Many conservatives can’t quite wrap their heads around the notion that things are better now than they were three years ago. They HATE that. They WANT the economy to fail…the misery to be prolonged so they can sweep back into power again in November, and much to their chagrin, the economy isn’t cooperating.

Undaunted by such things as, oh, say “reality,” however, the conservatives press on anyway, ignoring the positives, and pretending that things are worse anyway, which is what we’re seeing now.

When it is pointed out that during Bush’s last month in office, the economy shed a staggering 820 THOUSAND jobs, and even the most recent modest job gains of ~80k over the last three months are LITERALLY more than an order of magnitude better, they either a) pretend you’re lying (bls.gov is part of one of the conspiracies, apparently), or b) pretend it doesn’t matter (I’ve actually been told such things as “well, yes, but those really bad job losses were only for a few months,” and “So? That was almost FOUR years ago!” (never minding the fact that we HAVE to–by definition–go back to the last republican president’s last months in office (or further) to have any sort of basis for comparison, but you know…things like logic and critical thinking were never conservative strengths).

And even on months when we have solid job growth, you hear things like this beauty of a conversation I had with a conservative not long ago:

During a discussion of our economic climate, I asked point-blank how it could possibly be better to be in a situation where the economy was shedding 800k jobs a month vs. one where we’re growing by 240k (more than a million net change)–that was the actual job number a few months back, when the conversation occurred.

I was told the following:

“Do the math. It’s impossible to have 240k additional jobs when the average NEW applications for unemployment stay between 400.000 and 500,000. You’ve been suckered into the Democrat campaign rhetoric. ”

(source — comments section)

I’m pasting my detailed response below because this comes up A LOT and I want to save myself typing later.

You’re looking at two entirely different stats and trying to add/subtract them. They are NOT apples to apples.

The ONLY way that you could reach the conclusion above is to erroneously assume that every one of those 400k – 500k new apps for unemployment was the result of a factory closing its doors someplace, such that the jobs those folks lost were gone from the system.

People get fired ALL THE TIME (and the company immediately casts about for a replacement). In other words, LOTS of people can get fired, walk off the job, have a falling out with the boss and quit, go on FMLA leave and stay gone beyond the 12 weeks and get replaced, etc. but the jobs they leave behind are still out there…someone else can get hired into those positions.

THAT is why you can’t simply take one set of numbers, subtract it from the other (net new jobs created) and cry foul.

Again, for the folks who believe in stuff like this…YOU are the ones who have been deceived.

One of the other more colorful responses was to write off the 240k number because we “need 200k jobs a month just to keep pace with inflation!”

As if this somehow invalidates the conclusion that +240k is better than -800k, but even aside from that, the actual number is more like 90k per month.

In any case, it’s rather hard to dispute the following:

The great recession began December 2007.

Mr. Obama was not president at that time.

January 2009 (Bush’s last month in office), he handed Obama an economy in free fall. The economy shed -820,000 jobs that month.

A large stimulus package was passed, using the idea that during Bush’s last quarter in office, the economy shrank by 5%. Later, as better data came in, we realized that our baseline was incorrect.

The economy actually shrank by 9%, meaning our stimulus was approximately half as big as it needed to be, in order to do what we wanted to do.

This (and no other reason) is why we’re not out of the woods yet.

Nonetheless, here are the measurable impacts of the stimulus:

We get a bit of confirmation that the stimulus was a success here (one of many).

Of course, it’s no big secret why the republicans must insist that the stimulus didn’t work….they didn’t vote for it! Despite the fact that the newly installed administration structured the stimulus heavy on the tax cuts and light on the direct spending specifically because republicans like tax cuts better than direct spending, and a genuine attempt was made to get them on board (this, despite the fact that per the Romer Report, tax cuts rank eleventh of eleven in terms of biggest policy bang for the buck when trying to stimulate the economy), none went for it.

None reached across the aisle to vote for a stimulus designed with their preferred priorities in mind, and given that, any admission that it worked would be to cede credit for the stimulus entirely to the Dems, a thing that’s obviously never gonna happen.

So the alternative is to simultaneously ignore the mountains of data to the contrary and pretend it didn’t work, and change the conversation.

The first part’s easy enough, and comes down to simple repetition. The second part involves stuff like my conversation above (either feigned or real ignorance about the nature of bls.gov stats), focusing on the number of jobs vs. the minimum number needed to keep pace with population growth (and inflating this value while they’re at it…I’ve seen conservatives throw numbers ranging from 150k to 250k jobs per month needed to keep pace with population growth, rather than the much more modest 90k), and most recently, there’s been this fabulous trend of pretending the unemployment rate “isn’t a real number.” Instead, the righties insist, we need to be looking at UE6.

Curiously, their very next inclination is to compare the current UE6 number with the Bush administrations UE1 number (which is, apparently, a real number) and try to draw some deep conclusion by looking at the difference.

I don’t pretend to understand the conservative mind, and I’d recommend not spending too much time and mental energy trying to wrap your head around that one. It may drive you to drink!

Four things are strikingly clear:

1) By any objective measure, the stimulus worked, and we are better off by far now, than we were with the economy shedding on the high side of a million jobs a month, as it was when the Republicans handed things off to the newly arrived Democratic administration.

2) Because not a single Republican voted for the stimulus, they get ZERO credit for its success. They don’t like this, and so will (obviously) pretend that it didn’t work and/or try to change the conversation away from that topic.

3) The stimulus could have been bigger. Should have been bigger. Sadly, by the time we knew this, there was no political will (on either side of the aisle) for more.

and

4) Had the Republicans cooperated even nominally after the stimulus money started to run out (even if all they agreed to do was stop the state level employee bleed), the economy would be another ~600k jobs to the good (which is a figure that far exceeds any “jobs bill” proposed by the R’s since they took control of the House, and promised a laser-like focus on jobs).

-=Vel=-

Update 1: Regarding point four at the bottom of this post, more than 700k jobs to the good now…that chart’s a bit dated.

Update 2: Typo (date) corrected, and thank you, Chris Simmons! :)

Update 2: One of our readers (LOLatGOP) pointed out the jobs graph above (added to the gallery of graphs refuting the republican claim), and the website (ObamaFTW.com) hosting it. Fantastic find, and a great addition to the conversation. So much so that I’m adding them to the blogroll! Many thanks, LOL!

Update 3: More evidence to add to the collection.

  • rustywheeler

    Mostly I want to congratulate you on the CORRECT usage of “order of magnitude”.

  • Velociryx

    :) Thank ya, and welcome!

    -=Vel=-

  • rustywheeler

    A pleasure to find you here. And here I thought you were only good for smacking down DB trolls… ; )

  • Velociryx

    Heh..you know, it’s funny you should mention TDB, as it is, in large part, responsible for this site’s very existence!

    I started out with a little forum installed on a $0.99 domain, just so I could have a place to keep the various research I had done in order to refute the talking points of the characters on TDB, and over time, it just sorta morphed into…well…this place!

    I guess you could call it an “accidental website” then.

    I like that! :)

    -=Vel=-

  • Chris Simmons

    Love your site. One error I caught above. Bush’s last month as President was January 2009, not January 2010. The last Presidential election was November 2008. I don’t know what that does to your numbers and theory, but if it’s only a typo, FIX it quickly!!

  • Velociryx

    Hey Chris, thank you for the kudos, AND for pointing out my typo! (numbers aren’t changed, that was just me trying to type at the speed of thought). Much appreciated! The post has been updated and (see bottom, “update 2”) I credited you with catching the error.

    -=Vel=-

  • http://twitter.com/LOLatGOP LOLatGOP

    What’s TDB?

  • Velociryx

    The Daily Beast…I hang out there pretty regularly with a bowl of popcorn. Conservatives say the darndest things there!

    -=Vel=-

  • http://twitter.com/LOLatGOP LOLatGOP
  • Velociryx

    ohhh! I’m going to add this graph in the update section so it has greater visibility, with a credit back to this site! That’s good stuff, and it looks like a great blog!

    Thanks for pointing that one out!

    -=Vel=-

  • http://twitter.com/LOLatGOP LOLatGOP

    I do think graphs add to the value and ease-of-use when dealing with slightly obscure things like this. People tend to read less on web (unfortunately) but visual aids keep them engaged. Here are some more graphs from that blog.

    http://www.obamaftw.com/blog/obama-stimulus-package-unemployment-rate-failhttp://www.obamaftw.com/blog/mitt-romney/obama-jobs-plan-romney

  • Velociryx

    Just superb stuff, sir! Hat’s off to you, big time! Of those, my absolute favorite is the one at the bottom, charting the rate of job growth vs. the top tax bracket’s rate. Pretty well puts the nail in the ol’ conservative coffin, that one does! Outstanding job! I’ll definitely be referencing back to those in blog posts ahead!

    -=Vel=-

  • http://twitter.com/LOLatGOP LOLatGOP

    Here is another which may be worth sharing. Critics of the stimulus have a habit of citing think tanks whose sole existence is to argue for smaller/less government as gospel and claim that all other think tanks are part of the grand liberal conspiracy. However, they have no such excuses for these non-partisan agencies. The private sectors ones (Moodys, Macroeconomic Advisers, IHS) especially since the private sector depends on them for economic analysis and forecasting (imagine the awkwardness of “free marketers” arguing that these market-based agencies are wrong on this)..

    http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/images/item/20091130-nytgraphic.jpg

    http://img695.imageshack.us/img695/7459/20100114arratable.jpg

  • Velociryx

    Oh, yes yes! I’ve seen that one before…love it…great stuff, and you’re right…it’s awfully hard to find fault with this stuff. Of course, if you’ve been successfully programmed, I guess you could find fault with about anything…which is why conservatives don’t even blink when saying 98% of the world’s scientists are ALSO (apparently) part of a globe spanning librul conspiracy.

    I guess if you’re that deep into the mythology, it doesn’t even occur to you how completely insane you sound when you repeat conservative fairy tales….

  • Velociryx

    Oh, yes yes! I’ve seen that one before…love it…great stuff, and you’re right…it’s awfully hard to find fault with this stuff. Of course, if you’ve been successfully programmed, I guess you could find fault with about anything…which is why conservatives don’t even blink when saying 98% of the world’s scientists are ALSO (apparently) part of a globe spanning librul conspiracy.
    I guess if you’re that deep into the mythology, it doesn’t even occur to you how completely insane you sound when you repeat conservative fairy tales….

    -=Vel=-