This morning I trekked on over to the White House. I’d gotten a press release saying that the White House Middle Class Task Force was having a round-table discussion about job creation. Silly me, I thought that because they wanted this event open to the press that meant the press might be able to participate.
Of course, the moment I had made it through the White House security measures (which these days are akin to the intro sequence to Get Smart) and waited to be escorted to a seat for the event at the Old Executive Office Building, I was handed a backgrounder and told the press would not be able to ask any questions.
Biden came in through the back launched into a meandering soliloquy about how the economy was back on track thanks to the Recovery Act, a.k.a. stimulus. There’s a lot of rambling, but essentially the Vice-President wants to pat himself on the back for this claim: “Things are going much better. Very few people doubt any longer we’ve created somewhere, as the Council of Economic Advisers said between 2.2 to 2.8 million jobs.”
I know you’re shocked to hear this, but Biden has his facts slightly wrong here. Actually, the CEA says the stimulus “has saved or created between 2.2 and 2.8 million jobs as of the first quarter of 2010.” I think everybody knows that there’s a huge difference actually creating jobs and claiming credit for saving jobs that you can’t prove were going to go away in the first place. So much so that the White House allegedly abandoned the much-mocked saved or created metric. (And that’s without getting into how the CEA sliced and diced Bureau of Labor Statistics data to arrive at that estimate in the first place.)
As for “very few people disagree” — well, that’s not true either. A survey of business economists last month found that 73 percent said the stimulus had no impact on their companies.
But no matter, because it quickly became apparent that they were uninterested making any sort of economic argument. The panel consisted of Biden, a friendly Democratic labor bureaucrat from New York state, along with two small business owners and two employees that benefited from a jobs subsidy program.
The whole thing was a farce. Suffice to say, that when the government gives people checks to hire workers they are grateful for the money. They told their stories. One of the workers on the panel, Tamara Washington, actually broke down in tears describing how grateful she was to have a job.
I understand that many people out there are hurting due to unemployment, but while sob stories might make for good politics — they’re a lousy argument for policy. There are lots of people desperate for jobs who are ineligible for government programs for one reason or another. Their voices aren’t being heard and they’re are waiting for the broader economy to recover, rather than trying to luck into a check from the feds. More to the point, the fact the administration would throw an event like this that is so obviously about theatrics rather than making the logical and factual case for their economic policies tells you all you need to know about how defensible they are.
Furthermore, this event was being billed as a White House Middle Class Task Force event, not a stimulus bill event. The White House Middle Class Task Force headed by the Vice-President recently issued a lengthly report on how to bolster the middle class. The report is essentially a weak argument in favor of a series of items that amount to a legislative wish list for unions — card check legislation, project labor agreements, high-road contracting policy and so on. Of course, only seven percent of the country (and falling!) belongs to a union any more, so how they expect to bolster the middle class by taking taxes from 93 percent of the country to shovel more money to the small minority in unions is beyond me.
I would have liked to have asked the two small business owners on the day’s panel about this. How are you going to feel when you start losing out on government contracts to union shops who actually turn in more expensive bids because the White House arbitrarily decided that this would be better for the middle class.
I’m sure had I been able to ask any questions, Joe Biden would have been able to explain the White House’s position and defend their conduct here, right? But at today’s White House Middle Class Task Force event, they didn’t bother talking about the White House Middle Class Task Force. In fact, for all the talking they did — nothing much was said.