Monday, April 13, 2015

George Will Fudges Reagan's Economic Record

Last week, George Will appeared on Fox News Sunday, and said something that was particularly absurd. It turns out that March's employment numbers weren't exactly impressive, with the economy gaining a mere 126,000 jobs. Commenting on it, Will had this to say:

“Let your mind go back to November last year. There was job creation of 321,000 jobs and the administration said this is a miraculous achievement and a harbinger of things to come. It wasn’t a harbinger and it wasn’t miraculous. During the Reagan recovery there were 23 months of job creation over 300,000. Reagan had a month of job creation of 1 million and this was at a time when there were 75 million fewer Americans.”

Unfortunately, that claim wasn't exactly true. Well, technically it was true, but as is the case when dealing with conservatives, very misleading. Over one million jobs were definitely created in September of 1983, but if you look at the jobs numbers the month before that, you'll find something interesting:



As Brother Benen at the Maddowblog pointed out:

If you check with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and take a look at the monthly job totals from 1983, you’ll see something interesting: the U.S. economy, the data shows, lost over 300,000 jobs in August 1983, only to then add over 1 million jobs literally the next month, in September 1983. If something about this sounds fishy to you, trust your instincts.
Indeed. As Business Insider further explained:

So, sadly for the Reagan zealots, President Reagan, his economy, his tax cuts, his supply-side economics, etc., etc., never produced one million jobs in one month, or anything close to it. It was a simple matter of striking communications workers dinging the payroll numbers one month and, upon their return, goosing them the next. Nothing more, nothing less. Could not be more straightforward.
 
If you look at the data, the following month, the numbers of jobs added went all the way down to 271,000 jobs. Not that that's a bad number or anything, but the point being is that if we're supposed to credit the explosion in job growth in September to Reagan's economic policies, then the question arises, what happened to bring that number down so much? 

The answer is of course, nothing. It was a one time anomaly and Reagan hadn't had anything around the same ballpark before or after. The second highest month of job growth he had was in October 1987, at 492,000 jobs. Definitely a good number, mind you, but far from over 1 million.

The entire so-called Reagan economic boom, while admittedly very good in terms of job numbers, wasn't some major benchmark that the country had yet to surpass. Job growth was more impressive under Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Yes, Jimmy Carter, who despite being the second worst U.S. president in history, presided over 10 million jobs in term, as opposed to Reagan who presided over nearly 16 million in two terms. For those of you keeping score, that's a higher rate of growth under Carter than Reagan.  And of course, Bill Clinton presided over 23 million jobs over his two terms.

Also (and this is really important), both Clinton and Carter did so without the power of REAGANOMICS. Carter dealt with a 70%+ top margical tax rate all throughout his presidency, and Clinton enacted, at the time, one of the largest tax hikes in recent memory. Yet somehow they were both able to keep up with and even surpass Ronaldus Magnus' job growth. How in the world can such a thing be possible?

Finally, let me just say that while March's numbers aren't anything to brag about, but 1) we've still had 59 straight months of private sector job growth, and 2) we should probably wait to see if this is the beginning of a trend, or was just a one off thing. After all, even the Gipper had several months of unimpressive growth as well (there were seven months after the recovery began that had job growth under 150,000).

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