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John Zaring: Slow May for jobs isn’t end of the world

Democratic Voices

Posted: June 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Have you ever noticed how birds on a wire will fly off in a fit of fear whenever there’s a loud bang, like a backfire from a car? 

Truth be told, statistics can be twisted to support any argument, especially in the “here and now” micro drama that is the 24-hour news cycle. 

Last week, the jobs report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that only 54,000 new private-sector jobs were created in May; 150,000 had been projected. Coming on the heels of news that unemployment had also risen slightly, like birds on a wire, Wall Street responded by sending the Dow plummeting for several straight days.

Republicans argued that Wall Street’s reaction was further proof that President Barack Obama is on a mission to destroy the country, one policy decision at a time. The GOP’s leadership rushed before the cameras to once again pander their historically flawed plan to fix what ails us by cutting taxes on the rich and corporations, and slashing spending on programs for the needy and poor.

Some Republicans, inflamed by the radical-right elements that currently dominate the party, are simultaneously pursuing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with America’s debt ceiling, threatening to force the country to default on its obligations if their demands for reckless spending cuts and tax decreases are not accepted.   

In reality, a great number among the newly unemployed are people who lost temporary positions due to completed American Investment & Recovery projects or were laid-off from government jobs because the funding for their positions was eliminated by cash-strapped local and state governments. A series of natural disasters across the country, inflated if not manipulated gas prices and Japan’s nuclear meltdown certainly haven’t helped inspire consumer confidence.

These reports, coupled with a still-softening housing market, starkly illustrate the feebleness of America’s economic recovery from the Great Recession, which dominated former President George W. Bush’s final year (2008) and Obama’s first year (2009), when the country was staring at the precipice of disaster. It still casts a wide shadow.

But, no, people. Just because things aren’t quite peachy-keen yet, it doesn’t mean it is time to throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water.

While admittedly less robust than the previous few months, it is important to understand that May was actually the 14th consecutive month of positive private-sector and manufacturing jobs growth. And while the recovery may sputter in fits and starts, it has come a long way from the depths reached at the end of Bush’s second term, when monthly job losses averaged a hemorrhage of 750,000 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

The trend lines indicate that a recovery is under way, albeit slowly, and the economic principles that Obama has followed since taking over for Bush are taking hold. The remarkable return of Chrysler and General Motors from the brink of extinction provides one example of the economy moving in the right direction thanks to the president’s steadfast leadership. 

With the rise of the tea party, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, now find themselves facing the same Big Tent challenge that has perplexed and stymied Democrats for years.

With firebrands such as Rand Paul, R-Tenn., and Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., dragging the party further to the right with ideas most Americans find unpalatable, and sideshows such as Donald Trump and Sarah Palin junking up the messaging from the outside, it isn’t going to get any easier as the party prepares to take on Obama in 2012.

Given the calculated discipline with which the GOP typically operates, the House of Representatives recent vote in favor of Paul Ryan’s, R-Ohio, budget plan was shocking, mainly because it includes multiple ultra-conservative conceits — such as the privatization of Medicare — which won’t fly in the all-important political center.  

Obama has proposed rational spending cuts and sensible tax increases as the best path to sustainable economic growth and deficit reduction, and in doing so, he’s managed to anger the fringe elements in both parties.

Still, given that governance is best achieved from the center out, Obama is playing the odds that he can get a majority in Congress to put America first. 

While not for the faint of heart, it appears our country’s success is inextricably linked to that of its president.
Here’s hoping Obama can keep the birds from flying off the wire.

John Zaring has been a Castaic resident since 2000. In August, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party awarded Zaring the Democrat of the Year award.


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