Matt Yglesias at Vox.com continues his cheerleading for the so called Obama recovery. Vox, a supposedly explanatory site only gave it’s readers half the story when it published this piece. Yglesias begins his May 29th post by claiming that detractors of the economy have had to replace their “high unemployment” talking points with “no wage growth.” By this he means Republicans used to attack the President on the economy when the unemployment rate was high but now that it is 5.4% they have to concentrate on sluggish wage growth. Now the BLS is reporting that wage growth has gone up since last year. However I believe the “talking point” regarding the employment picture is still a good one because it isn’t as strong as Yglesias and others would have us believe.
According to the BLS the labor participation rate was 62.8%, the lowest rate since 1978. If the job market was strong it would cause more people to look for work and the rate would go up, consequently pushing the unemployment rate up because the economy is creating jobs barely above population growth. Furthermore, if the labor market was so strong we wouldn’t have record numbers of food stamp recipients. Republicans should still be hitting the President on the jobs front because it is by no means strong.
Let us now take a look at Yglesias pointing to a BLS chart showing income growth from 2013 to 2014. This is definitely good news, but not something to crow about as he does. It might have grown modestly in the past year but it still hasn’t recovered from the Great Recession. In fact as has been reported at 538.com, the Census Bureau says current median household income is still 8.34% lower than its peak in 2007. Also, as even Yglesias admits, this chart doesn’t tell the whole story. He says “some of the increase is coming on the cost of living side (cheaper gasoline) rather than bosses giving out normal raises.” Since this President has said ’we cant drill ourselves’ to lower gas prices and under this President oil production increased only on private lands, production on Federal lands he controls has fallen by 6%, how can he take any credit for this outcome?
Yglesias ends his post by saying the data also shows that most of the increases are going to non-supervisory workers, therefore it is a “rare example of a trend toward greater economic equality.” That is a bit of a reach for Yglesias since all other data shows that income inequality has gotten worse under President Obama. While it might sound good to say that inequality is going down, most people don’t care how well others are doing as long as they feel they are improving. Most Americans don’t feel that they are better off which befuddles people like Yglesias, leading to these stories that purport to show they are wrong. While it is cute to see pom pom waving, Vox doesn’t do its readers any good when it allows posts to proclaim good news because of one chart with no context to tell the whole story.