REPORT ON JOBS
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today is spin day in Washington. As the first Friday of the month, we just received a report on jobs this morning. The report shows the unemployment rate is little changed at 5.7 percent. But some 308,000 new jobs were added last month, the most in 4 years, and about 3 times more than Wall Street predicted.
Over the past year, we have added three-quarters of a million new jobs. But since this is an election year, we will hear some say this jobless rate today is a disaster. In fact, the number is irrelevant. Whatever number came out today, some are prepared to spin it as a disaster. Why? Well, I think we all know this is an election year, and one party can't win the White House if the economy is doing well. Therefore, the "sky is falling" crowd has to spin the wheel of misfortune, telling us good news is in fact bad news. They are going to try to convince us good news is really bad news. It is a sort of newspeak approach. But it is not that easy.
This town is full of people very experienced when it comes to putting lipstick on a pig. But this is different. This is like scribbling a mustache on the Mona Lisa. It is not so easy, but it can be done. For example, you can do it if you first ignore all of the facts around you-just ignore them all. Next you have to ignore your own past claims that the same fact was a good fact. Lastly, you have to search very hard to find a dark lining in the silver clouds, take that one fact and wrap some blue-in-the-face hyperbole around it, and repeat it day after day after day until anyone hearing it turns blue, too.
The reason you can keep repeating that scratched, warped record is because it may be the only sad song you can play. The simple facts, the overwhelming weight of facts, are on the President's side.
First, the U.S. has had the strongest economic growth of any modern economy over the past 12 months. Let me repeat that. The United States-our country-has had the strongest economic growth of any modern economy over the past 12 months. Our 4.3-percent economic growth rate is the best economic performance in the world. But we are told this stunning success is bad, that somehow the best is the worst.
Absolutely wrong. The U.S. economy is the best. This chart illustrates the point. It compares the U.S. growth rate over the last 12 months-this line-with Australia, Japan, Britain, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Austria, France, euro area, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Netherlands. It compares to all of the industrialized world. We had dramatically better growth than any other country. The only one close to us is Australia.
Not only did we do well over the last 12 months, but what is projected? The U.S. is projected to have the strongest economic growth among developed countries in the next year.
So let's look ahead at the projections. The consensus of international economists, as reported in the Economist, indicates the U.S. will have 4.7 percent growth this year. While far and away the best projection for growth in the industrialized world, we are told that somehow here at home the worst is yet to come. Look at the projections.
Over the next year, we are projected to have the strongest GDP growth of any country in the industrialized world. But they will continue to try to convince us that the best is not here.
The U.S. jobs record compared to other modern economies is indeed reason for optimism, in fact even pride. Not only is there reason for optimism, there is reason for pride. America has an unemployment rate almost one-third less than that of Europe's, with 5.7 percent here, 8.8 percent in Europe. We have an unemployment rate that is one-third less than Europe. Of all the European nations, only the three EU members have a local unemployment rate lower than the national unemployment rate in the U.S. So the U.S. jobs record is the best of Europe, Australia, and Canada. The U.S. jobs record is the best of any of these industrialized nations-any of them. Ours is better.
Next, let's compare America's job record today to that of our own past, because we have heard a lot of discussion about our economy today versus what it used to be like in the "good old days," as they say.
It is clear that America is on a course to have the best jobs decade in half a century, the decade we are currently in. Right now, America is poised to experience the best decade, in terms of the unemployment rate, in 50 years. The decade we are in now is likely to be the best, in terms of unemployment, in 50 years.
We are halfway to the best jobs decade in half a century. From 2000 to 2004, it was 5.2 percent. Looking at the same first 4 years in the previous decade, it was 6.6 percent. The first 4 years in the 1980s, it was 8.3 percent. Look at the first of the 4 years in the 1970s, when it was 5.4 percent. In the first 4 years in the 1960s, it was 5.7 percent. Back in 1950 to 1954, it was 4 percent.
So we are on the way to having the best jobs decade in the last 50 years. Again, some will try to convince the American people that things are not going well. If the unemployment rate for 2004 stays around 5.7 percent for the year-no improvement at all but no worsening-then the unemployment rate for the period of 2000 to 2004 will be 5.2 percent. How does that compare to the jobs performance in the first half of the previous decade? I just went over it. We are in the process of having the best first half of the decade in terms of jobs performance in the last 50 years.
But, again, we are told that somehow the best is the worst. The sky is falling crowd is wrong again. The best is still the best. It is funny how they thought the best was the best not long ago.
For example, in 1996, another election year, we had some around here who thought a 5.6-unemployment rate was something to crow about. They were happy about it. Back in 1996, when we had an incumbent President running in the other party and the unemployment rate was about what it is today, they were crowing about it.
When the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent under President Clinton in 1996, Senator Kerry said:
Unemployment is down. The economy is doing well.
He said that in 1996 when we had essentially the same unemployment rate we have today.
Also that year, Senator Kerry was bragging about the fact that "unemployment is the lowest in the industrial world," when it was essentially what it is today. He was bragging about it then; this was terrific then but it is not so good today.
When the unemployment rate was at 5.6 percent under President Bush, Senator Kerry said:
The fact is that Americans are worse off.
The bottom line is, for America's workers, there is no "greater prosperity" under George Bush.
These comments were made when the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent, just recently. These other comments were made when the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and President Clinton was running for reelection in 1996. The same individual, looking at the same unemployment figure, one time acted as if it is something to applaud, and next suggested the country is going to heck in a handbasket.
It is kind of funny how they thought the best was the best not so long ago. As I just said, in April of 1996, Senator Kerry said:
Unemployment is down. The economy is doing well.
He praised the economy, saying unemployment was the lowest in the industrialized world. That is what he said when unemployment was at 5.6 percent in April of 1996. But now, facing the same facts in the last week or two, it is somehow not good news.
So when unemployment is 5.6 percent under a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, it is the best of times; when it is 5.6 percent under President Bush, it is the worst of times.
That is just spin: 5.6 percent is the worst of times under George Bush; 5.6 percent is the best of times under Bill Clinton. It is just Washington spin.
Does anyone not have any memory around here? Today we will hear the same debate but with a different number. The unemployment rate edged up to 5.7 percent. We will hear that a 5.7 percent unemployment rate was good back then but bad now. So why is a 5.7 percent unemployment rate good then and bad now?
They claim millions of jobs have been lost since President Bush took office, creating, as you have heard them say, the worst performance since the Great Depression. Think of that. They believe today is like the Great Depression.
In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt stated:
I see one-third of our Nation ill housed, ill clad, and ill nourished.
Yet we are told that today, when home ownership is the highest ever recorded-home ownership is the highest ever recorded-when the poverty rate is the fourth lowest in a quarter century, and when we have the strongest economy in the developed world, we are practically in a Great Depression.
On what single fact do they hang this utterly absurd charge? Actually, they don't have a fact but, rather, they have a survey of business establishments. That survey suggests that from March 2001 to February 2004, payroll jobs are down by 2.5 million.
Of course, another survey of jobs, the household survey, says that we have more jobs now than at any time in our history, 138 million jobs-138 million jobs-the most in our history under the household survey. We have not lost jobs by this measure; we have gained jobs, half a million jobs more than at any time in American history, leading to the question: Which survey is right?
Let's look at the statistical abstract for 2003. If you look at this abstract, which is the final word on facts and statistics in America, you will not see the measure showing job loss. Instead, the statistical abstract uses the job measure that says the U.S. today has the most jobs ever in our entire history.
This is the Economic Report of the President. Whether it is the report of a Democratic President or a Republican President, this report uses the job measure that says the U.S. today has the most jobs ever.
If you look at the unemployment rate announced today by the Labor Department, the unemployment rate calculation by that Department and repeated by every newspaper, TV, and radio, uses the job measure that says the U.S. has the most jobs ever-the most jobs ever-in our history.
If you ask the farmer, if you ask the self-employed worker, the private household worker, the domestic servant, or the family-run business, they are part of the job measure that says the U.S. has the most jobs ever-the most jobs ever.
These workers, roughly some 8 million and some of the hardest working in our country, the "sky is falling crowd" does not count these workers under the measure they use. We think they work for a living. My friends across the aisle apparently do not.
So, you can make this absurd charge about job losses if you ignore the statistical abstract, if you ignore the Presidential reports, if you ignore the Department of Labor's unemployment rate, and if you ignore 8 million workers, but after all is said and done, after we have all revved up the spin machine so that we are all dizzy, after all this is over, we are going to have an election. On that day, all the spinning will stop, and the American people will decide. They will decide if America is closer to the worst of times-the "sky is falling crowd" claim-or nearer to the best of times, as the facts suggest. I look forward to the day all the spin is set aside.
The unemployment rate today is a good number. We would like for it to get even better, but it is a good number. It is the same good number as in 1996 when President Clinton was bragging on it. It is the same good number as in 1996 when Senator Kerry was bragging on it. So I can say despite our challenges, despite 9/11 and recessions, stock crashes and corporate scandals, our economy is strong, our security is rising.
Challenges remain, of course. We will not rest until everyone who wants a job can find a job. But for America, have no doubt about it, the best is yet to come. It is not behind us; it is ahead of us. I think the facts are compelling that the economy is good and getting better.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The minority whip.