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Economy Adds Jobs as Washington Loses Interest. Coincidence?

8:45 AM, May 3, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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Today's big number is non-farm payrolls. And, thus, the unemployment rate for the previous month. The economists surveyed by Reuters called for 145,000 jobs and an unemployment rate at 7.6 percent.

The numbers came in at 165,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. Pretty close.

These numbers will be parsed thoroughly to discover some message about the future.  They will also be spun, excessively, by members of the political class.  The White House will declare that another month of job growth is good news.  But not, heaven knows, good enough.  From the other side, we will hear that the number confirms the administration's failure to bring the economy back to good health.

This is day-to-day housekeeping and easily ignored.  A more troubling and pertinent question might be:  

Has Washington Given up on the Economy?

Jill Lawrence at the National Journal asks the question and does not quite answer it, except to get Paul Begala to provide some political context:

Obama has laid out a number of constructive if less sweeping ideas, including universal preschool, a better tax code, a revamped immigration system, more manufacturing and an upgraded infrastructure. All would stoke economic growth and need to be framed in those terms. Constantly. As Democratic consultant Paul Begala put it at a recent Bipartisan Policy Center panel, “Every time you talk about immigration, explain how this is going to be an engine of growth, because the younger and more diverse our workforce is, the better we’ll be able to compete in the world” and the more jobs we’ll create.

And, then, Lawrence explains, something simply must be done about the dreadful Republicans.

It’s time for Obama to stop being so mindful of the political needs of Republicans  ... and speak up about the actual needs of the country. Try some relentless public cheerleading and promotion of his economic proposals, and leave Republicans to make and explain their choices. Sometimes you can overstrategize. Better to go down fighting, if you end up going down at all.

James Pethokoukis does his own analysis, off the Lawrence column, and notes this passage from the president's recent budget proposal:

In the 21st Century, real GDP growth in the United States is likely to be permanently slower than it was in earlier eras because of a slowdown in labor force growth initially due to the retirement of the post-World War II baby boom generation, and later due to a decline in the growth of the working age population.” 

And, Pethokoukis adds, ... if that isn’t bad enough, there are worrisome signs of a productivity slowdown and a less entrepreneurial culture.  

So, the answer may be, "Yes. Washington has lost interest."

Which begs the question: Might that not be good news?

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