It’s difficult to overstate just how depressing May’s job report is – and how much damage it will inflict on President Obama’s chances for re-election.
It’s not simply that the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent, or that it’s remained above 8 percent for 40 consecutive months, or that in May we gained less than 70,000 new jobs. Nor is it simply the fact that in May the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased from 5.1 million to 5.4 million. Or that the average work week fell to 34.4 hours. Or that, as John points out, March and April’s jobs reports were revised downward. Or that in May, stocks suffered through their worst month in two years.
All of this matters quite a lot, of course. But what’s particularly injurious to the president’s re-election prospects is that May was the worst economic month in what is turning out to be a very bad economic year. The trajectory of events is down, not up. The economy is slowing down. Consumer confidence is dropping. Virtually every economic indicator is getting worse, not better.
This would be very troubling news for any incumbent president – but for one who has virtually no achievements he can point to with pride, it is triply damaging. Whatever fault one wants to ascribe to Obama’s predecessor, and whatever excuses the president can dream up, what is now beyond any reasonable dispute is that Obama has no clue how to fix things. That is not a political judgment; it’s an empirical one.
Barack Obama may be well-intentioned. He may be a fine father. He may have an excellent jump shot. And he may be a first-rate community organizer. But as president, he is simply — and by now almost undeniably — overmatched by events. By Obama’s own standards – by what he said and by what he promised — he is a failure.
For Obama, that is a politically lethal conclusion for a majority of the American people to come to. They were well on their way to arriving at this conclusion before today. They’re now further along than they were. And soon, very soon, there will be no way to undo it.