• The Misreading of Barack Obama's "Private Sector" Comment

    At a White House press conference this morning, Barack Obama declared that "the private sector is doing fine," a statement that drew immediate derision from the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign.

    Despite the outcry, this is hardly the most controversial thing that a sitting president has said. Who, for example, can forget the temerity of Abraham Lincoln, who traveled to the battlefield at Gettysburg to symbolically spit upon the graves of Union dead by proclaiming, "we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground?"

    And must we be reminded of George W. Bush's chilling remarks on the eve of the 2006 midterm elections? "I'll never forget your face. I will kill you, your brother, your mother and your sisters," said Bush as he addressed the nation about the continuing threat of terrorism.

    Of course, in context, all the quotes, from Lincoln's, to Mitt Romney's "I'm not concerned about the very poor," to Obama's statement on the economy, sound a little different…

    "We've created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months. Over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing problems is with state and local government, often with cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help they're accustomed to from the federal government."

    Government employment has declined by over 600,000 positions during the Obama administration, a statistic that is reflected in the unemployment rate. Counterfactuals are difficult, but it's also plausible that not firing thousands of schoolteachers and bus drivers at a time that the federal government is capable of borrowing money at interest-free rates would have been good for private economy as well, since government workers also need to eat and buy clothes and pay mortgages.

    Nevertheless, this latest news cycle represents an improvement. If yesterday's coverage of Obama's oral sex non-reference are any indication, we're this close to interpreting the "private sector is doing fine" as a dick joke.

    Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images


    Tags: Barack Obama, Economy, Mitt Romney, Unemployment

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