In fairness to President Obama, there was a small kernel of truth in his statement last week that the private sector was “doing fine”; it is currently adding jobs at a faster rate than the public sector. And in fairness to former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Wisconsin’s recall election did reflect a desire to shrink government and its payroll. So why did I call both of them “idiots” when I wrote about this on Saturday? Because neither one is making a point that makes anyone feel better.
In a strong sign of things to come in terms of campaign rhetoric, the two spent the entire weekend trying to one-up (one-down?) each other by pointing out all the ways each one is out of touch with the concerns of middle-class voters. Both agree that Americans are worried about the job market. Both have dug in their heels about whose ideas to fix it are worse. Neither one seems to have any idea what would assuage those worries. But I think it’s pretty easy to come up with a list:
- The local economy has opportunities available. I cannot stress the word “local” enough. The people who are suffering the most are the ones who can’t just pack up and leave for a city or state with a better jobs picture: They’re older, they have payments to make, they don’t want to uproot their families, etc. National numbers don’t mean much to these people unless they’re part of a long-term trend that might mean something for their community.
- The public-sector jobs that are available have an evident return on their investment. Teacher, police officer, firefighter? Sure. A bureaucratic title that goes on for six or more words (six being a completely arbitrary number)? Nobody wants to do that and nobody wants to pay for anyone who does that.
- The private-sector jobs that are available aren’t typically occupied by high-schoolers. I don’t know how many Americans get excited when they hear that McDonald’s is hiring 50,000 new assistant managers across the country.
- There is less need to alter their lifestyle drastically. Dipping into the kids’ college funds to help with the mortgage payments? Unable to take even a weekend trip for a year? Lost all hope of retirement at 65? Chances are, your lifestyle has been altered drastically.
- They’re not voting for you out of economic desperation. And that’s that.
It’s really not a job market, in general, that Obama and Romney need to be worried about. It’s a good job market. You’ll know things have turned around when millions of Americans with families to feed have a lot less pride to swallow.