EMPLOYMENT PICTURE GETS EVEN WORSE…. The employment picture in September was worse than expected, and the worst in more than five years.

Employers made deeper cuts in their payrolls in September, according to the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, as the economy experienced the biggest drop in jobs in more than five years.

There was a net loss of 159,000 jobs in September, the ninth straight month the U.S. economy has lost jobs. The August job loss was revised to 73,000 jobs, taking year-to-date job losses to 760,000.

The private sector has now lost nearly a million jobs since December, but bolstering government hiring helped prevent the numbers from being even worse. Complicating matters, the new job numbers don’t reflect the ongoing credit crisis.

Of course, we’re in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, and news like this is going to have political implications. With that in mind, I found the McCain campaign’s response to the discouraging employment numbers rather fascinating.

McCain agreed that “our nation’s economy is on the wrong track,” and in response, McCain vowed to “reverse out-of-control spending, end the wasteful and corrupting practice of earmarks, and get the government budget back to balance.” He concluded, “Our nation cannot afford Senator Obama’s higher taxes.”

I can’t help but wonder just how confused someone would have to be to find any of this persuasive. Cutting government spending would create jobs? Earmarks have something to do with unemployment? McCain is going to inherit a half-trillion deficit, cut billions of dollars in taxes for the wealthy, and keep the war going in Iraq, and he’s going to bring the budget “back to balance”?

But denouncing Obama’s tax plan is truly hysterical. Bush cut taxes for the wealthy, multiple times, and by McCain’s logic, the job market should be fantastic. Except, it isn’t, and Bush’s economic policies have led to a dismal employment picture.

McCain’s argument is, we have to keep doing exactly what Bush has done, and wait for it to start working. Indeed, we “cannot afford” to go in a different direction.

Common sense suggests McCain should assure voters he’d follow a completely different path, but apparently it’s too late for that. So, he’s stuck with a patently ridiculous message. It’s almost sad to watch.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.