IT’S NOT DEMAGOGUERY…. There’s been some talk this week about President Obama’s dire warnings about the economy. Given that Americans had to endure eight years of governing through scare tactics, it’s understandable that many are hesitant about White House rhetoric about possible calamities.

There is, however, a difference. Marc Ambinder had a good item on this yesterday.

Critics of the Obama administration have accused the President of trying to spook the American people into believing that the only to prevent economic Armageddon is to pressure Congress to support the stimulus package. They’re using the language of Democrats who criticized Republicans and the Bush-Cheney administration for trying to scare the American people into a state of suspended obedience to political authority. The terrorist threats might have been real, but we know now that a lot of the “facts” marshalled to support the rhetoric wasn’t.

In the case of the economic crisis, though, maybe Americans aren’t panicking as much as they should: the job market spiraldown continues, and more apocalyptically, the rate of decline is picking up. The labor force is contracting rapidly; the unemployment rate is close to its 1990s peak at 7.8%. (Want higher than that? Go to the 1970s.) Americans are working fewer hours, too. Scary! Christina Romer, the White House’s chief economist, noted that of the 3.6 million jobs lost over the past year, most of them have been lost in the last four months. The rate is comparable to the rate recorded by economists in 1938, during the … yep.

Demagoguery and scare tactics are about playing on people’s fears to obtain power and/or execute an agenda. When Bushies sold the war in Iraq with rhetoric about smoking guns and mushroom clouds, that was demagoguery.

Obama’s fears about the economy are grounded, realistic, responsible and bolstered by facts. It’s not reminiscent of what we saw during the Bush/Cheney years; it’s the opposite.

Indeed, in light of conditions like these, presidential warnings have probably been understated.

As House Speaker Pelosi’s office explained, the chart “compares the job loss so far in this recession to job losses in the 1990-1991 recession and the 2001 recession — showing how dramatic and unprecedented the job loss over the last 13 months has been. ”

That green line? That’s where we are now.

Steve Benen

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.