by Hank Boerner – August 11, 2016
The brilliant presidential advisors and later, U.S. Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said it best: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”
As I watch the current presidential campaign, the good Senator’s comments come to mind. So do the comments of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet (radio and TV) about “facts.” (“Just the facts, ma’am,” he would say.)
Too often, it seems, facts and fiction became intertwined and inseparable in the running commentary of the 2016 presidential election.
Let’s look at some economic facts in the hope that he American voting public can be better informed when watching the television news reports or attending a political rally.
Let’s start with these exciting facts for investors: Today as I write this (August 11) the three major stock market indexes all reached all-time highs, simultaneously. The last time that happened was 1999 – 17 years ago.
Today the most followed market stock market indexes stand at:
- Dow Jones Industrial: 18,613
S&P 500: 2,185
Where were we on January 20, 2009, as the new president was being sworn in? (Recall that was the time of the financial markets meltdown and investment portfolios were heading to 40% losses.)
- Dow Jones Industrial: 7,949
S&P 500: 805
This week’s market news is pretty encouraging for 401-k and IRA owners, eh?
Let’s look briefly at national unemployment rates:
- July 2016: 4.9 per cent
January 2009: 7.8% (would rise to 9.9% by December)
The web platform Politifact (published by the Tampa Bay Times in Florida) provided a scoreboard of the economy under President Barack Obama in June 2012 as he neared the end of his first term.
Fact: Overall inflation was 4.3% in 2008 / “Zero” was at in 2009
In the months leading up to the start of the Obama Presidency in January 2009, layoffs were peaking and the number of jobs lost — according to the U.S. Department of Labor — exceeded an estimated 7 million jobs…going, going gone as the Great Recession took the national economy into the abyss.
In December 2008 the U.S. Department of Labor described the situation this way: “…unemployment rose to 7.2% (from 6.8% the prior month); employment [fell that month] by 524,000; 1.9 million jobs were lost in the last four months of 2008; job losses were large and widespread across major industry sectors.”
There were 2.6 million jobs lost just in the year 2008 alone (fact source is CNN Money). The job losses in the U.S.A. were astronomical as the stock market cratered in 2008 and into 2009.
Consider: In September 2008: some 400,000-plus jobs were gone. In November 2008: 800,000 jobs lost. Layoffs continued into 2009, into the early months of the new administration in Washington (April 2009: almost 700,000 jobs disappeared).
Think of the ripple effect — if one industrial job was lost, economists’ rule of thumb was that three or four or more other jobs were disappearing, too.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported on August 10, 2016: Employers have added nearly 200,000 jobs each month since early 2010. (Remember: early in 2009 Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.)
After going deep into non-growth GDP territory in 2008, 2009 and toward 2010, we moved back into positive growth in 2010 and pretty much stayed there until today.
Check out the interesting charts at: http://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/chart-book-the-legacy-of-the-great-recession.
Last month — July 2016 — the country added 255,000 jobs.
Whether you believe the White House records or not, in March 2016 that was the source for this set of data: The private sector had added 14.4 million jobs over 73 straight months of job growth.
There was not all good news of course, and you can check out the full report with its data and charts here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/04/01/employment-situation-march
Look at the job gains as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor this year (2016) alone:
June almost 300,000
And let’s not remove from our memory the preservation of an important industry employing hundreds of thousands of men and women in this country: vehicle manufacturing and marketing. Politifact noted (September 2012) that employment for car makers and their suppliers was up 250,000 jobs from 2009, with sales rising for Ford (13%), Chrysler (14%) and General Motors (10%) in 2011.
That’s a long way from 2008: GM out of cash to pay bills, Chrysler reeling as well; Ford in better shape financially having mortgaged literally all of its assets just before the financial meltdown on Wall Street. (The New York Times, November 27, 2006 — USD$19 billion as factories, equipment, offices, patents, trademarks, ownership in Volvo and other businesses were mortgaged.)
The rescue of the auto industry began under the presidency of George W. Bush, using TARP funds in his last months in office (fact), and continued under the presidency of Barack Obama. The heart of U.S. industrial power, the auto & truck manufacturing industry, was rescued by the Federal government with U.S. taxpayer money — which has been paid back for the most part. And jobs were protected.
“Make America Great Again,” the apparently trademarked slogan for the 2016 campaign (should we put a “TM” or “patent pending” or “R” here?), does have a certain resonance. In economic reality terms, however, it does not reflect the true condition of the economy after eight years of the current occupant of the White House. (He-whose-name-may-not-be-mentioned-in-certain-circles. OK, it’s Barack Obama.)
We as voters are entitled to the facts – -not fear mongering, not the offering up of misleading “facts” or the rhetoric of provocateurs. Having facts we can make better informed decisions as part of our civic responsibility — that is, when we enter the voting booth.
This probably comes across as a partisan commentary, favoring one side or the other. My intention is to present facts — the word descending down to our time from the ancient Latin, meaning “…the thing that is done, the thing known to be true…” vs. factitious, descending as well from Latin “…imagined, made up, artificial, not real or genuine…”
As fictional detective Joe Friday used to say on the popular television series “Dragnet”: “…just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…”
Or in the expression of this era…just sayin’.