« Los Angeles Times Poll Confirms Bush Difficulties | Main | News Flash: New CBS News Poll Has Kerry Up by 5 »

Views on Bush's Economic Performance

The Bush administration got a bit of welcome news today, with the release of the new jobs report. In March, the economy added 308,000 jobs, though, in the process, the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7 percent.

That's the first month of really strong job growth we've seen in this recovery. Here's some analysis from the Economic Policy Institute's excellent Job Watch publication that'll help put that one month of good job growth in perspective:

The Bush Administration called the tax cut package, which was passed in May 2003 and took effect in July 2003, its "Jobs and Growth Plan." The president's economics staff, the Council of Economic Advisers projected that the plan would result in the creation of 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004306,000 new jobs each month, starting in July 2003. After eight months of falling considerably short of that projection, job gains for the month of March finally hit that level. For the nine months as a whole, however, the administration projected that a total of 2,754,000 jobs would be created after the tax cuts took effect. In fact, only 689,000 jobs were created over that period for a cumulative shortfall of 2,065,000 jobs.

Since the recession began 36 months ago in March 2001, 2.0 million jobs have disappeared, a 1.5% contraction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting monthly jobs data in 1939 (at the end of the Great Depression). In every previous episode of recession and job decline since 1939, the number of jobs had fully recovered to above the pre-recession peak within 31 months of the start of the recession. Today's labor market would have 3.4 million more jobs if jobs had grown by the 1.1% rate that occurred in the early 1990s recession and so-called "jobless recovery," the worst record prior to this current period.

So perhaps it's not yet time for Bush to do his traditional "Mission Accomplished" act. Especially since the public, despite having lived through a statistically good month for job growth, is still in an ornery mood about Bush's management of the economy.

To begin with, Gallup's mid-March poll found economic pessimism higher, not lower, relative to their February poll. And their late March poll found Bush's approval rating on the economy lower, not higher, than it was in February.

The new Los Angeles Times poll confirms Bush's low standing in the public's eyes on economic performance. His approval rating on the economy in this poll--taken at the very end of March--is only 43 percent with 53 percent disapproval. And, among independents, his rating is an abysmal 35 percent with 63 percent disapproval, roughly matching his poor performance among moderates (35/60).

In terms of how well Bush's policies have worked, only 25 percent believe his policies have made the country more prosperous, compared to 70 percent who believe either they've made the country less prosperous (43 percent) or they've made no difference (27 percent).

And who would do best at "protecting the financial security of the average American"? Kerry would, by 47-34, rising to a 23 point margin (49-26) among independents.

The public, on the other hand, has full confidence in Bush's commitment to protecting the interests of large business corporations. By exactly 3:1 (63-21), they say Bush is more interested in protecting the interests of these corporation than protecting those of ordinary working people (69-14 among independents).

The public is also worried about the wave of corporate scandals that have taken place on Bush's watch. By 10 points (50-40), they say wrongdoing among corporate executives is a widespread problem in which many are taking advantage of a failing system, rather than a problem of a few corrupt individuals in a basically honest system (59-34 among independents).

It seems safe to say that Bush's problems on the economy are deep enough and broad enough that they are unlikely to be solved by one month--or even several--of statistically improved labor market performance.


1. Based on the administration's history with Medicare and other figures, how can we be sure these figures haven't been fixed? Any whistleblowers in the Department of Labor, please stand up now.

2. Even if the economy takes off, tax cuts may not be solely responsible, though Bush may claim they are.

2a. But the bigger point is this: It may be prudent to cut taxes during a recession (Keysian theory) - we Dems have done it too - but it doesn't follow that the cuts should be permanent - or unfairly weighted. Democrats need to make their arguments against permanent tax cuts simple and persuasive. That may be a difficult task, but it has to be done.

I've often wondered if the Bush Tax Cuts haven't exacerbated the joblessness in the economy, rather than, as he claims, to be limiting the damage. After all, if a business can increase profits through a reduction in taxes, what incentive do they have to try the riskier approach of increasing profits through business investment (i.e. hiring workers.) The war in Iraq and the sense of instability that brings with it depresses consumer confidnece and makes business investment all the more riskier. (I contend that although 9/11 had a huge impact on consumption, the war in Afganastan did not--and may in fact have boosted consumer confidence and reduced the sense of instability we all felt after 9/11.)

So had Gore been President, going into a recession and facing 9/11 and a war in Afganastan, but not invading Iraq and cutting taxes for the wealthiest out of proprtion to the middle class, I suspect that job recovery would have better matched historic trends. Bush may actually be personally resposible for the 2 million lost jobs and we may have had no net loss at all without his policies.

Not to mention Gore might have paid better attention to the terroist threats and averted 9/11 altogether. In that case we would likely still be concerned with the sexual exploits of politicians rather than Al-Queda--so some good has come from Bush.

David in Burbank should send his tax cuts vs. jobs comments to all of the major newspapers across the country I have yet to hear an analysis invoking the "what if Gore was president" hypothesis so well stated. Of course we would have had the recession, of course if 9/11 wasn't averted we would have attacked Afganistan, but there is no doubt that we also wouldn't have had these immoral tax cuts that's right Dems, immoral and we can be absolutely certain that we would have never invaded Iraq.

That use of the word immoral is important, and it may be crucial in response to Gary Moss's argument against allowing these tax cuts to be permanent. I want to say it again: immoral. It's a word every Conservative and every Republican loves, and on this issue its use is surprisingly truthful and precise.

I have a question related to the sudden spurt in job growth for March: weren't most (or all) of these jobs in the public sector?

I am doing a school debate, and i am on the bush side. I was wondering if some one could give me some info on bush and kerrys views on taxes.