Back in August, Speaker Boehner had Ohio Governor John Kasich deliver the Republican response to the President’s weekly radio address under the theme that Washington needed to model what Kasich was doing in Ohio to get the economy going again.
Yes, we know the $8 billion deficit claim is totally false. We’ve covered that extensively that total political fiction. But also, note that Kasich’s praising his Jobs’ budget just a couple of months after it was enacted.
It was a poor time to have Kasich be held as the Republican model for economic growth. A few weeks after giving this address, the August jobs report came out to show Ohio, for the third month in a row, saw it’s unemployment rate go up, more Ohioans dropping out of the labor market altogether and fewer Ohioans were employed. In fact, August represented the general trend of Ohio’s economy since Kasich’s budget policies went into effect at the end of June. Since then, Ohio has seen a net loss of jobs, tens of thousands of Ohioans dropping out of the labor market (giving up looking for work, and few employed Ohioans. Yes, the unemployment rate shrank, but it was due to people who stopped looking for work, not from people finding it.
The opposite is true nationally. Today, the national jobs report for January was released, and it beat Wall Street expectations. Last month, the nation added 203,000 new jobs, and the unemployment rate dropped .2%. The only bad thing about the jobs report in December was that 50k Americans dropped out of the labor market.
Here’s the data for January:
- 243,000 new jobs created (economists expected a number in the high 100s or low 200s, according to Talking Points Memo.)
- The unemployment rate dropped .2% again, to 8.3%.
- An additional 847k Americans are now considered employed (based on household surveys. The 243,000 new jobs figure is based on a survey of employers.)
- 339,000 fewer Americans are unemployed since December.
- 508,000 Americans entered (or re-entered) the labor market.
What this means is that our unemployment rate dropped in January because our economy is creating jobs faster than the labor market is growing. That’s the best way to have your unemployment rate drop, and it’s a sign of strong growth in the economy:
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the report is "unambiguously positive." Hourly earnings are increasing and it shows the economy is "definitively gaining traction," he said.
That’s five straight months of dropping unemployment rates nationally. Six straight months in growth in the number of employed Americans. Five straight months of a drop in the number of unemployed Americans. And sixteen straight months that employers have reported positive job creation. In other words, as Kasich strutted on the national stage talking about how Washington would be well-suited to copy what was going on in Ohio, by any objective economic measure the opposite was true. Everything that is going right nationally in the economy (save the unemployment rate) is going wrong in Ohio since Kasich enacted his ironically named “Jobs Budget.”
What does this mean politically? Mitt Romney is a single-issue candidate. The sole reason Republicans are favoring him is that they believe that Americans will favor Romney over Obama on the number one issue right now the economy. But the problem is that the economy is undeniably getting better and has been for some time nationally. That means that a) Romney is not going to have an advantage on that issue, and b) it’s eventually going to drop down in strength as to how much it matters to voters.
Romney is the Republican version of why Democrats nominated John Kerry in 2004, despite grassroots concerns about his weaknesses as a candidate. The only differences is that in 2004 it was the Iraq War, and now it’s the economy. Also, Americans see with greater certainty that things are improving economically than they saw a positive outcome in Iraq.
Let me put it this way. If the growth we’ve seen in December and January averages out to continue for the next six months (there’s a significant possibility that instead it may grow even stronger), then by the time Mitt Romney is prepared to accept the Republican nomination at the RNC Convention in Tampa come August, President Obama can point out in reply that the nation’s unemployment rate (by then) will be lower than when he took office, there are more jobs than when we took office, and (already right now) he can say there are more Americans in the labor market than when he took office. In other words, Obama could take his convention floor and make a convincing case that Americans are undeniably better off than they were four years ago.
For Ohio, the question is which will be more predominate: will independents blame Obama for things not improving in Ohio quicker, or will they see Kasich as a cautionary tale in considering Romney and see a Republican snake oil salesman who promises a better economy with his election who we’ll later learn can’t deliver? This question will be rendered moot, of course, if Ohio starts copying what’s been going on nationally.