The Liberal Mob is a politically oriented blog with an obvious liberal slant and a vaguely irreverent attitude. We would like to promote common sense progressive approaches to the problems facing America and the world today. We reserve the right to blog about additional topics, especially on slow news days.
We have been pretty quiet here at the Liberal Mob for the past couple of months. I assure it is not because we no longer yearn to provide you with our obvious liberal biases in the form of “wannabe” journalism. Alas, we are all full-time students and have had little time to devote to you, our tens of faithful readers. Let me disclose right of the bat that the title of this post is a bit misleading. So if you clicked on this blog post in the hopes of getting an in-depth explanation/analysis of republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s tax plan, stop reading now.
Unfortunately, thus far Mr. Cain himself has been unable to fully articulate how the plan will work. So I am currently unable to do an anlysis on it. I have recently been informed by Mr. Cain’s campaign that as a liberal voter I am incensed that there is an “articulate” African American Conservative candidate. So I would be unable to give an unbiased analysis anyway. I have been further informed by teh Cain campaign that, as an African American voter, I have been brainwashed by Barack Obama. So I guess that means that my analysis of anything Herman Cain says or does really doesn’t matter. Anyway...
With just under one year to go until the 2012 presidential election, political junkies such as myself are hearing the same narrative form much of the political punditry over and over again. The general consensus among the “experts” is that it will be incredibly difficult for President Obama to make a strong case for his reelection campaign when it comes to the economy. That brings us to our first "9". The main argument here is that with a 9% unemployment rate the chances of Mr. Obama having anything that resembles a good approval rating during the election are remote. Any they may be right. But I think it is important to take a closer look at the actual numbers from previous election years and see if there is in fact a discernable correlation between national unemployment and mounting a successful presidential election campaign.
Before delving more deeply into this it should be noted that most modern U.S. presidents do win a second term in office. I was born in 1982, and President George H.W. Bush is the only one of the four presidents in my lifetime that has lost an attempted reelection bid. To go even further back, my parents were both born in 1952, and all but two sitting presidents who ran for reelection in their lifetimes were successfully reelected (Carter and Bush #1). The number is actually three if one were to count President Gerald Ford who ascended to the Presidency through the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon. So Mr. Ford may be an anomaly as he was never successfully elected president and did not even serve one full term as President. Essentially, when he fell down the stairs that one time his chances were pretty much zero. (I love how he immediately tries to start shaking hands as if nothing happened. He should have added in the long stair at the staircase as if to suggest that there was something wrong with the stairs. That’s what I would have done.) Anyway, let’s look a little more closely at the numbers....
The United States department of labor provides monthly unemployment statistics going back to 1948. In that time there have been 8 elections featuring an incumbent U.S. President. Ford, Carter and Bush #1 were the three losses with national unemployment rates were at 7.7%, 7.5% and 7.3% respectively during the month of October immediately preceding those elections. There five winning incumbents over that time period were Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush #2, with unemployment rates of 6.1%, 7.8%, 7.2%, 5.6% and 5.4% respectively. But here is the kicker: In each case where the incumbent won reelection the unemployment rate had actually increased during their first term (the one exception being Bill Clinton where the unemployment rate decreased from 5.6% to 3.9%). Under Eisenhower it increased from 4.3% to 6.1%, under Nixon it increased from 5.3% to 7.8%, under Reagan in it stayed virtually the same going from 7.4% to 7.5%, and under George W. Bush it increased from 5.4% to 6.8%.
One big take away, is that in each case there were a number of complex factors that contributed to the unemployment rate that may not have had much to do with the sitting incumbent president or his policies. When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate was around 7%. But in January 2009, the American Economy was shedding an astounding 750,000 jobs per month. The unemployment rate reached an astonishing 10.1% later that year in October. It has remained virtually flat throughout 2010 and has recently taken a modest dip down to 9%. Will President Obama be able to effectively make the case that the jobs being lost when he was sworn in are in no way reflective of his policies? The economy has seen positive job growth for almost two years. But the job growth is terribly anemic and barely keeps up with natural population growth as new workers attempt to enter the workforce. It is undoubtedly going to be a tough environment for the president who will essentially need to make the case that it takes more than 3 years to recover form the worst recession in over 80 years. To put it into perspective, the 8 million jobs lost in the 2008-2009 recession are more than the total number of jobs lost in the five previous national recessions.
In short, the unemployment data does not allow one to conclusively take a stand as to whether the unemployment rate will be the deciding factor (or eve one of the biggest ones) in the 2012 elections. This is why I find it strange that must pundits keep saying otherwise. I am certainly not prepared to assert that it will seal the deal one way or the other. I do think the punditry may be correct that the public will hold Mr. Obama responsible for the unemployment rate, despite the aforementioned statistics. But what the beltway seems to be missing is the second and more important “nine”.…the 9% approval rating of Congress. This congress has a dreadful and historic unpopularity. Yes, the American people are frustrated at the sluggish economy. Yes they are chomping at the bit to voice that frustration at the polls. But as Colorado Senator Bennett recently pointed out, the Congress has a lower approval rating than Paris Hilton, communism, the IRS, and BP (during the Gulf oil spill). And by the way, it is 35 - 40 points lower than the President’s approval rating at this time in every major poll. The president will no doubt get his share of the blame for a weak economy next November. But what will be interesting to watch is how the average American voter will react to a “Do nothing Congress”. The White House is certainly going out of its way to drive this point home.
So that brings us to the third “Nein”. The 112th is an utterly dysfunctional Congress that seems unable to say “aye” to anything. One has to go back to the 1860s to find a less productive Congress in terms of the number of bills that have been signed into law. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over 900 days because they are unable to sidestep republican filibusters. And the new house majority (that won a landslide election in 2010) has yet to propose a jobs bill during this session. I realize that the vast majority of highly partisan voters already have their minds made up on whether or not they will vote for or against Obama (regardless of who his eventual opponent turns out to be). But I have to think that the moderate independent voters will not be too happy with a House of Representatives that has focused on legislation such as: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, Protect Life Act, Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, Respect for Marriage Act, etc. when they vowed to focus on "creating jobs".
I will be the first person to predict that the 2012 election will most likely be close. But I am not ready to say that the unemployment rate will doom Obama to defeat. If the average American voter wants to punish incumbents for the high unemployment rate and sluggish economy, it seems to me as if the 535 member s of the 112th Congress will be just as vulnerable if not more so than the President.
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