Michael Powell’s New York Times story on the latest job figures made the lead slot in Saturday’s Times, with a headline portraying a revitalized Obama and a defensive G.O.P. “U.S. Posts A Gain Of 216,000 Jobs, A Lift For Obama -- Private Sector On Rise -- As Jobless Rate Falls to 8.8%, White House Warns G.O.P.”
One might not think an 8.8% unemployment rate would be cause for swagger and celebration, but you couldn't tell that from the Times's headline and lead.
The United States economy showed signs of kicking into gear in March, adding 216,000 jobs and prompting President Obama to proclaim a corner finally turned.
The president and his fellow Democrats pointed to the latest jobs report on Friday, and to an unemployment rate that fell a touch to 8.8 percent, as evidence that their policies, like stimulus spending and the payroll tax cut, were working. All of this, they made clear, could become ammunition in their showdown with House Republicans, who have spoken of cutting deeply into the federal budget and have threatened a government shutdown.
An emboldened Mr. Obama spoke of the political implications before several hundred workers at a United Parcel Service shipping center in Landover, Md.
Powell did offer some gripes from liberal groups about the numbers, quibbling about the labor participation rate and teenage and minority unemployment, but the headline, the lead, and the conclusion played up the Obama-helping line of light at the end of the economic tunnel, just as the 2012 presidential race begins to rev up.
Reporter Jackie Calmes accompanied Powell’s lead story with a page A3 “news analysis” whose headline was loaded with wishful thinking: “Jobs Growth Could Stump Obama’s Critics.”
President Obama has not had a lot of good news in a term defined by assorted crises. But on Friday he reported the “good news” about job growth in March to an appreciative audience at a United Parcel Service shipping facility here -- and did so with a bit more of a celebratory air, and less caution, than in the past.
After 12 months of up-and-down job creation, the significant increase in March suggested that maybe, just maybe, the economy was gaining enough strength to grow and bring unemployment down substantially this year.
And as the unemployment rate ticked down, the hopes of Mr. Obama and his party ticked up: perhaps by the approaching election year they could claim vindication for the stimulus policies Democrats have enacted, or at least dodge the sort of blame that Republicans so effectively stuck them with last November in the midterm elections.
At the same time it has given Democrats new ammunition to argue that Republican efforts to cut spending could hurt the recovery just as it is gaining traction, and that forcing a government shutdown could put more people out of work.
Since Republicans took control of the House in January, they have forced Democrats to agree to $10 billion in cuts from current spending and are seeking roughly $50 billion more. They will soon unveil plans for deeper cuts in 2012 and beyond.
Yet the potential for such deep cuts in domestics spending recently has caused a number of analysts at major corporations and economic forecasting firms to shave their projections of economic growth.
Calmes has long been a defender of Obama’s stimulus.