President Obama says the private sector is ‘fine’


It’s fine, guys. Fine. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Friday morning, the president took the opportunity to hold a brief news conference about the economy. It was pretty clear that he knew how bad things were, because he tried to take the long perspective on job creation and point out all the other people you could possibly blame — Congress, Europe — for everything currently going on.

“We’ve created 4.3 million jobs in 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone,” he noted. “The private sector is doing fine.”

Ah.

He continued: “Where we’re seeing problems is with state and local government. Often with cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help they’re accustomed to from the federal government. If Republicans want to be helpful ... what they should be thinking about is how do we help state and local governments.”

Some people seemed a bit startled that even in passing on his way to blaming the actions of Republican governors, the president would say “The private sector is doing fine.” Journalist David Leonhardt quipped, “Is the private sector doing ‘fine’? If you mean ‘between bad and good, yes.’ But no, not if you mean ‘satisfactory.’ ”

It depends, so to speak, on what “fine” means. Fine could also mean slender or narrow, like the tip of a pen, and that could work, although it’s not really an adverb.

But maybe he just wanted us to take the long view. If so, he should have said something more like this:

“We’ve created 4.3 million jobs in 27 months. Over the past 360 months we’ve created billions of jobs. Over the past 3,600 months we fought a great revolution against Britain and created literally trillions of jobs moving from rudimentary handicrafts to machine tools. If you are not working in a cottage on a foot-powered loom, that is only because of our tireless efforts.

A mere 4.6 billion years ago, the earth did not exist! Very few people had jobs at that time.

The private sector is fine. At least that is what it told me. ‘How are you doing, private sector?’ I asked it, and it said, ‘I’m fine!’ and stomped off to its room and I could hear something that sounded like faint sobbing and shoes being flung at the wall. But it said it was fine.

Look, in the scheme of things, a lot of people are still doing fine — for instance, Mitt Romney. He’s made a lot of money lately, and for that, I take credit.

Sure, we may be in a rough patch. But this week there were many, many fewer zombie face-eating attacks than you would have expected. Only, like, two. That's not too bad, right? I know that you didn’t have any during the Clinton era, but please, let’s just stop comparing me to Bill. He made eight years of zombie-attack-free-presidenting look so easy.

Look, this has been a tough week. Not only all the economy news; the press pool two nights ago thought that I was making a crude fellatio joke about the first lady. I was talking about push-ups! Now my home life is deeply uncomfortable. Has the private sector had to come home and explain this headline to Malia? No? Then I think it’s doing fine.

My point is, the private sector has not bitten anyone’s face off lately, and for that we should be grateful.

No more questions.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".

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