The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on tepid economic recovery

Nov. 5

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on tepid economic recovery:

One of the most effective talking points for President Barack Obama and his partisans in the last presidential election was about the more than two years of private sector job growth in the aftermath of the recession that began under President George W. Bush.

The effectiveness of that boast underscores the political value of a trend that develops at the right moment in an election cycle: Voters recognized that job growth was not great, as Republicans tried to explain, but the trend was in the right direction.

Obama then won the election, running 3.85 percentage points ahead of the GOP ticket.

Today the political pulse is not so focused on job growth, in part because the president is not going to be on any ballots next time. But his party certainly wants to see more growth, leading up to the 2014 midterm election, than the anemic 148,000 jobs added in September.

Beyond the purely political letdown of the new numbers, the evidence is that the barometer of national economic health is falling. That has led the Federal Reserve to continue indefinitely its purchases of bonds to spur growth, despite earlier talk about “tapering” them off.

The job numbers also showed poor momentum going into the government shutdown that began on Oct. 1, the start date of the federal fiscal year. While there’s some debate about its economic impact, we’re likely to see worse numbers for job growth in October. That’s even if consumers still post good numbers on spending in September.

All this underlines what we see as the vital task for policymakers: stability.

The miracle of capitalism is that it can recover even from market crashes, but recoveries take time. We are encouraged that the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, says he’s against another budget fight that results in another shutdown early next year.

Next to the threat of default on U.S. government obligations, another shutdown is the last thing the economy needs.


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