Not so fast, Mr. President

George W. Bush has started talking of the nation's economic woes in the past tense. Maybe he hasn't seen the new job numbers yet.

Published June 3, 2005 1:33PM (EDT)

George W. Bush has started speaking of the nation's economic woes in the past tense. At a fundraising dinner Thursday for Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, the president said that the county has some problems to solve but suggested that the economy wasn't one of them. "Now, we dealt with one of our problems, and that is our economy," he said. "We had some tough times for a while because of the enemy attack and the down cycle of our economy."

Before catching himself with the obligatory "we can't rest," Bush painted a rosy picture of the nation's employment situation, taking credit for creating 3.5 million jobs over the last two years while ignoring all the jobs that were lost during the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency.

So is the economy all better now? That's not what this morning's news suggests. May's job numbers are out now, and they're not good: Employers added just 78,000 new jobs last month, the smallest number since August 2003 and about half of the number required just to keep up with population growth. While the country picked up some jobs in retail, it lost jobs in manufacturing last month.

Why are the numbers so bad? According to the Associated Press, analysts say that high energy prices and rising costs for health care and certain raw materials "could be making some employers cautious." At the Talent fundraiser Thursday night, the president said that the "job of government isn't to create the wealth, but an environment in which people are willing to risk capital." If business owners are so frightened by the rising costs of gasoline and health care, isn't there an argument to be made that the president is doing the "job of government" all that well?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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