Zeke Miller of Buzzfeed highlights this new wrinkle in President Obama’s stump speech: taking credit for some good economic numbers of late.
“We were losing 800,000 jobs a month,” Obama began Wednesday evening in Athens, Ohio, building to a new, triumphant tone as he leaned into the microphone. “Now we’ve added more than 5 million new jobs, more manufacturing jobs than any time since the 1990s. The unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent to 7.8 percent. Foreclosures are at their lowest in five years. Home values are on the rise. Stock market has doubled. Manufacturing is coming back. Assembly lines are putting folks back to work. That’s what we’ve been fighting for. Those are the promises I’ve kept.”
Obama delivered the same message to a crowd of 6,000 Thursday afternoon (adding the qualifier “nearly” before the doubling stock market) in Manchester, New Hampshire — both states with unemployment rates lower than the national average.
There’s definitely a story to tell about the rise of the American consumer. Housing starts, consumer confidence, retail sales and the unemployment rate all show positive statistics of late.
The problem for Obama is three-fold. One, we don’t yet know how durable this will be. While consumers are happy, businesses are grumpy, and it’s unclear who will win out. Just yesterday, first-time unemployment claims, a noisy weekly number, spiked back up.
Second, the Administration has been burned before with green shoots talk. Nobody can forget Tim Geithner’s “Welcome to the Recovery” op-ed in summer 2010, which was at least two years premature. So touting the economy without certainty that the good times will proceed is a risk.
Third, even if the recovery is stable, you still have a 7.8% unemployment rate and millions of Americans out of work, millions more in poverty, etc. And it borders on insult to broadcast this economic comeback when they continue to suffer. The Obama campaign is mindful of this, which is why they always hedge with lines like this:
“Now, for all the progress we’ve made, we’ve got more work to do,” Obama said, “There are too many folks out there still looking for work. There are too many folks out there who are still having trouble paying the bills. And that’s why we’ve got to keep moving forward to build on what we’ve already done.”
Politicians, as a rule of thumb, should always highlight the indicators that make their case the best. There is a story to tell about the economy right now; it remains to be seen whether it will be sustained.