Well, America, you can relax now. The Obama administration would like you to know that unemployment won’t be a factor in your 2012 presidential voting decision—at least if you take the word of top Obama adviser David Plouffe, who’s making the big bucks specifically to be considered credible enough to speak on his boss’s behalf as “senior adviser.”
Plouffe told Bloomberg news: “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP [gross domestic product] or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the President makes decisions based on me and my family?’ “
In other words, Plouffe is suggesting that despite employment rising back up to 9.2% after dropping below 9% in March, and consumer confidence crashing again this month after a recent uptick—perhaps when you start getting the credit card statements for your “consumer confidence uptick spree”—you’re not going to pay attention to any of it, because it won’t jibe with what’s in your heart. And in your heart will be Obama, who cares about you and your loved ones. Knowing that will make all the difference in the world, and have you smiling all the way to the voting booth, where you will be so overwhelmed with the love coming all the way from Washington that you will wipe away tears and drool, and once again mark the ballot for your savior—the Second Coming of Jimmy Carter—while your wallet weeps softly.
I think Plouffe has misunderstood political spin and how it works, and by doing so has inadvertently (or not) taken us all for total idiots. While it’s true that political communication works best if numbers and statistics can be translated into human, relatable terms and described to each person in the context of what it means to him or her personally, there has to be at least a reasonable resemblance between the quantifiable hard facts and the related translation into words. When Plouffe tells us that the turbulence isn’t a big deal and we shouldn’t care what the instruments on the flight deck indicate, we still have to be able to look out the window of the plane and not see individual blades of grass on the ground below rapidly coming into focus.
Every poll indicates that not only are jobs and the economy the most pressing concern for Americans, but Americans feel that other concerns pale in importance by comparison. That’s a really unfortunate reality for Plouffe.
In a late-June CBS poll, “The most important problem facing the country today” was considered economy/jobs at 53%, followed by the budget deficit at 7%, and health care at 4%. In a Bloomberg poll, unemployment/jobs came in at 42%, with government spending next at 17%. A Fox News poll again found economy/jobs to be Americans’ top concern at 50%, before deficit/spending at 22%.
Now, I’m not being paid as an elite adviser to the most talented teleprompter reader ever to grace the Oval Office, but I suspect that these public opinion figures could be indicative of what we might call a “trend.” Would Plouffe like us to ignore those numbers too? If we ignore numbers meant quantify our gut feeling in order to go with the gut feeling Plouffe wants us to have, where does that leave us? In what mental ward?
Let’s ignore Plouffe, put our fingers in our ears for a minute—lalalala!—and dig into those nasty new job stats. From May to June 2011, workers who have been looking for work at some point over the past year but haven’t done so over the past month grew from 2,206,000 to 2,680,000. Of those, 160,000 more than last month have given up permanently. All these people have conveniently been excluded from the official unemployment rate calculation, despite being, you know, “unemployed”—and likely counted elsewhere, in government support payment costs.
In acknowledging the overall predicament, Obama said, “Our economy as a whole just isn’t producing enough jobs for everyone who’s looking.”
Let me fix that: “I didn’t manage to create more jobs with all of your tax money I blew on the promise of doing so.” That’s what he should have said. The economy is Obama. He was supposed to be the “domestic issues President.” Doesn’t look like that shtick is working out too well.
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