Ah, the difficulty of interpreting economic numbers for Republican politicians.
Back in 2010, it was so easy: Clearly, anticipation of tax increases by President Obama and a government takeover of health care had caused the economy to tank in 2008. Everyone knows that.
But now? With solid (albeit hardly spectacular) jobs growth? It’s trickier. Is the economy still stuck in a rut thanks to the socialist in the White House? Or is it an economic boom — and if so, was it caused by the Bush tax cuts or by the anticipation of Romney tax cuts?
It’s on days like this that Republican operatives and GOP-aligned hack economists really earn their pay.
To be more serious for a moment … Democrats certainly shouldn’t be taking victory laps based on these numbers. They’re good, but mostly good in the context of what’s happened before. Remember, the economy needs to generate plenty of jobs just to accommodate normal workforce growth; even at the solid rate we’ve seen over the past three months, it will take years to get back to pre-recession unemployment rates. And unfortunately for the economy, one of the things that’s happened before are proto-recoveries that have fizzled out. Moreover, these aren’t — yet, at any rate — the kind of booming recovery statistics that propelled Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to easy reelections. So while the past few months have certainly been a solid step in the right direction for reelection for Obama, as reflected in his recovering job-approval numbers, he’s still not there yet. Which, too, is reflected in the job-approval numbers, which still edge out only Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush among all Gallup-era presidents.
Still, with the economy, at least for now, finally moving in the right direction, you can be sure that people are smiling in the White House and in the campaign headquarters in Chicago. And there are a lot of Republican spin artists who aren’t enjoying their jobs nearly as much today.