The January job report is in. There's mediocre news, good news, and great news.
The mediocre news is that the economy created fewer jobs than ADP predicted in January, 157,000 compared to around 190,000 predicted. But ADP can often be off by 50,000 since it's making an estimate, whereas the government is actually reporting data it gathered from surveying the country's businesses and citizens.
The good news is that more data gathered lead to a revision of the December 2012 report, from 155,000 new jobs to 190,000, making December the best month of job growth since August of 2012, and the third best since February of 2012. Put another way, the good news is that last month's report was inaccurate and underestimated the employment situation, which ended up being quite a bit better than everyone thought it was.
Some cumulative figures for 2012 are starting to be calculated. 2012 saw 2.2 million new jobs, more net job growth than 2001-2004 combined. The story this month is the same as it has been for a couple of years now: the economy is growing and people would be pretty happy with this pace if we still weren't carrying so many unemployed from the aftermath of the recession. This growth is relatively good "normal" growth, in other words. If you could snap your fingers and make unemployment drop to 4.5% overnight, nobody would be complaining about this job report or the rate of growth in 2012 except economic wonks.
The story of 2012 is the story of 2011 and 2010: the economy is growing, just not as fast as we all want it to. Thus the sequel to that story is the continuing shitty reality TV show that is Congress in which the debate remains: do something, or do nothing.
The great news is that further revised data (read: more surveys coming in from the private sector) shows November job growth being closer to 247,000 new jobs instead of 161,000. That is now the best month of job growth since January of 2012.
As for the unemployment rate, I needed to explain all of that for this to make sense: an uptick of 0.1 points to 7.9% is actually good news. With that kind of job growth and an increase in unemployment, that means that people who had quit looking for work because of poor prospects (people no longer counted as unemployed) started looking for jobs again, and thus started being counted again.
This graph, although I can't vouch for it's accuracy (none of my data shows a month of 500k job growth), shows you most of what I just explained in numbers:
* * *
I've been battling the church of centrism in comments lately and its annoying and nearly dogmatic insistence on building false equivalencies when it comes to legitimately assigning more blame to one of the two major political parties than the other, for our problems.
It's possible for both parties to be equally at fault, for the two to be unequally at fault, and for only one of them to be at fault. More often than not it's the latter two, leaning towards the last one.
That's just a fact of modern history. Democrats initially opposed attempts to deregulate Wall Street in the 90s and did eventually cave and support it (including members of the Clinton administration), but they didn't write the legislation. They didn't advocate for it. It wasn't their idea. They didn't campaign on it and then celebrate when they got what they wanted. The GOP did all of that. Without the GOP doing all of that, there wouldn't have been any deregulation. (It's worth noting just how corrupt and reprehensible that deregulation was. Citicorp merged with Travelers Group in 1998, intentionally violating a law known as Glass-Steagall that among other things prohibited consumer banks from also being investment banks. This Depression-era law meant that if the investment side made bets that went south, so far south that they'd end up bankrupt, the economy would be protected and no bailout would be required as the consumer banks who were separate companies would remain unaffected. Rather than the government prosecuting Citi for its brazen crime, the Clinton administration issued a temporary wavier of the law to give Congress time to repeal Glass-Steagall to make the illegal merger retroactively legal. Again, the Clinton administration played a role in that, but it was Republicans that had been pushing this kind of deregulation for decades.]
It's even more stark for the stimulus, that was as one-sided as it gets. Republicans said it wouldn't work (actually their criticism was far less rational than that) and they were wrong. They were wrong about deregulation and wrong about the recovery act on two fronts: what it would do and what it wouldn't. They were wrong that it wouldn't restore growth and they were wrong that it would increase interest rates and inflation.
Even two votes less in the Senate and the Recovery Act would never have become law, and the economy wouldn't have turned around in late 2009. All but three Republicans voted against it in the Senate and I'm not sure if any voted for it in the House. The one law that turned recession into recovery was nearly universally opposed by one party.
I think you'll find very little over the past four years where Democrats share equal blame for much of anything, other than that one cluster fuck of a jobs bill that Matt Taibbi wrote about in Rolling Stone. The one that actually deregulated some more of Wall Street in ways that went further than what we had before the recession. That was indefensible and purely bipartisan. I won't argue that.
I will argue just about everything else, like quantitative easing. Which party opposes it? Which party has wrongly predicted three times in a row that QE would drive up interest rates and inflation? It wasn't Democrats.
What party gave us the fiscal cliff in the first place? Remember that we got it as a result of the GOP taking the debt ceiling hostage in the fall of 2011. That's how the ceiling got raised that year, Democrats were forced to agree to future sequestration -- that was paying the hostage takers. Sequestration is what John Boehner was talking about in this infamous interview with Scott Palley of CBS News:
Pelley: You were unable to get your own caucus behind your bill a few days ago. Do you intend to remain Speaker of the House?
Boehner: I do. When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the white House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I'm pretty happy.
Boehner was talking about the Budget Control Act, aka the fiscal cliff that his party demanded in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011. Otherwise Boehner was going to force America to default on its debt, sending the country into another Great Depression.
I'm sure this seems like one of those "us vs them, we're the good guys, they're the bad guys" rants, but it's not. It's just reality that a lot of America's problems -- not all, but plenty -- are created by one party, not both. Especially in the past 20-25 years.
Go back to Iraq. A majority of Democrats in the Senate voted to go into Iraq, but not a large majority. A fair sizable majority of House Democrats voted against the war. Add them together and you get a majority of Democrats in Congress voting not to go to war. On and on for two decades and counting. Whose idea was Medicare Advantage, which was a trial run of Paul Ryan's privatization of Medicare which turned into a boondoggle that has consistently outpaced Medicare in costs? It wasn't bipartisan and it wasn't a Democratic plan.
Remember the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that weren't paid for? The ones that added $1.4 trillion or more in new debt during the Bush administration and were on pace to add another $5 trillion more over the second decade of the 2000s until some were allowed to expire this year. Democrats filibustered them during the Bush administration and lost. Republicans brought the cuts up for vote under reconciliation and then had to use Dick Cheney to break a tie in the Senate. Those cuts weren't bipartisan and were fiscally irresponsible in a big way, not to mention that they did nothing to grow the economy 2001-2007, like the GOP promised they would.
I could go on like this for days. It's not "both parties" at fault for this stuff. It happens from time to time, but it's not common at all. Politics is not like it used to be, with two competing ideologies. Now we've got one ideology that sometimes (and sometimes not) acts on behalf of good governance and occasionally acts like a corrupt rat, and one party that is simply anti-government to its core.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that most of the problems within government these days come from the party that has defined itself as being happy if the government shuts down or ceased to exist. The one party that has actually forced a government shutdown before and threatened to do it in 2011, 2012, and probably will threaten to do it again this year.
You might as well have two co-owners of a baking/food company where one of them occasionally does stupid things that harms the bottom line, while the other regularly advocates not making food anymore and just shutting down, and does almost everything within their power to cause the business to fail because that suits their end-game goals of ending that business (government).
That is how you end up with one party being responsible for a much larger share of our problems when it comes to government. You can blame Democrats for the problems they create and there are plenty of them to choose from, but it's simply not true to say that both parties are at fault here. Democrats didn't ask for the fiscal cliff and then brag about getting it on national television. Democrats didn't make deregulation of Wall Street a central platform of their campaigns. Democrats didn't oppose the Recovery Act which stimulated the economy into creating millions of jobs (2.2 million for 2012 alone). Democrats haven't been wrong about economics consistently for the past four years. Democrats didn't set the all-time record for filibusters in the Senate in the 110th Congress (139) and then nearly match it again in the 111th (137), while plowing forward with 155 more in the 112th when the old record was just 82, set in '95-96.
They played a role in some, or even all of that, and that's not the same thing as this church of centrism that people use to make themselves feel superior to partisan voters by pretending that both parties are at fault for everything and are the same thing.