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The Chill Wind in the New Employment Numbers



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Whatever else may be happening in the economy the rest of this year, there is one bit of good news you’re likely to hear a lot about: a steadily improving employment picture. There are a few reasons for this. First, so many millions of Americans are still unemployed that, with wages stagnant the whole two years since the recovery, there is no where to go but up. Another positive factor is the domestic oil-and-gas boom due to fracking, which has dramatically lowered the cost of energy for our industries, giving U.S. manufacturing in particular a much-needed competitive boost. 

There are surely other reasons, but don’t let anyone try to fool you into thinking that the Obama administration’s policies deserve any credit. There will be a lot more to say in the months ahead, but for now let’s highlight a few facts.

First, the Republicans have prevented Obama from rolling back the Bush tax cuts or imposing any new taxes on “the rich,” so liberals haven’t been able to impose their suicidal tax increases on the economy yet. Second, even if the stimulus created some x number of jobs, we know that it was at exorbitant cost, sometimes on the order of $1 million or more per job-year created, and we also know that the whole thing was a galactic waste of money, every penny of it borrowed from future generations who will need it. Finally, the administration’s avalanche of environmental and health regulations will not hit full force until 2013 and 2014. With costs in the hundreds of billions and perhaps trillions for private businesses and working families, and with higher-order economic consequences nobody can predict, those regulations are going to devastate the American economy — and they are hurtling toward us with all speed. 

In short, the employment picture is improving because (a) it was so bad to start with; (b) conservatives have prevented Obama from doing his worst in the short term; and (c) the worst of what we couldn’t stop him doing hasn’t hit the economy yet. The economy is growing, however anemically, chiefly because it’s so far been spared nearly all of what’s really bad in the Obama agenda. 

Here’s the bad news. Those constantly improving jobs numbers are going to make it very easy for liberals to cast their ruinous economic policies in a successful light, at least long enough to get past the end of this year. Conservatives had better figure out how to win this argument, or the anemic recovery could turn into a lost generation.

— Mario Loyola is director of the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.



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