About those job losses

ABOUT THOSE JOB LOSSES…. It’s pretty obvious that the U.S. market has been in a crisis situation for far too long. By any reasonable measure, 2010 is vastly better than 2009, but with the unemployment rate pushing 10%, and initial claims for unemployment insurance climbing to 500,000 last week, the scope of the problem is enormous.

But that’s no excuse for partisan nonsense. House Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) issued a “report” yesterday, showing that — get this — the nation has lost jobs over the last year and a half. “While Democrats promised their 2009 stimulus would create 3.7 million jobs, the reality is far different,” stated a release from Camp’s office. “To date, 2.6 million jobs, including 2.5 million private sector jobs, have been lost.”

This is lazy, intellectually dishonest drivel. That it’s coming from someone who may be the next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is more than a little distressing.

Even a House Republican should be able to understand the reality here. When the Recovery Act passed, the economy was in freefall. When President Obama was sworn into office, the economy was losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month. By Camp’s absurd reasoning, a recovery effort that didn’t magically transform the entire economy, and instantly stop the job losses, necessarily constitutes failure. It’s the kind of ridiculous argument one might hear from a partisan hack, desperate to score a cheap, baseless point, but leading members of Congress should know better.

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Consider this chart Ezra Klein recently posted. The point isn’t that the stimulus was perfect — it should have been much bigger, not smaller as Camp would have hoped — but rather, that the job losses predate the policies advanced by the Obama administration. (It’s based on data economist Rob Shapiro put together, using Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.)

I realize guys like Camp have a petty little game to play. They either don’t understand public policy very well, assume the public doesn’t understand public policy very well, or perhaps a little of both. But independent analyses of the administration’s recovery efforts show that they prevented a catastrophe. The administration should have done much more — in other words, it should have moved much further away from what Republican proposed — but the objective evidence is nevertheless clear.

Camp’s entire approach to economics has been thoroughly discredited, and at a moment of crisis, he and his GOP colleagues got it very wrong. He has a reason to be embarrassed, not a reason to publish silly reports.