After the harsh winter weather that helped bring U.S. economic growth to standstill, the strong May jobs report came as very good news. The U.S. added 280,000 new jobs and saw signs that wage growth is picking up steam. Even the uptick in the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent represents a positive development, as more job seekers are reentering the workforce.
But those happy developments for the American people are a problem for the Republican Party and its 2016 presidential candidates. After the GOP's comical failure in 2012 to pretend "Obama made the economy worse," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could only complain, "After so many years of little growth, few jobs, and stagnant wages, America must do more than just take one step forward for every two steps back." But it is would-be White House occupant Jeb Bush who has the biggest challenge of all. Obama, it turns out, has now created six times as many jobs as Jeb's brother George W. did in eight years in office.
Back on January 9, 2009, the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal published a helpful analysis titled, "Bush on Jobs: The Worst Track Record on Record." Last week, Bill McBride of Calculated Risk provided an updated analysis to show just how dismal. Some of the highlights:
- During Dubya's two terms in office, the U.S. economy created just 1.3 million new jobs. So far, six times more--7.7 million jobs--have been added 28 months into President Obama's second term.
- The private sector actually lost 463,000 jobs under George W. Bush. In contrast, Obama has presided over 63 straight months of private sector job creation, 8.3 million in all.
- Under small government Republican George W. Bush, the public sector at all levels grew by 1.7 million workers. In contrast, federal, state and local governments have shed 638,000 jobs since Barack Obama first took the oath of office.
Let that settle in for a moment. Barack Obama wasn't only facing the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. The Obama recovery alone in modern American history was undermined by the overall contraction of government at all levels. The mythmaking of Kevin McCarthy aside, Obama's expansion have been more robust if Republicans on Capitol Hill and in state and local governments hadn't stood in his way. DC Republicans didn't just block Obama initiatives like the American Jobs Act and infrastructure investment that could have boosted employment when unemployment was mired at 9 percent and strangle job creation and consumer confidence with their debt ceiling hostage-taking. The destructive austerity policies of state and local governments created an "anti-stimulus," with layoffs of public sector workers and cuts to spending that only served to undermine the gains from the stimulus. By May 2013, the Hamilton Institute estimated those austerity policies cost 2.2 American million jobs and resulted in the slowest recovery since World War II. In April 2012, the Economic Policy Institute explained why:
The current recovery is the only one that has seen public-sector losses over its first 31 months...If public-sector employment had grown since June 2009 by the average amount it grew in the three previous recoveries (2.8 percent) instead of shrinking by 2.5 percent, there would be 1.2 million more public-sector jobs in the U.S. economy today. In addition, these extra public-sector jobs would have helped preserve about 500,000 private-sector jobs.
To put it another way, "Democrats saved the economy; Republicans tried to kill it." And as the job numbers continue to show, Barack Obama is just the latest to show the economy almost always does better when a Democrat is in the White House. Compared to Jeb Bush's brother, about six times better.