Sunday, April 9, 2006

Not optimistic

by Barry Pump, DI columnist

The Department of Labor released Friday its jobs report for the month of March. Showing that 211,000 jobs were created in March, President Bush lauded the report and the "economic growth" through his administration, and Treasury Secretary John Snow said the jobs creation was proof that Bush's economic policies were working and called on Congress to make Bush's tax cuts permanent. Despite the administration's spin, however, a simple analysis of the report (linked above) shows the economic situation is not nearly as optimistic.

In a media opportunity to reduce the negative impact of bad news on Iraq (more than 70 people were killed in a suicide bombing Friday at a mosque), more bad news on immigration reform, and the growing furor over Bush's involvement in the Valerie Wilson-CIA link scandal, Bush said the newly released economic data showed an "economic resurgence that is strong, broad, and benefiting all Americans." But it really isn't.

Of the 211,000 jobs created, the increase was "concentrated in the service-providing sector," according to the report. That means 42,000 of those jobs were created in the "leisure and hospitality" sector, which means jobs cleaning rooms in hotels, waiting tables, and helping the wealthy (those primarily benefiting from the tax cuts Snow wants to make permanent) spend their money. And, speaking of the wealthy spending their money, an additional 29,000 jobs were created in the retail-trade sector. So, if you want to get a job at the Gap, chances are you'll be able to find one. Manufacturing jobs, on the other hand, which helped create the large middle class in this country, were "little changed" over the course of the month and have decreased by more than 56,000 jobs over the past year. Outsourcing, anyone?

If Bush had continued to read the report, he also would have seen that the average hourly earnings of average workers increased by a paltry 3 cents last month. And the average weekly earnings increased only 0.2 percent over the month, to $557.36. That means, if the average worker works 50 weeks in a year, he only makes $27,868. Note also that the tax cuts that Bush and Snow are touting don't help anyone making that little. And that means the tax cuts Bush and Snow are crediting for this "economic growth" won't help the average worker. The non-growth also means the tax cuts should not be made permanent, because the growth Bush and Snow think is going on is modest at best.

Wall Street took all this so-called great economic news particularly harshly. Both the NASDAQ composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.9 percent of their values on April 7, wiping out all of the previous week's gains. And if it couldn't get any worse, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to consider a $2.8 trillion budget resolution that angered conservatives for adding $3 trillion to the national debt over five years and angered moderates for slicing health, education, and labor programs in the name of so-called fiscal responsibility. I would also like to note that the man in charge of the hideous budget proposal that collapsed on the floor is Iowa gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle, who handled the process as poorly as any ineffectual leader.

Just when you think things couldn't get any worse for President Bush and the Republicans in Washington, their spectacular incompetence comes shining through brighter than ever. And we're along for the unfortunate ride. Is it any wonder why 70 percent of the nation think we're headed in the wrong direction?

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