Bush vs. Obama: Jobs

During George W.'s first term, big government boosted employment. For Obama, it's the opposite

Topics: Unemployment,

Bush vs. Obama: JobsGeorge W. Bush and Barack Obama (Credit: Reuters/AP)

There is a number buried in today’s government labor report that deserves closer examination: 35,000. That’s the net number of private sector jobs created during the Obama administration to date. That’s right, it’s a positive number. After the worst economic disaster to befall the United States in 80 years, that’s a number that maybe we should be applauding. Remember: The private sector hemorrhaged more than 2 million jobs in the first three months of 2009 alone. The hole was deep.

Unfortunately, it’s still a tiny number, and it is dwarfed by a much larger figure: 607,000. That’s the number of public sector jobs — federal, state and local — that have been lost since Obama took office. It’s a story that probably isn’t getting told enough about the Obama administration: Big government keeps getting smaller.

But the real eye-opener comes when we compare Obama’s numbers to George W. Bush’s. In Bush’s first term, the economy shed 913,000 private sector jobs! 913,000! The only thing that saved Bush’s first term from being a complete economic disaster, in terms of employment, was robust public sector growth: The economy added 900,000 government jobs. One wonders: Without the massive growth in the public sector during Bush’s first term, would he have been reelected?



This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it punches a big hole in the theory that Bush’s tax cuts were responsible for boosting employment during his first term. Let’s also recall that the Bush recession (which he inherited from Clinton) was far, far milder than the near-Depression Obama inherited from Bush. In that context, Obama’s performance resuscitating the private sector has been miraculous. The Washington Post published an article criticizing Obama for not doing enough to resist job losses in the public sector, without fully acknowledging the political impossibility of additional stimulus after the first round, but we haven’t heard all that much over the years about how the growth of government saved Bush’s bacon.

Of course, Obama isn’t running against Bush, so that’s moot. But as this presidential campaign heats up, it might be worth periodically reminding ourselves: Bush led the U.S. economy out of a weak recession with strong public sector growth. Obama is leading the U.S. economy out of a near-death experience while a steadily shrinking government swells the unemployment rolls. Which magic trick do you think is harder?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>