Friday’s jobs report indicated that the economy continues to hum at a record pace, adding more than 200,000 jobs in August.
At a speech at the University of Illinois, former President Barack Obama offered up a simple explanation for the good news — himself.
“So when you hear how the economy is doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started,” he said. “I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this ‘economic miracle’ that’s been going on when the job numbers come out — monthly job numbers — suddenly Republicans are saying it’s a miracle. I have to kind of remind them those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016.”
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Michael Johns, a Tea Party activist and former speechwriter for then-President George H.W. Bush, ridiculed that notion. He told LifeZette that Obama spent years talking about the “new normal” in arguing that 1990s-style economic growth no longer was possible.
“He tried to, essentially, get Americans to accept vastly lower expectations, which Donald Trump has completely contradicted in less than two years,” he said.
The 201,000 new jobs in August adds to the 3,583,000 nonfarm jobs created since Trump took office.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) quickly highlighted a number of statistics Friday disputing Obama’s claim:
- Job growth has averaged about 192,000 per month under Trump, roughly 82,000 more than under Obama.
- The unemployment rate for August held steady, “near a generational low” of 3.9 percent.
- The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is at the lowest point since 1969.
- Consumer confidence stands at an 18-year high, and manufacturing activity is at the highest point since May 2004.
- Confidence by small-business owners is at an “unprecedented” high, according to the latest small-business survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.
- Unemployment for various racial groups has declined dramatically as well. The unemployment rate has fallen from 3.8 percent to 3 percent among Asian-Americans; 7.8 percent to 6.3 percent among blacks; and 5.9 percent to 4.7 percent among Hispanics.
This is not the first time Obama has patted himself on the back for job gains that have occurred after he left office. At a conference of mayors in Chicago in December, he attributed strong employment figures to his policies to combat climate change.
“As we took these actions, we saw the U.S. economy grow consistently,” he said. “We saw the longest streak of job creation in American history by far, a streak that still continues by the way.”
He added, “Thanks, Obama.”
Trump, speaking to a boisterous crowd in Fargo, North Dakota, derided Obama’s claims.
“I think he was trying to take credit for this incredible thing happening to our country. I have to say to President Obama: It wasn’t him,” Trump said. He predicted that “if the Democrats got in with their agenda … instead of having 4.2 [percent GDP growth] up, you have 4.2 down, you’d be in negative numbers.”
The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute suggested that Friday’s jobs report represents merely a continuation of a trend that predates Trump’s presidency.
“At this point, today’s report should look familiar to anyone who has looked at jobs reports over the past several months, or even years,” the group said in statement.
The organization, however, pointed to the labor force participation rate — 62.7 percent — in arguing that economy remains short of full employment.
Johns, president of the Tea Party Community, said he agrees on that point.
“It would be a big mistake to buy into the argument … of proponents of enhanced immigration that we have reached full employment,” he said.
But Johns argued that it is a stretch to call Obama a “job creator.” Even if one accepts the argument that Obama’s actions early in his presidency halted the bleeding from the financial meltdown, Johns said, the former president mostly continued policies begun by President George W. Bush.
Johns attributed the current boom to last year’s tax cuts and burdensome regulations that Trump has slashed. He questioned what specific policy Obama could even point to during his second term that would explain economic growth.
“Obama really did very little on the economy,” he said.
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