James Pethokoukis produces seven different charts on the economy over the last several years, decade, thirty years, and dating back to 1916, proclaiming them the "most illuminating economic charts of 2011". The first chart is the infamous chart of projected unemployment deployed by Obama White House economic advisors Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer, updated to the present day, and which may well sink a second Obama term. The best that can be said about it is that they were wrong.
The second illustrates the shockingly rapid decrease in the size of the work force since 2008, without which the U-3 unemployment rate would be above 11%. I don't believe that the Great Depression of the 1930s was the Great Vacation and I don't believe that about the late recession and subsequent weak recovery, either.
Others include a chart of median income and consumption since 1980 (a different take on the declining median incomes story), a chart of the percentage of total wealth possessed by the top 1% of income earners since 1916, a comparative chart of recoveries from recessions over the last 30 years, and a projection of the rising level of public debt.
For each of the charts there's probably another chart that illustrates its opposite or places the blame on somebody else. What I think that most strongly partisan Republican and strongly partisan Democrats miss in the food fight is that the number of Americans affiliated with either party is actually falling and the number of independents is rapidly overtaking the number of registered Republicans. I think they care more about what will be done than about whose fault it was.
What is President Obama going to run on in 2012? That it's all Bush's fault and that four more years of Congressional gridlock is just the ticket for healing the country's ills? It's more likely he'll try to emulate Harry Truman and run against the do-nothing Congress which seems like a pretty good strategy considering Congress's popularity is substantially lower than his. Employing that strategy without undermining the Democrats' continuing control of the Senate will be extremely delicate.
And then there are the pesky facts. President Obama got very much what he asked for in the first two years of his term. Largest fiscal stimulus in the history of the Republlic? Check. Continuing the bailouts started by the Bush Administration? Check. Healthcare reform? Check. Don't like the Bush tax cuts? The Obama White House asked that they be extended. Blaming the White House's asking for the wrong things on Bush or the Republican House may not be that easy a sell.
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