Monday, October 22, 2012

How we misread the numbers that dominate our politicsS

Source: "How we misread the numbers that dominate our politics"
The graphs above are taken from an article in the Washington Post by Zachary Goldfarb. His point is that Obama and Romney are citing different figures, each accurate in its way, but each seeking to make a point in favor of his own candidacy.

You need some background to understand these figures. The federal government functions on a fiscal year that begins October 1 and ends September 30. The budget for that fiscal year is submitted to the Congress in January, revised by the Congress, and usually appropriated by September 30. Presidents are inaugurated on January 20, after their election the previous November.

Thus Barack Obama was elected in November, 2008 and took office in January 2009. The government continued operating on the budget submitted to Congress by President Bush in January 2008, as modified by the Congress in 2008) until September 2009. The federal government had prepared a budget under President Bush for the period October 1, 2009 to September 2010 but the Obama administration had great influence in the appropriations for that period after it assumed office.

Thus the Obama administration policies took effect in October 2009.

It appears that the catastrophic fall in employment had begun to bottom out before that time, probably as a result of the stimulus package that was put in place under the Bush administration on the basis of a bipartisan agreement. On the other hand, I believe it is legitimate for President Obama to claim credit for the long term growth of employment after October 2009.

Of course, the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January 2011. It is clear that that Congress introduced gridlock in the legislative process. The Republican majority in the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate both influenced the federal budget that began to be implemented in October 2011. You will notice that there has been a slowing of growth in employment after that time, with a possible downturn at the end of that fiscal year.

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