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The political logic of job losses

Matt Yglesias puts a finer point on the political history behind, and electoral implications of, today's jobs report:

The losses came from the public sector. And they were foreseeable. And they were foreseen by the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and the majority of House members and a majority of Senators. And the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and the majority of House members and a majority of Senators voted for bills that would have prevented that. But because in the Senate a minority of members can get their way, action wasn’t taken. Consequently, we have a horrible jobs number. Which would be bad enough, but the way the American political system works, the minority party that prevented the majority from addressing the crisis will accrue massive political benefits as a result of the collapse.

Conservatives won’t admit it today, but what we’re looking at is a major breakdown of the logic of the American political system.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 6, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
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Liberals won't admit it but they have the power to change this dynamic any time they want by eliminating the filibuster and anonymous holds.

Trouble is, they're too busy planning ahead to be losers (Chris Dodd).

Posted by: pj_camp | August 6, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

again another load of crap. Sure let's take Ezra and Yglesias' points and give the dems their legislation they wanted (wait isn't the $26 billion about to pass? Ms. Nancy is bringing the house back into session)

The net result of 57,000 jobs lost (with the census jobs strippedout). Give that back to them. You still are not even treading water. Just sinking slower than before.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 6, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

No, we're looking a a return of power to the people, which implies the contraction of a distant, out-of-step, and irresponsible central federal authority. We're getting back to our roots -- returning to the days when the individuals and states made most policy decisions with the federal government available to provide common defense and to promote equal growth among peer states.

The cancer metaphor used by the deficit commission is useful. Removing a tumor is not pleasant and in fact can be quite painful; however, removal of the tumor may be necessary to abate the disease.

Right now, we're excising the tumors -- beginning to remove the Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama cancers from the federal body. It is the pain necessary to bring the progressive disease under control.

Posted by: rmgregory | August 6, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It's not a breakdown from the Republicans viewpoint. It's not like they want to solve the problems.

Posted by: guesswhosue | August 6, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Congress has become nothing but gamesmanship and politics. The GOP refuses to do anything helpful for the American people in hopes that Obama fulfills Rush Limbaugh's call for "I hope he fails." The GOP appears to have become born again deficit cutters to appease the Tea Party wing, but there is nothing in their history that says they are budget hawks. Bush spent wildly and Reagan increased the fed budget. So, one assumes it will be biz as usual after the Nov elections.

We are at a crossroads on so many issues, such as energy, climate, labor, immigration, wars and corporate ethics that you would think Congress would be willing to put aside politics to improve things.

Congress might as well pack it in until the Nov elections b/c nothing will happen policy wise until then but arguing and bickering. As an American I tell you it is difficult to be anything but cynical in regard to the governance of our country. I give Congress an F. I wish there was a way we could grade them.

Posted by: citizen4truth1 | August 6, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The people who own the democrats don't consider it a problem either.

Posted by: yoyoy | August 6, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I agree with this -- but even if you don't, you have to admit that the lack of accountability and traceability in the American political systems is far lower than in many other democratic systems. And this hits Democratic and Republican governments equally (although we are seeing a more dramatic version of it right now with the record breaking use of the filibuster).

People elect a Democratic President, with wide Democratic majorities in both houses, and then the Democrats come to the American people and say it's somehow the REPUBLICANS' fault that things didn't get done?

It's ridiculous on it's face, but it obviously has some truth to it. We know there are hundreds of bills that passed the House this session and had majority support in the Senate, but stalled because the minority GOP stood as a block against them and threatened to filibuster all of them.

Now, if you oppose the things in these bills, by all means, support the GOP and cheer them for blocking it. But if you support these bills, do you blame the Democrats for "failing" to get things done or do you blame the Republicans for not allowing them to get done? History tells us many Americans will choose the former. Even though it makes no sense to those of us who understand U.S. Senate procedure.

How can we ever have accountability when even in a "unified government" scenario like this it's reduced to a spinning contest from each side?

Compare to a parliamentary system like the UK, where the Labour government was just in charge for 13 years and they were able to pass virtually all of their agenda. When they faced the people, there was nowhere to run -- anything bad was their fault and anything good was to their credit. Sure, you can still blame external events, but that's often a tougher case to make.

Posted by: vvf2 | August 6, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, Matt and folks, get over it and accept the fact that neither the current American System nor President Obama give 'any damn' about Jobs. What is new? Come September and you may very well repeat your blog posts of today then too.

President Obama was late to understand the gravity of BP Gulf Oil Spill. In case of jobs while busy doing Health Care and FinReg, he has been late too. But it could be more than that, he may never make full force efforts at all while waiting for the right 'political circumstances'. Didn't Larry Summer declare 'recession is over' some time back? And then President 'washed' his hand...

Structural unemployment is looking like to be a permanent fixture here. You will need to visit a country like India where growth and wealth creation are still going well while unemployment is still high. In that sense, America will leave the club of OECD and join ranks of India, Vietnam, etc.

Welcome to the reality while let Barack Obama keep reading 'tea leaves' in Senate and avoid his true Political Battles he should have waged for Job Creation.

Posted by: umesh409 | August 6, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

To look on the bright side, in several of the primaries this week, the more extreme candidates lost. We know the media greatly exaggerated the size and popularity of the tea partiers, and now the GOP is stuck catering to their lunatic fringe. Perhaps if the Dems concentrate on making a coherent pitch to voters about local concerns and common-sense solutions, they will be stronger in the Senate (1-2 fewer, but more reliable folks) and in the House (lose 15-20 or so) and enough of the Palin-endorsed lose so that she loses some of the attention lavished on her.

But with one party determined to win even at the cost of more economic misery for the country and refusing to face problems like global warming (anyone following what's happening in Russia? Drought and heat waves? Fires the land area of LA? 20% of the wheat crop burned?) and energy use, the future can look pretty bleak at times.

Posted by: Mimikatz | August 6, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

So, is it a good thing or a bad thing that Democrats have no backbone and will side with Republicans once Republicans hold a simple majority in both House and Senate?

A lot of bad bills will be passed, but it will look like congress is doing something. Whereas now a few incredible bills get passed, and scores of decent bills die or get watered down to the point of ineffectiveness and still are at risk of not passing and it looks like congress is doing nothing.

Vote Democrat: Get a gov't that barely works, but tries to improve our future outlook (but struggles to and barely succeeds)

Vote Republican: Get a gov't that works well, but is seriously hampering our future outlook in order to live short term gains.

Posted by: will12 | August 6, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Here is one more thought about what 'war' we want our President to wage on this 'unemployment':

Now that Summers has succeeded in ousting Romer, Obama should bring in Bernanke, Geithner and Summers in Oval Office and make them responsible to find & publish (as the official position of WH) what is holding off unemployment and what are policy prescriptions to address it:
- is it political uncertainty which is holding of Business (these folks can talk to Fortune 500 CEOs and Chamber of Commerce);
- is it demand;
- is it lack of stimulus;
- is it outsourcing and structure of International Trade; or
- combination of all these causes in certain %.

If Obama wants, he can throw in Paul Krugman and Volcker in that committee.

Yah, yah; this is an attempt to solve the issue by committee. But the idea is not just portraying that Obama is focused but to set terms for the real 'battle' he has to undertake here. Let the chips fall as far as politics go.

What is important - to win election but not to do anything or to do everything what you can regardless of political consequences.

We need Summers, Bernanke and Geithner accountable here and that is a job this President is avoiding. These folks cannot sit on their laurels that they avoided the Financial Armageddon. Essentially President is covering them for no reason.

Posted by: umesh409 | August 6, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

State and local gov't job loss seasonally adjusted was -48k. Of that total, -29.5k were education related. Federal gov't job loss for the month was -154k. So total public sector job loss was -202k. Biggest contributor to private sector job growth? Health care at +26.6k. Private sector jobs increased by +71k as noted by most of the headlines. Biggest drag on private sector job growth was financial services at -17k. The US economy fell short of generating the ~200k jobs needed to stay above even. But eliminate the public sector job losses and the overall employment picture looks less bleak. Not much comfort to the ranks of the long term unemployed of course. What got lost in the positives was that the unemployment rate was higher.

But if the debate is shifting from the economy is sinking fast to sinking less fast, it is a positive. And the jobs bill that the Senate approved this week (more accurately the 'saving gov't jobs bill' rather than a 'creating new jobs bill') has to be another positive given where the job losses occurred in July. It will be interesting to see if the numbers have any effect on how House members vote. Any guesses on how many House GOP members will vote for the package?

Posted by: tuber | August 6, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

actually MimiKatz what Politico is reporting is that Dems are pushing and in some cases financing and working for the "fringe" candidates to grow a third party candidate sufficient enough to have the Republican lose.

Call it the Crist/Rubio syndrome.

This smells like something that would have been cooked up in a Journolist session.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 6, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

What pjcamp said.

If Yglesias' analysis is correct AND YOU HAVE NO ABILITY TO CHANGE THINGS, then go ahead and complain. But the Dems have (will have) the ability to change things. If you want to place blame you don't have to go any further than the mirror.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | August 6, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Rule No. 27(C)(1)(d)(vii): Any time you want to write a post, or link to someone else's post, that says, "if only people really understood what is really going on, they would support my position," don't.

Rule No. 1: When your party controls the Presidency, the Senate and the House, do not whine about how the results are all the other party's fault.

Posted by: ostap666 | August 6, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats have had the majority for 18 months now and the current state of the economy and the continuing loss of jobs is due to the poor policies and bills that have been passed.

The lack of accountability is not based on our political system, but on the fact that no one can admit this administration is anti freemarket, anti business and anti jobs.

The numbers don't lie - these policies aren't working.

Posted by: mjalton | August 6, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse


Ezra wants you to believe the recession was caused by 8 years of a Republican administration and now the only reason why the Dems can't fix it is because the Republicans are in the minority?

Yeah right.

Posted by: mjalton | August 6, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Yes. The problem with our economy is that the Republicans refused to give Trial Lawyers, Unions, and Environmental Activists everything that they wanted.

And now that they succeeded in limiting what those special interests got they stand to reap the electoral reward.

Did the higher costs from taxes, regulation, and uncertainty from over 6,000 pages of legislation written by lobbyists for trial lawyers, Unions, and Environmental activists COMPLETELY UNDERMINE THE CONFIDENCE IN THE ECONOMY OF MOST BUSINESSES IN THE USA?

Are we suffering from Obama's inability to consider bipartisan legislation that would've lowered the costs to launch and run businesses?

Does raising the costs to launch and run businesses through taxes and regulation ALWAYS reduce the amount of business growth?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | August 6, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Does raising the costs to launch and run businesses during a recession have consequences to middle class families looking for jobs?

Are there political consequences for dumb leaders who are more beholden to the lobbyists for special interests instead of responsibly dealing with an economic crisis?


Posted by: FastEddieO007 | August 6, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Ezra has definitely taken the lead in the race with Yglesias for the dumbest trolls on the internets.

The 1994 playbook proved that the voting public expects Congress to behave like a parliamentary system, and that a minority which has no interest in good governance can use that disjunction to argue that it deserves to run the show. It's the politics of the spoilt infant.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 6, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The Democratic Marketing Machine is doing their best to put a positive picture on this administration but its not working.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm GLAD Republicans are voting AGAINST Garbage bills.
There's way too much garbage in ObamaCare
bill and phony financial reform bill.
I don't want my representative voting for a bill unless there's an overall benefit.

Posted by: ohioan | August 6, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Aren't we really sick of all of the politics. When 1 in 8 Americans are on food stamps and there's only one open job for every five job seekers, we just need to do something. Corporations need to hire and congress needs to provide money to create jobs.
More than every, the advice I'm hearing on is providing great job search advice.

Posted by: kcsam215 | August 6, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

1+2=3 means the President and both houses of Congress working together for the benefit of the American People. How can the Republicans speak of budget deficits when they spent a surplus in 2 years. Their policies are what caused the financial spiral to hell with our economy to the point we were almost in our 2nd Great Depression. One thing everyone should be entitle to in this country is HEALTHCARE. Where do you think your tax dollars go for people who don't have it. Financial reform, keep your mouth closed next time your insurance premium increases till your check looks like you are working for miminum wage and your credit cards interest jumps 10% because the CEO needs a 8 million dollar bonus. Republicans are impeding anything/everything and it doesn't matter much to what it is, just say NO. If you are mad about the lack of JOBS don't blame the President or the Democrats blame the NO sayers, everything from political appointments to job creation stalled. 8 years of Bush and Republicans running the country and where did we end up, invading Iraq which was not a threat to US with no ties to 9/11 but wait weapons of mass distruction, never did find them, the price of gas at 4.00 dollars a gallon, a economic surplus blown, started 2 wars,focused on Iraq when the issue was Afghanistan, left mr. terrorist alone. Saddam was the Iraqi's tyrant but Bush removed him and really destablized the Middle East. One republican had the nerve to hollar about recess appointments when her own husband was appointed by Bush with a recess appointment. You want to blame the President and the democrats for our woes you might as well turn your stove on, place a empty pot on it, burn your own house down and then blame your neighbor. Get real people, the people who screwed it up are still working to keep it screwed up. If the President is willing to pay more in taxes, his income above 250,000 whats the issue with the rest of his peers. Banks began to lose money,(hedge funds), raised mortage rates, credit card rates, when people couldn't meet the payments banks foreclosed on their homes and paid themselves million dollar bonuses with tax payer money bailout(BUSH). A recession is never good but a depression is even worst. Yes, job wise our country is bleeding and yes the President and democrats are attempting to stop the bleeding but the republicans are doing everything they can to keep the wound open(NO)and here is the kicker, they aren't even trying to pretend just impede anything at any cost to the American public, our future political gain is most important. We will convince the American public its the democrats fault of high unemployment and hopefully gain more congressional seats and then really screw them. The republicans turned on Bush, everyone jumped ship to distance themselves from the policies they supported when they failed and screwed the country. Regan, unemployment rich got richer, Clinton surplus public working, Bush screwed the country. MATH, PRICELESS

Posted by: thomas05 | August 6, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

The last time the federal government ran a true suplus was 1969, the total surplus was $3.2B and before that was $1960, $.3 B

Posted by: thomas05 | August 6, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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