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June 10, 2012

Obama Administration Not Doing Fine On Remark About Private Sector Doing Fine

At Nice Deb, an Romney ad (from Obama's Not Working) hammering Obama on the point.

Yesterday I asserted, and then, with help from readers, proved that this claim -- that the private sector is "doing fine" -- is no slip of the tongue, but an article of faith among liberals, including Harry Reid (making the exact same claim last October, while supporting the White House's "Jobs Bill") and Paul Krugman (continuing to insist, with the president, that the key to prosperity is more spending on government bureaucrats, government worker benefits, and more government, period).

Further proof that this is no "misstatement," but an ill-advised statement as to the president's actual belief, comes via his top political strategist, who three times refuses to say he disagrees with the statement. He simply will not answer; he keeps pushing other talking points, but will express neither agreement nor disagreement with the statement "the private sector is doing fine."

Conclusion: They believe this, and do not wish to deny it; they want to encourage people to believe this, and encourage people like Krugman to keep trying to convince a skeptical public of this.

However, they know they cannot say it. So they will continue playing this game.

Why can't they say it? Because Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg has found that focus groups react very, very poorly when this talking point is offered to them.

One of the President’s weakest operative frameworks [in the most recent State of the Union] highlights recent progress on job creation. This message is potentially dangerous for Democrats. During the State of the Union, we watched the dial lines go flat, with even Democrats peaking below 70 when the President highlighted recent jobs numbers.

In post-speech focus groups, respondents explained why this part of the speech did not resonate for them: first, and most importantly, they have not seen these jobs or felt the effects of job creation. But they are also deeply concerned that these jobs are not permanent, that these new jobs belie much deeper structural problems in the economy, and that the new jobs that have been created are far inferior to the more stable, full-time, well-paying middle class jobs that have been lost over the last decade....

Many told us that these statistics were meaningless because they are still just num- bers to them. One Republican-leaning participant was incredulous: “I don’t see the kind of jobs numbers that I hear about from him.”

Greenberg notes that a couple of messages -- one about "fairness," another one making promises to the middle class -- were fairly well received by focus groups.

But another message -- that "America is back" -- did not fare nearly so well.

In the State of the Union address, President Obama began using a new framework, one that claims that “America is back” in the world. During the speech, the President’s assertion that “America is back” produced an overall flat response across the dials with independents and Republicans responding negatively.

We tested a message that says:

America is back. Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The United States is back to leading the world in innovation, smart manufacturing, and creating the new technologies of tomorrow. After 10 years of war and occupation, America’s reputation has been re- stored. We are a beacon again for democracies and aspiring democracies.

Claiming that “America is back” is by far the weakest operative message and produces disastrous results. It is weaker than even the weakest Republican message and is 10 points weaker in intensity than either Republican message. Overall, less than a third of all voters said this message makes them more likely to support the President and a third said this message made them less likely to support Barack Obama. Alarmingly, this message barely receives majority support among self-identified Democrats—and even less support among all other groups....

"The private sector is doing fine" is not as forward-leaning as "America is back," but both messages are essentially the same: The economy is fixed; it's growing; people are getting back to work.

This simply does not track with people's experiences.

While it is true that about half of the private sector jobs lost have been regained, about half have not, and this "recovery" is now in its third (alleged) year -- we actually have not had a "recovery" yet, in which, over the course of a year or so, almost all jobs lost are gained back, and after which the economy enters a true expansion above previous levels.

"Doing fine" will be a sentiment the public believes when almost all private sector jobs have been regained, and/or the country enters a true recover period, adding back lost jobs a strong clip, a pace strong enough to suggest the recession (really depression) is actually over, or will soon be over in half year or so.

We're simply not there. This is a depression, not a recession, and even during the Great Depression there were in fact periods of job growth-- it wasn't always a period of job loss. What made the Great Depression greatly depressing was that every time the economy seemed to be getting better, it would turn back down a half a year later.

Despite periods of optimism and some signs of growth -- green shoots, as it were -- the economy did not recover from the Great Depression until after America's entry into World War Two.

I don't exactly blame Obama for sounding optimistic notes, but if the economy is in depression, as it seems to be, these optimistic notes are false notes, and I think the public senses that.

The private sector will be doing fine when it's adding 350,000 jobs per month. 69,000 or 77,000 or even 150,000 (which merely matches the pace of population expansion) is not "doing fine." That's losing ground, not gaining it.

With his term close to ending, Obama still has not grappled with the essential fact of the situation, and is still offering band-aid prescriptions -- political prescriptions, not real ones -- to a large and ongoing problem. And to the extent he offers any ideas at all, it's more of the same -- more money for Democratic Client groups.

He was elected to fix a problem, but all he seems to do is attempt to bribe relatively small, but politically crucial, subsets of the American public to vote for him and canvass for him.

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posted by Ace at 05:18 PM

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