These new and very sobering job figures force us to look back at the last two years, coming up as we are on the second anniversary of the Great Crash of 2008. People grouse a lot about the shortcomings of the Health Care Reform bill or Wall Street Reform. Myself, not so much. But that’s because my politics are a little different. From the perspective of someone who believes in single payer, certainly the Reform bill doesn’t go far enough. All that said, though, I think we’re seeing that the critical misjudgments — both political and in policy terms were made well, well before. All the way back to the first months of the administration, when Tea Parties were still about tea and the president’s approval ratings were still sky high. It was the Stimulus Bill. It just wasn’t big enough. Something a whole lot of people said at the time.
Yes, in the world of cable talk shows we can have moronic discussions about whether the Stimulus Bill created the crisis (on some sort of time machine basis) or whether it actually created jobs or a whole bunch of other nonsense. But a lot of history and a growing number of studies of the last two years show very clearly that the Stimulus Bill worked really well at filling the demand gap created by the Crash — shaving down unemployment and creating substantial growth that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. What would have been catastrophe was pulled back to the merely terrible. That’s a fact for anyone who doesn’t have a political or monetary interest in saying otherwise. But it wasn’t enough.
Now, before going any further let’s be totally candid and concede that getting this one through was no walk in the park. Even when Obama was strong, his team really had to work at getting this one passed. Since then congressional Republicans have followed a concerted and deliberate strategy of starving the recovery through various means including stopping unemployment benefit extensions. But it was always clear there was only going to be one real bite at this apple. And it just wasn’t enough. Why the White House predicted a max out at 8.5% unemployment I’ll never know since that was not only a politically unhelpful number, it was also deeply unrealistic. I suspect a lot of Democrats are going to go down to defeat because of it.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.