gotten himself in a pickle with this Social Security nonsense. I will continue to wear my tin foil hat, hoping that the alien overlords bring back the Obama we voted for two years ago.

    • DH Fabian

      Actually, we can do the work of the alien overlords! Obama was very clear about one thing on the campaign trail: He would not be able to bring the change we need unless the people were willing to get off their butts and stand with him. If we can somehow stir Americans enough to fight for their own survival, to get to their feet or, if not possible, shout, write letters, etc., we can save ourselves. The president IS ready and willing, but he was right in saying that he can’t do it alone. It will take us pushing back. Before we run out of time, we have to figure out how to gather, like the Tea Party did, or far better, organize as Martin Luther King organized the Poor People’s March (considering that a great many of us are now poor, we would need to pitch in for transportation, etc, just like they did “back in the olden days when I was young…”)

      • incredulous72

        He said it DH; “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

    • ranger11

      He’s the same. I read both of his books. They are very long. He is not Don Corleone.

  • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

    Of course there are things congress could do to help lower unemployment between now and 2012, but let’s face it, they won’t.

    Of course, if President Obama was leader of the Democratic party and did not have his head up his back door, he could do something.

    Instead he’s got Social Security cuts on the table. With politicians like Obama, who needs teabaggers?

    • ranger11

      His head is up your backdoor dooder.

    • jjasonham


      • ranger11

        Is there a batsignal for firebaggers and if so what does it look like?

    • nicole

      Okay. Well, when said cuts to SS either don’t materialize at all, OR materialize as cuts that don’t affect benefits or eligibility, how will you spin it then?


      just wondering……is that longass name of yours compensation for a shortass something else?

      • ranger11

        They will ignore it.

        • nicole

          exactly. Cause they’re no more than bigmouth know-nothings and have not got the guts or integrity to speak up when they’re proven wrong.

    • mrbrink

      Up in the sky, look! It’s a ghetto bird. It’s an existential plane!

      It’s SuPer Obama!

      Faster than a speeding right wing media talking point.

      More powerful than an arbitrary filibuster!

      Able to leap crypto-fascism in a single term!

      Well done, citizen. Your contagious layman idiocy and trickle down manic depression is worthy of a right wing republican commendation.

      Keep up the good work. Next year you can bitch about Obama not doing enough to massage your unusually large and bedazzled taint as he faces impeachment for your wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men politics.

    • JMAshby

      He is the leader of the Democratic party, but in case you weren’t paying attention, the House of Representatives is controlled by the Republicans.

      • DH Fabian

        But Dems in Congress can’t/won’t do anything unless we push them to do it. We have to start making a whole lot of noise. Each of us — stand up, call, organize, write, make yourself heard! Tell the president what the people – as in, we the ordinary – want.

        • ranger11

          How about tell fucking Congress also! Is Barack Obama a big fucking octopus or what! Edit: Sorry about that; it was probably too harsh. I’m just tired of people treating this man as some sort of omnipotent entity. It was the stupid American people who elected this Republican Congress. If they want to change this then elect a new Congress or amend the Constitution. I knew this was going to happen after last November. Elections are really the only things that matter in the end. There aint gonna be no fucking revolution. Not in this country at least.

    • muselet

      I’m genuinely curious: what could President Obama do to lower unemployment that wouldn’t require the House of Representatives—as Ashby pointed out, controlled by the Rs—to act (and/or that couldn’t be blocked, stalled or otherwise bollixed up by said House)?


    • DH Fabian

      Obama is the president, just one man, and he can’t do anything without Congress. This isn’t an autocracy. Congress won’t do anything unless the people make it very clear just what we want them to do. That’s the point. If people want change, they’ve got to get up and make it happen.

  • nicole

    I would add that the numbers just out are also indicative of employers who are nervous about the possibility of a debt ceiling default.

    I am ready to declare freaking war on these right wing scourges.

    • JMAshby

      See previous post ;)

      • nicole

        oops………. :)

    • DH Fabian

      Good idea, since they’ve made it clear that they’ve declared war on the American people.