“If we have to drag the Republicans with us, then we'll do that, but, you know, it's been a whole lot of months, eight months they have controlled the house with no jobs bills coming to the Floor. – Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chairwoman
In a rambling interview with the Reverend Jessie Jackson on MSNBC, Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz pontificated on a number of issues. To say that Ms. Wasserman-Schultz’s perspective of events is different from mine is putting it mildly.
I have heard Democrat politicians and left-wing pundits ask conservatives, particularly those aligned with or sympathetic to the Tea Parties, “what planet are you from?” Indeed, the regularity with which this phrase has appeared recently indicates that this is now a Democrat talking point. Rather than fire the same question back at them and devolve the conversation down to the playground level of “I know you are but what am I,” this question has made me sit back and consider whether perhaps they are correct. Have I somehow fallen through an interdimensional gate of some sort into a strange bizzaro world where things are similar to but slightly different from the world in which I grew up?
As I sit here writing this, the market, in pre-market trading, is down yet again. Why? Well the article I am reading says it’s because investors are awaiting the latest weekly unemployment claims data, ahead of Friday’s highly-anticipated monthly jobs report, both of which are expected to be negative. The June unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, came in at a totally unimpressive 9.2%. True, this is better than the 10.1%, recorded in October 2009, but worse than the 8.8% rate back in March. The non-seasonally adjusted rate is higher at 9.3%, also up from a low of 8.7% back in April.
And yet, in her dissertation with the Rev Jackson, Ms. Schultz stated that “we’ve really begun to turn the economy around.” Really? Recently released numbers show that the Gross Domestic Product of the United States expanded at a singularly unimpressive 1.3 percent rate in the second quarter of 2011. Granted, this is better than the 0.4% rate chalked up in the first quarter, but far off the country’s average growth rate of 3.30%, and certainly not indicative of a country briskly recovering from a recession. About the best that can be said is that the rate is positive; at least we have not yet slipped into the double dip recession the financial markets are so worried about.
Hold the phone! Everything I wrote above (Thursday morning) is now OBE, because on Thursday afternoon, the market plummeted, with the DOW off 513 points. There’s market confidence for you!
Friday’s job figures were a bit more positive; unemployment “eased” to 9.1%, down a whole tenth of a point, and around 117K new jobs were created. Wow! Maybe we have turned the corner at that!
Then there are the stats behind the stats. First, there were 38K fewer people actually working in July than there were in June. Second, the number of “discouraged workers”, or those who were unemployed but not out looking for work during the reporting period went from 982,000 to 1.119 million; a 14% increase. The government doesn’t count these folks at all.
The average duration of unemployment increased yet again for the third month in a row. It is now at a record high 40.4 weeks – double what it was when President Obama took office, with a total of 6.18 million who have now been unemployed for more than six months, a number that is 130% higher than when it was when he started.
The government is doing more business though, even if the rest of the country isn’t. With a record 45.8 million Americans now receiving food stamps (or perhaps I should use its new name, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP; after all, “food stamps” has such a negative connotation) – nearly 15% of the population, the USDA is doing just fine, thank you! That number is up 34% since President Obama took office.
As far as the double-dip recession is concerned, no less than the left-leaning New York Times is now saying, well, maybe. At least they are considering the possibility. In fact, according to the Times, the economy is still smaller than it was in 2007. If that is the case, it doesn’t sound like we ever came out of the recession at all.
But there is some good news. President Obama’s 50th birthday bash at the White House was apparently a smashing success. There was an outdoor barbeque, Hollywood stars, dancing barefoot in the Rose Garden and hip-hop in the East Room. You can’t say he isn’t doing his part to inject cash into the economy!
According to a White House press release, President O paid for the gala event himself; no tax payer money was used to fund this event. Then again, this is probably another one of those “it depends on what the meaning of is is” moments. Michelle’s grandmother and the children’s godmother flew to Washington from Chicago on Air Force one with the president when he returned from his latest fundraiser. Presumably, the president didn’t cough up the money for their portion of the plane flight. Then there was the food, prepared by the White House staff. Did he pay their overtime for the event? Probably not. Then again, that is what the White House staff is there for.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the president was able to celebrate his 50th in style. I just feel sort of obligated to mention it, because I am sure that were this a Republican administration, and the stock market had just plunged 500 points, and the unemployment rate was 9.2% (and going back up), and millions of Americans were out of work, and the nation had just raised its debt limit to 16 trillion dollars, and we were overspending our budget by $1.6 trillion; were all these things going on at the same time that the president was having a gala birthday celebration at the People’s House, I am sure that the liberal, left-wing press would be talking about it non-stop. Just trying to keep things “fair and balanced.”
The markets were not too impressed with the jobs figures either, as they spent much of the day up and down, ending with a split decision. Although the Dow was up 60 points (0.53%), the Nasdaq was down almost 24 (0.94%) while the S&P split the difference closing almost unchanged, down 0.74 points. And that just about describes what I saw the markets doing this week to a T. It’s as if no one really knows what is going on or what to do. Between our economy and Europe’s it’s been a topsy-turvy week and I don’t expect it to get much better on Monday.
But let’s get back to Ms. Wasserman Schultz and her wandering dissertation with the Reverend Jackson.
Apparently, she lacks a basic knowledge of the foundational document of the United States that describes what her job as a U.S. Representative is supposed to entail. I have closely examined my copy of the Constitution. Article I at the very beginning spells out the powers ascribed to the Legislative branch of government; the requirements to become a member, what powers they have, and what they are supposed to do. The document is very specific in this regard. No where do I find anything that says that it is the job of the House of Representatives (or the Senate, or the Executive, or the Judicial branch) to write, enact, or otherwise occupy their time with jobs bills.
That isn’t to say that they can’t, just that it isn’t their job to do so, no matter what expectations Rep Wasserman Schultz might or might not have of them.
It does however state, in section 7, that “all Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” It also says, in section 8 that “the Congress shall have the power to…Borrow Money on the credit of the United States.” So for the past several months it seems to me that the House, in worrying about all the money we have been spending, and trying to shape a budget for FY 12, has been doing what it is supposed to be doing with regard to its Constitutional mandates.
It also says in article 9 that “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time. Too bad it didn’t address the issue of what happens if, as a “Consequence of Appropriations made by Law”, the Congress appropriates more money than the treasury contains.
It is also too bad that the framers didn’t nail down that “from time to time” business a little bit more firmly. It seems to say that the Federal Government has to account for the money it spends. This would seem to imply that government agencies should be able to be audited; how else would one know where the money was spent. And yet, over and over again we see that this is not the case. But the Constitution only stipulates that expenditures of all public money shall be published “from time to time”; it’s been a while, but I am sure they will get around to doing so – sometime.
Ms. Schultz had a lot more to say, including, incredibly enough, a push for lowering taxes, and some other verbiage that sounded suspiciously like “supply-side economics” (if it were a Republican speaking) or “trickle-down economics” (if it were a Democrat detractor). But it must be my defective hearing at fault; or perhaps I really have fallen through that interdimensional wormhole to a parallel universe after all.
This morning I heard White House press secretary Jay Carney saying pretty much the same thing, including the astounding statement that the “White House doesn’t create jobs.” Really? I thought President Obama said it does. I guess it does when it does, but when it doesn’t, it’s Congress.
Reading back through this it seems that my article has become as disjointed and convoluted as Ms. Schultz’s original interview. That’s what comes I guess of trying to write something over a period of days when the world around you is in a constant state of flux.
Food stamp use rises to record 45.8 million”, CNN Money, 4 Aug 2011
 “Unemployment rate – Seasonally Adjusted”, Google Public Data Explorer.
 “United States GDP Growth Rate”, Trading Economics