I had barely finished reading Niall Ferguson’s takedown of President Obama when a flood of  takedowns of Mr. Ferguson started hitting the web. This post, then, will not be about his Newsweek piece, but instead about his recent Bloomberg TV interview with Erik Schatzker and Sara Eisen. And, in particular, one very specific part of that interview where Ferguson makes what is well beyond what I could even charitably refer to as a rookie mistake.

There are times folks say things that reveal much more about them than the mere words that come out of their mouths. Todd Akin had such a moment last Sunday, and I believe Niall Ferguson had a smilar moment during an exchange with Sara Eisen.

At 3:55 into the clip, Sara asks Ferguson about the private sector job gains versus the massive public sector job losses we’ve seen under Obama. (I’d add, as Sara alluded to, that this private sector recovery continues to exceed what we saw in the last two recessions, as I first wrote about two years ago.)

Here’s what, by my transcription, Ferguson had to say (emphasis mine):

Well, that’s not really a part of the argument I made in the piece. The point I made in the piece was that the stimulus had a very short-term effect, which is very clear if you look , for example, at the Federal employment numbers there’s a huge spike in early 2010 and then it falls back down.

Bloomberg went on to show the following graphic (which bears a vague resemblence to some work I did here back in June):

click for Bloomberg video

 

 

Niall, babe, I got one word for you: Census (pdf).

The spike in the graphic above – which Ferguson claims is stimulus-related – is actually Census-related. Bill McBride, over at Calculated Risk, has been adjusting for it in his jobs graphs every month (showing both with and without) since the numbers were made public. In May 2010, for example, there were – referring to the above-linked document – 564,000 temporary Census workers on the Fed’s payroll that Ferguson seems to think were related to Obama’s stimulus package. As one would expect, as the Census was completed, the government just “shut that whole thing down,” to borrow an Akin-ism. Adjusted for Census workers, the Bloomberg graph would look exactly as you’d expect – a fairly steady, consistent downward sloping line.

As I recently discussed with BR, and as he has written about countless times, this is the risk one runs when letting one’s ideology run wild – that one twists, contorts, and distorts the facts (in extreme cases, perhaps, without even realizing it) to fit one’s narrative.

A mistake regarding such a fundamental matter is inexcusable, particularly for someone who’s (apparently) taken as seriously as Ferguson, and who scores a Newsweek cover story. I guess, like Akin, Ferguson will probably claim that he “misspoke.” Or something. But, as my Dad liked to say, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Adding: I could not get to it earlier, but here is the same chart with the following changes: Bush numbers removed, Obama’s numbers reflect both with and without Census employees. You’ll note the green line looks very much like what Bloomberg presented, while the dashed blue line looks very much like I said it would.

 

 

See also:
A Full Fact-Check of Niall Ferguson’s Very Bad Argument (The Atlantic)

Niall, the British Empire is over. Accept it. (Noahpinion)

Niall Ferguson Has Been Wrong On Economics (Business Insider)

As a Harvard Alum, I Apologize (The Atlantic)

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Politics, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

106 Responses to “Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Going Viral?”

  1. Frilton Miedman says:

    I watched the interview, hat tip to Erik Schatzker for being a real journalist with substance and calling Ferguson out on his BS, that wouldn’t happen on CNBC.

    It’s one thing when some senator from the rust-belt can’t avoid making juvenile incendiary political insults, but for a man who’s supposed to be one of the best global minds in economics to state the “Lberal blogosphere” comment to attempt to discredit any disagreement with his distorted argument, pathetic.

    I watched the interview, thinking Ferguson would have a breakthrough in this polarized environment, instead, he added to the venom.

    I’m watching Bloomberg more and more lately, CNBC – not so much, it gets old listening to CNBC staff whine about taxes, I rather than discuss business news.

  2. carleric says:

    Does this graph depict changes in all government employment or is it limited to the Federal government only? If it includes state employment levels that tells a different story than if it does not. As you well know, most states have to deal with a balanced budget like it or not.

    Invictus: My best guess – with 99.9% certainty – is that the graph depicts ALL government workers (USGOVT at FRED).

  3. rd says:

    I think the Republicans should run against Obama’s record of shrinking the size of government payrolls and should tout the Bush record of increasing public payrolls to boost employment.

  4. streeteye says:

    If you’re going to be a pundit, you should at least be up on current events and be able to do a first order interpretation of the data. Kind of confirms those who called him out as a self-promotional poser

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/black-cats/

    What is he even known for? His book on the Rothschilds was a bore and hot mess full of unimportant details without depth or context.

  5. eliz says:

    …this is the risk one runs when letting one’s ideology run wild – that one twists, contorts, and distorts the facts (in extreme cases, perhaps, without even realizing it) to fit one’s narrative.

    True.

    However, the risk is to those who tend to rely on the information, and those who that reliance impacts negatively – not Mr. Ferguson and others who really are all about putting forth their narratives, rather than truth. I think we can pretty much count on this gross error as having no more than a 10 minute impact on Ferguson’s credibility in the mainstream.

  6. coleyc says:

    I guess there is not shortage of people believing what they want to believe. Barry, maybe you should read your own warning about posting BS. The first question is, if states went on a hiring binge under W. what the hell does that have to do with him? Second, if states need to trim the fat they added under W. and are now firing what the hell does that have to do with Obama? The chart SCREAMs for clarity on this. One could ask why the government felt it necessary to hire double the amount of workers we used in 2000. In 10 years the government found a way to double the number of folks to do the same job. Is anyone surprised?

    The federal government had nearly 2.8 million employees when the stimulus passed. (The exact number, important here, is 2.795 million.) Then, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

    The number grew to 3.4 million by May 2010. PolitiFact has examined that growth spurt several times and found it was because of temporary 2010 Census hiring, long-planned and independent of any White House action.
    By October 2010, the number of federal workers had dropped to 2.86 million and by May 2012, the most recent most available, it was projected to be 2.819 million.
    So, where are the FEDERAL JOB CUTS??????????? You are throwing state cuts to make your cases and its BS. I wonder if this will go viral?

    Invictus: Nice try, but I threw in nothing. I watched an interview and reported on the bullshit contained therein. I have (since the initial post) replicated the chart Bloomberg used. Ferguson said what he said. Did you even bother to listen to it? He was 100 percent dead wrong, and that’s a fact. You are trying to defend the indefensible.

  7. mcelus says:

    With 24/7 news coverage and every word recorded and instantly played back in some fashion, I think we can all find faults / mis-statements / misrepresentations in what people from both parties put out there. So while we can get red in the face all day long about it…

    The fact remains that 60% of our annual spending is on auto pilot, the defense budget even if cut in half will not make a serious long term dent in the federal debt or annual deficits that push it ever higher…and it is this debt that is slowly strangling the economy. And as Gross pointed out, that too is more a symptom than a cause…the real cause is a collision course between technological improvement and demographics, overinvestment in the capacity to produce the things we don’t need (tvs, cars) and consistent underinvestment in the things we do need (sick care, energy, food, transportation.

    Until either party gets up in front of the nation and honestly addresses the gap between revenue and spending, then I don’t care how much garbage is spewed from the mouths of our so called leaders. We are all aboard the global debt titanic and rearranging the chairs while we head straight for the iceberg that will sink us all. It will actually be refreshing if we’re finally allowed to hit it, to be honest.

  8. Orange14 says:

    To Feguson, Mankiw, Taylor, Hubbard and all the 400 economists who are on record for Romney I have one simple question for you all (especially Mankiw, Taylor & Hubbard for obvious reasons): how come the stock market is performing better under the Obama administration than under the Bush-2 administration? If we investors are to vote with our pocketbooks, the choice seems rather simple.

  9. Check the data says:

    BLS publishes data — the most recent is available at http://bls.gov/ces/cescensusworkers.pdf — that shows the number of employees each month working for the Census. The latest data shows the build-up and phaseout of jobs for the 2010 Census, as well as the temporary spikes associated with the Census in 2000 and 1990. With this data it is easy to construct an employment series that excludes the Census effect. Not surprisingly, the bump disappears in this series.

  10. RW says:

    Awhile back, Brad DeLong delivered some excellent snark on a Niall Ferguson gaff but it was a comment to DeLong’s post by “Empire Guy” that captured the essence of the dilemma:

    I was once having a discussion with a friend and colleague (both of us do, or have done, academic work on empires) about Ferguson’s “American Empire” stuff, and he pointed out that Ferguson’s an interesting scholar.

    Why? Well, if you ask British imperial historians about his work, they’ll say its rubbish but they hear his stuff on economic history is pretty good. When you ask economic historians about Ferguson’s work in their area, they’ll say its not so good but they’ve heard positive things about his World War I book. If you ask military historians about his World War I book, they dismiss it but mention that people seem to like his book on the Rothschilds.

    Not sure if all of these criticisms are right (his stuff on American Empire is rubbish, though), but I think it might capture an essential truth about Ferguson’s ability to maintain his reputation despite mostly contributing shoddy arguments to the public sphere.

    Ferguson has learned the essential Ponzi skill of continual motion and misdirecting chatter and will likely bluff this latest mess out — he is a tenured Harvard professor who provides the 1% with all the justifications for selfishness they desire (and Americans are suckers for a sonorous Brit or upper-class Scots accent in any case) — but this latest display of mendacity and legerdemain may further reduce the population of those who take him seriously or might even convince some of the 1% he was becoming shopworn and that would be a good thing.

    My own take is that Ferguson’s modest intellectual ability is over leveraged with the increased risk of crash that invariably implies.

  11. evodevo says:

    @ coleyc – Last time I looked, USGOVT meant Feds (unless the graph is mislabeled) ….

  12. theexpertisin says:

    However Ferguson arrived at his conclusion, his answer was correct.

  13. RW says:

    @coleyc, folks usually do believe what they want to believe, but the facts are: The federal government has also shrunk since the Census.

    The reason state governments shrunk earlier and faster is because Washington politics blocked sufficient federal transfer payments to make up for the states’ recessionary revenue losses. The only states that could fill the gap themselves were the few with commodities to sell, mainly oil.

    At the federal level, the gap between revenue and spending is primarily due to: (a) the Bush tax cuts, (b) unfunded warmongering and (c) giveaways to corporations; e.g., CBO: If Congress does nothing, deficit plummets.

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

  14. CitizenWhy says:

    Untra-right wing corporate billionaires are throwing a lot of money around, including buying off media and “journalists.” Could Ferguson be their latest acquisition?

  15. VennData says:

    Ferguson’s a spinmesiter….

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/paul-krugman-niall-ferguson-newsweek_n_1810136.html

    … not an academic. Being a GOP-Media-Machine talking head pays well.

  16. mpappa says:

    Short memories won’t recall the Dept. of Homeland security when Bush was forced by THE DEMOCRATS to unionize the TSA. That added significantly to the public payroll. In fact, Bush wanted to combine agencies and have the power to hire and fire (CONSOLIDATE) and the Democrats would not let him. I am disappointed such inaccurate commentary would be allowed on a blog who’s research is heavily relied upon by investors.

    Invictus: Assuming you’re referring to my post, would you be so kind as to point out specifically what part of my commentary is “inaccurate.”

  17. Bob A says:

    Don’t care about his record. The Two Stooges running as an alternative are unacceptable.

  18. philipat says:

    I think Invictus should, for the sake of fair disclosure should make his own political affiliations known, especially when accusing others of political bias. Although perhaps that would not result in any great surprises as all his writing demonstrates a consistent slant.

    Four years into Mr Obama’s term, the total number of jobs being created is about the number needed to absorb the new entrants into the job market. Total unemployment is not falling. Not a great record.

    Government now accounts for over 25% of GDP, similar to most of the European Social Democracies with the exception of Scandinavia and the UK, the latter because the entire population receives single payer healthcare coverage.

    Further, most of thePublic sector job cuts have been at the State and Local level where there is more pressure to cut jobs to balance budgets.

    It is not entirely clear what you are trying to prove but if it is that Mr Obama has done a better job at cutting Public sector jobs compared to prior administrations, I would note that budgetary conditions are entirely different now yet there has been no sense of urgency to cut at the Federl l;evel.

    Perhaps your point should be turned around to note instead that despite record trillion dollar annual defecits and an approaching fiscal cliff, Mr Obama was only able to reduce the total number of Public employees by 3 (Three) percent over a 4 (Four) year period.

  19. teraflop says:

    Wait, I thought Shark Week was last week. That census spike means we gotta get a bigger boat.

  20. Frilton Miedman says:

    Mpappa, seriously, mention of the word “union” does absolutely nothing to make an argument about the topic, there would have been no union to begin with but for the TSA jobs Bush created.

    I’m compassionate, I understand how Fox news has programmed loyal viewers to experience outrage and histrionics with certain key catch words, but this isn’t Fox…people aren’t going to get all riled up just because “union” was thrown into the argument.

  21. mpappa says:

    It’s interesting to me how limosine liberals decry capitalism when they made their millions under a lower tax regime. Now that they have their millions, it’s ok to tax those trying to climb the ladder.

  22. RW says:

    @mpappa, who are you calling a limosine (sic) liberal? Current tax rates are the lowest this century (see http://tinyurl.com/6rswa9u) and I made my millions when tax rates were twice what they are now w/ fewer exemptions to boot so WTF do you think you are talking about?

  23. louis says:

    I’ll take this slip any day in our republic over a securitization product.

  24. dfourth says:

    I don’t know if anyone cares, but the actual numbers are as follows.

    From Jan 09, private sector jobs are up 0.29% and total government jobs are down 2.87%. However, that’s somewhat misleading because public sector employment lags (up and down) the private sector by many months. For example, the private sector peak was Jan 2008. The public sector peak was in April of 2009.

    On a peak to present basis, private sector employment is down 3.74% and public sector employment is down 3.29%. Peak to trough, private sector employment fell 7.67%. It appears that public sector employment is bottoming out now. If that’s true, then the peak to trough fall in public sector employment will have been 3.29%.

    The source is bls.gov if anyone cares to check for themselves.

  25. rickw says:

    “If you’re not a liberal when you are 20, you don’t have a heart, and if you’re not a conservative by age 40, you don’t have a brain.” WC

    Despite all this nitpicking, if you think Obama earned another shot, go ahead and say so. I didn’t vote for him, but once he became my president I wished him luck because I felt if he were successful, my country would benefit.

    I now feel like I could have done a better job than he did and I think some of you could have too! Clinton is right, Obama was a rookie and it shows, especially the way he’s campaigning now. Call it moral equivalence if you must, but to somehow fault Romney for the death of a steelworker’s spouse is a lot different than questioning what Obama may or may not have done with welfare waivers.

    The real point is despite gov’t hiring/firing, I seem to recall that fed, state & local gov’t salaries/benefits have outpaced what people make west of NYC and east of Silicon Valley.

  26. philipat says:

    Invictus,

    For some reason which Barry has been able to identify, my posts always go into Moderation purgatory, perhaps because I am posting from Asia. However, when Barry is around my posts do always get posted because I never post anything profane or offensive, just a statement of opinion.

    However, when you are around, my posts never get posted. For example the post I sent earlier as follows:

    “I think Invictus should, for the sake of fair disclosure, make his own political affiliations known, especially when accusing others of political bias. Although perhaps that would not result in any great surprises as all his writing demonstrates a consistent slant.

    Four years into Mr Obama’s term, the total number of jobs being created is about the number needed to absorb the new entrants into the job market. Total unemployment is not falling. Not a great record.

    Government now accounts for over 25% of GDP, similar to most of the European Social Democracies with the exception of Scandinavia and the UK, the latter because the entire population receives single payer healthcare coverage.

    Further, most of thePublic sector job cuts have been at the State and Local level where there is more pressure to cut jobs to balance budgets.

    It is not entirely clear what you are trying to prove but if it is that Mr Obama has done a better job at cutting Public sector jobs compared to prior administrations, I would note that budgetary conditions are entirely different now yet there has been no sense of urgency to cut at the Federl l;evel.

    Perhaps your point should be turned around to note instead that despite record trillion dollar annual defecits and an approaching fiscal cliff, Mr Obama was only able to reduce the total number of Public employees by 3 (Three) percent over a 4 (Four) year period”.

    Is this apparent consorship formal or informal?

  27. louis says:

    The tentacles of circumstance, the real tragedy of the administration is all wrapped up in a CDO.

  28. courageandmoney says:

    BR,

    The political sides you take is getting old on the blog……Your defending Beaurocratc fools and and it’s not flattering or worth your time….Nothing more of a turn off then liberal leaning thoughts in times like this. Wish the blog stuck to more actionable market information. It’s your blog, but I think your inviting risk…..

    CM

  29. terryoldham says:

    Great entertaiment. One group of Ideologues ripping into another. Boy, THAT has never happened before. Wake when it over.

  30. gman says:

    “If you’re not a liberal when you are 20, you don’t have a heart, and if you’re not a conservative by age 40, you don’t have a brain.” WC

    There were also times when being liberal meant being for a 50% top cap gains rate and a conservative was for 35%.

    Now being a “liberal” means you support a 25% cap gains rate and “conservative” means capital should NOT PAY ANY TAX…0%.

    I am getting older and much wealthier and maybe even more conservative BUT the Overton window (range of discussion) is shifting so far and fast to the right in a radical way I will vote for Obama because on many issues he is to the right of Bush Sr.

  31. maspablo says:

    I wish the “experts ” who call BR out for his liberal leanings , would learn a little reading comprehension. and understand who the author of this post is !!!

  32. maspablo says:

    I’m sure, theres enough facts to fault Obama for , without twisting them .( which to me it seems Ferguson does)

  33. coleyc says:

    RW the graph above is garbage. USGOVT does not imply federal workers, a better and more honest graph taken from Federal Reserve of St. Louis has this http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CES9091000001

    Let me cut to the chase… 02/09 Federal workforce 2,795,000. 07/12 Federal workforce 2,813,000. So much for Barry’s asshattery. Oh and by the way for all the screaming about how Obama has done so much better than W. Bush, Federal workforce 02/00, 2,796,000 and on 01/09, 2,790,000. From an unbiased very reliable site, that many people go to for data. I even think Ritholz’s bs graph is from there but ITS NOT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

    If people vote their pocket books then it’s not a surprise Obama leads 54-37 among federal government workers. I can’t believe they could so loyal to a

  34. Peter Davies says:

    I speak as a Brit turned Canadian of no well-defined political persuasion.

    Ferguson is: a professional Scotsman, right wing ideolgue, mediocre academic, prolific author, skilled wordsmith, great bullshitter and media hound.

    He’s not an economist but an economic historian.

    He’s also a pompous little prick.

    Keep all of the above in mind and you will be well prepared to evaluate his “work”.

  35. Joe Friday says:

    Niall Ferguson thinks it’s some kind of conspiracy that so many people have pointed out that he is contradicted by reality. He even claimed that people should read “a little more widely than just official statistics“.

    OFFICIAL STATISTICS ? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ OFFICIAL STATISTICS !

  36. Frilton Miedman says:

    Coleye, though I’m impressed with the intellectual nature of the term “asshattery”, you missed a “small” detail…

    The graph BR posted is “public employees”.

    You posted Federal gov’t employee’s.

    You left out the mass layoff’s of muni & state workers – asshat.

  37. Frilton Miedman says:

    For reference, that chart is here – http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?id=USGOVT

  38. maspablo says:

    Some of us are a little lacking in comprehension skills , so no surprise them confusing facts! The author of this post is not Barry !

  39. martin b roberts says:

    In response to Coleyc, you argument is only valid in a very limited sense, and not in the way you are using it. In addition, as has been pointed out, it is totally irrelevant to what the post is about, which is simply showing that Ferguson is glaringly wrong in his statement about the 2010 spike in government employment being from stimulus, it simply was not in any way related to stimulus. If you want to say that the federal government has not shrunk at all in Obama’s time in office, you would be correct (although you still used the last year of Clinton for the Bush numbers, you should have used 02/01 – 07-08 to be apples to apples, but given the very slight percentage changes it hardly matters). So your point is that federal employment hasn’t changed with Obama, he didn’t do the cutting, the states did. Well the Republicans don’t advance that argument. In stead they advance that he has massively increased government. That is demonstrably false when looking at the federal numbers. In fact, based on that series, it has been near 2.8 million or above since the 60s and above where it is currently during the Reagan years, all with a growing population the entire time!

    Further, the Republican argument is that Obama has been horrible for the economy by not creating jobs. Intelligent democrats then trot out the All Government Jobs (including state and local) and compare those to the Bush years to show that if overall government jobs had been similar there would be no argument against Obama on the economy; it would nullify the Republican argument. Now, Obama did in fact have some control over the state and local losses. The Stimulus mostly went to stabilize state finances to avoid layoffs (and to some tax cuts to bring along Republicans who declined to vote for stimulus anyway). He also proposed some further stimulus to lessen those state losses (teachers mostly I believe) but those efforts were all blocked by Republicans.

    In short, none of your argument means much, but worse is that all of the Republican argument related to Obama and jobs and the economy is worse than worthless. There are all sorts of arguments to be made against Obama, unfortunately, the only ones conservatives make (Ferguson being the latest joke of a pundit to do so) would result in far worse results, not better ones. Of course, like I said in the beginning, none of any of this has anything to do with the post by Invictus (not BR) other than that Ferguson is the asshat.

  40. just another face in the crowd says:

    The FRED numbers are total government employees, at all levels.

    4.4 million people were employed by the US federal government as of 2010, the last numbers readily available from the OPM website.

    http://www.opm.gov/feddata/HistoricalTables/TotalGovernmentSince1962.asp

    Even though the chart says the 2010 figures include Census employees, it must be an end of year figure by which time the 550-700,000 Census temps were long gone.

    Federal employment levels have been remarkably stable over the years, especially in the face of steadily rising populations.

    Ferguson is about as fair and balanced as Rush or Sean Hannity. He shouldn’t be appearing anywhere but FOX or the increasingly right leaning CNBC.

    Invictus might start posting a banner headline over each of his always good posts, “I AM NOT BARRY”.

  41. [...] Eventually, however, the thing vanished from the discussion, and I thought we’d hear no more about it. But guess who didn’t get the memo? [...]

  42. whskyjack says:

    Well, if you can’t spot Invictus in the first paragraph you haven’t been reading this blog very long. In a world of mealy mouths pretending to be impartial his blatant partisanism is refreshing. Another thing I like about Invictus is he proves his points with real numbers. I like numbers.

    As to the liberal/conservative name calling. Liberals and Conservatives are damn near extinct. I can only think a couple of liberals in the Senate and one Conservative and I don’t recall if he survived the primaries.
    What we have now are movement Conservatives or Liberals or Moderates. They pick a cafeteria style bunch of issues and declare them to be issues of the true movement member.

    I do miss Conservatives , they had their uses for times like now, one being that they believe in the rule of law. We could use more of that right now.

    Invictus: Thanks, I think.

  43. coleyc says:

    Invictus, Milton Friedman, can I call you Uncle Milty? Ironically you are missing the Big Picture. The meme of this site and many others is that President O is not a big govt guy he is an efficient lean govt guy. Which is laughable on his face to say about any Dem called up from the Chicago/Springfield minor leagues. When our dear host or stand in, Invictus, posts these charts he is implying that Obama has been a govt employee downsizer (sic). If a Republican Gov won his 2010 election and started trimming the fat of his state why should that credit be given to Obama? WHY ARE WE GIVING CREDIT TO THE PRESIDENT THAT BELONGS AT THE STATE LEVEL? Ahh, well one can guess.
    A much more accurate picture is to provide a graph that represents WHAT EMPLOYEES OBAMA IS ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR. (Fed govt jobs have gone up) Isn’t that just common sense? Obama cannot fire a teacher or bureaucrat in Mass or TX. If one wishes to be less than accurate and to portray something so misleading than your being equally as stupid/partisan as Ferguson was.

    Lastly, asshattery is not my term it was borrowed without reference from BR. My apologies.

  44. DarthBeta says:

    Since when did job creation fall to the executive branch? Congress has legistlated that employment (and price stability) are mandates for the Fed Reserve Bank to engage.
    The Fed has been saying for many quarters (to congress) we have done all (the monetary stim) we can do, you (congress) need to step up the fiscal response.
    This is so cut and clear that any other arguement is motivated by an agenda that is not job creation.

  45. AHodge says:

    invictus i cant go with this
    i think Niall is a gifted thinker,
    as for fed payroll he may have missed the census
    but his point was the recovery is floundering in spite of fed spending and tax cuts broadly defined
    this ought to be obvious even to an ideologue like yourself
    so to compare him to AKIN is moronic partisan drivel
    . i also agree with N our middle east policy is incompetent.
    he is more tolerant of Rs than i am, if he is actually campaigning for Rs or going the groupthink route that would be to bad
    he got called arrogant pompous prick above, probably by an englishman who despises scots
    i get called that too after a not too gentle discussion
    but never from someone i ever learned anything from–with one exception

    of course he has been wrong about some bigger stuff
    he and i were wrong about the US getting into trouble as a deficit coutry couple years ago.
    we both underestimated what a massive fuckup and recessionary the whole US Europe financial system is.
    krugman and mutant keynesians( as opposed to the actual genius) wont be right forever in their spend prescription
    and neither will you.. got it?

  46. AHodge says:

    niall has some grasp of frozen finance but is not really cutting edge

  47. jj2me says:

    I think there might be another explanation. My sister’s observation: “he is very clever ( I always looked upon that word as negative).”

    Some examples of this, where he thinks he’s being clever in debate, even though he knows it’s misleading:
    - “there’s a huge spike in early 2010…”
    - “taxable return” (rather than “taxes”)
    - “But I very deliberately said ‘the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA,’ not ‘the ACA.’ There is a big difference.”
    “But the total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak.”

    All these are technically true, if you ignore the context. He’s playing cleverness games with his students, requiring them to parse his words carefully, or they fall into a trap. I imagine him saying “Gotcha!” and lowering his students’ grades. [Maybe if his tests (columns) were more substantive, he wouldn't have to resort to cleverness tricks?]

    And I thought this glorification of left-brained cleverness was only found at George Mason University.

  48. Rick Caird says:

    whskyjack,

    Actually, just like I can spot a post by George Washington’s Blog just from the title in Google Reader, I can do the same with an Invictus post.

    ‘just another face in the crowd’ said:

    “Invictus might start posting a banner headline over each of his always good posts, “I AM NOT BARRY”.”

    The intersection of “Invictus” and “good posts” is the NULL set. Invictus gives us the very reason for that when he says:

    “this is the risk one runs when letting one’s ideology run wild – that one twists, contorts, and distorts the facts (in extreme cases, perhaps, without even realizing it) to fit one’s narrative.”

    BTW, Niall Ferguson responds to Krugman, DeLong, et al:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/video/niall-ferguson-on-obama-s-record-romney-ryan-_OsLltvzRJymLmAFJl_1xw.html

    He also has a 4 part series on “Rule of Law and its enemies”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00729d9/episodes/player

    The rule of law is exactly the problem with Obama. He makes up his own laws (can’t get the DREAM act passed, make it law anyway), or modifies current law (never liked the welfare work requirement, so remove it), to suit his whims. Naturally Niall Ferguson would object. All those who support Obama’s “waivers” now will strenuously object when the next President Bush refuses to consult Congress when he attacks a country like Iran. Obama has set the precedent in Libya.

    Two other good books on related topics are:

    “Character of Nations” Codevilla
    “Why Nations Fail” Acemoglu and Robinson (I am only on the first chapter of this one).

    Invictus: You’re not a fan; I get that. We’re cool. The good news is that I have not lost a moment’s sleep over it.

    But here’s my ask: Instead of going off on tangents, why don’t you spend a moment reading my post and then explaining how someone with Ferguson’s alleged expertise could make such a basic, fundamental, critical error. He was either ignorant of the Census hiring or aware of it and deliberately trying to deceive Bloomberg’s viewership. Which do YOU think it was? That is the only matter at issue in the post.

    Oh, and thanks for the Bloomberg link. It’s the exact same one I posted and is, in fact, the interview in which he committed the gaffe. So I’m guessing you hadn’t watched it.

  49. Greg0658 says:

    mpappa @8:15pm that is an interesting exchange ..
    a> some believe in prevailing wages as a lawful balance mechanism
    b> tho some believe in the strong arm tactic over _(fill in the blank)
    ~~
    some believe that every battle is what wins the front .. ‘the power to hire and fire’*
    that is what this election is all about – as we come out of this mess – as we must – or die
    ~~
    there is the fiat gold and if ya aint got that there is always the law
    (* & a gun)

  50. gman says:

    AHodge Says:
    August 22nd, 2012 at 9:18 am
    niall has some grasp of frozen finance but is not really cutting edge

    What? Incessant predictions of hyperinflation and huge spikes in interest rates over the past 5years?

    Ahh you are such a careful wordsmith just like your hero..”some grasp”

  51. Greg0658 says:

    do something* – a job that does something* is a job
    public sector job vs. the other side of the job balance sheet

    its still MONEY ROTATING – that is money’s job
    when money leaves our shores that’s when it’s lost

    less birthing is a solution .. less mouths to feed & homes/cars to fuel and less competition for the fewer & fewer jobs that need to be done (of course this line depends on which side of the dependency scale you are on)
    ~~
    we should have the prettiest country on the planet with all the jobless** out there .. except for the _ in Head who run this planet
    ~~
    * but not paper pushing and ** litter for a job

  52. Greg0658 says:

    “02/09 Federal workforce 2,795,000. 07/12 Federal workforce 2,813,000″

    signing laws written by the Lobbies
    manage the MIC workforces (both private & public)
    Care for the Land Uses

    whats not to like ?
    looks like stability to me.
    keepin up with the birth rate.

  53. Frilton Miedman says:

    coleyc Says:
    August 22nd, 2012 at 8:32 am
    ” Invictus, Milton Friedman, can I call you Uncle Milty? Ironically you are missing the Big Picture. The meme of this site and many others is that President O is not a big govt guy he is an efficient lean govt guy ”

    Didn’t miss a thing, you inferred the thread as “asshattery” based on your own misinformation, from where I sit, it looks like an “asshat” calling the thread “asshattery”.

    I guess I should be grateful, at least we’re not debating whether Obama’s birth certificate is legitimate….now we’ve upped the game to discarding misinformation on relevant topics.

  54. coleyc says:

    Invictus, “But here’s my ask: Instead of going off on tangents, why don’t you spend a moment reading my post and then explaining how someone with Ferguson’s alleged expertise could make such a basic, fundamental, critical error.”

    You mean like posting charts that contort reality of what Obama has done regarding Public service jobs.

    Invictus, you may be unconquered, but it doesn’t you are not misleading.

    Invictus: I would point out that the first chart in the graph has the word “Bloomberg” in the lower right-hand corner. It is a screen-grab of what they aired during the Ferguson interview. If you have a problem with it, please take it up with them.

    Regardless, let’s get to the point – how does an “expert” like Ferguson not know that the spike in early 2010 was Census, not stimulus, related? That’s the crux of what’s at issue here. Please explain. The rest is all noise.

  55. Frilton Miedman says:

    Coleye, if you have a reading disorder, please let me know, I mean no insult if that’s the case.

    You’re still insisting that Invictus misinformed, despite my demonstrating that it was you who posted the wrong chart.

  56. whskyjack says:

    I’m going to assume that these numbers that someone posted are real numbers
    “02/09 Federal workforce 2,795,000. 07/12 Federal workforce 2,813,000″

    That is an increase of a mere 18000 jobs

    Mean while the military personnel has increased from , 12/08 – 1,118,638 to 12/11 – 1,217,901 an increase of almost 100,000

    http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/MILITARY/miltop.htm

    So once you take out the military employees it looks like Obama has also been reducing the government work force.

  57. coleyc says:

    Uncle Milty, I infer from BR’s use of the word asshattery to mean, posting crap that is off topic or misleading. Those 2 charts fulfill the definition. They are at best misleading and at worst intentionally deceiving.

    Federal employment was up 70k from 02/09 – 01/10, BEFORE massive hires started in the spring of 2010 for the census. One would really have to comb through the numbers to truly differentiate, stimulus jobs and census jobs. I think Ferguson was wrong, but this chart does not help to understand how wrong. To use total public service jobs to dispute Ferguson’s point is just plain, dare I say…..asshattery.

  58. [...] Harvard historian Niall Ferguson goofed on Bloomberg TV yesterday. Arguing that the 2009 stimulus had little effect, he said: The point I made in the piece [his controversial cover story in Newsweek] was that the stimulus had a very short-term effect, which is very clear if you look, for example, at the federal employment numbers. There’s a huge spike in early 2010, and then it falls back down.  (This is slightly edited from the transcription by Invictus at The Big Picture.) [...]

  59. coleyc says:

    Martin b, I don’t really care what argument Republicans are advancing, my problem is BS.

    I don’t see it as an intelligent response to Republican criticism of the President to trot out data to show W was equally bad. Of course, “intelligent Dems” forget things like underemployment and people leaving the labor force while doing so. But maybe that is the level of the debate. Maybe every time President O gets criticized he should just not talk about what he is doing and just say W was equally bad. That is progress.

    Invictus: So, at some point are you going to address how Ferguson could have made such a horrendous gaffe? Or are you going to continue continue with the strawman stuff?

  60. coleyc says:

    Invictus, who posted it, and who posted the 2nd graph?

    Invictus: That would be me, both times, though it makes no difference. The question that needs to be answered – which you have repeatedly avoided – is how Ferguson could have made such an egregious, amateurish error. Can we get to that at some point?

  61. DeDude says:

    “Number of public employees” is used as a surrogate marker for “big gobinment spending”. But it is a very poor maker and is actually just used to work up the emotions of those morons who fail to understand that.

    If the census had been privatized such that a private company had been paid to hire these workers and conduct the census, the result would have been a drastic change in the number of public employees. However, nothing about the size or spending of government would have been much different. That is the hallmark of a defective surrogate marker, it can swing wildly without any change in the “issue” it is supposed to measure.

    What makes this marker the darling of the “I have a conclusion to sell to you” crowd, is that they can manipulate it by taking things out or putting things in depending on what conclusion they want to reach. So if they spend more money on their big security fetish, they can do it through private companies getting a two for one by handing public money to their friends and also avoiding “expansion of government”. If they cut federal employment by shifting responsibilities to the states then they can show their government cuts by only reporting “federal government employment”, not the corresponding increase at the state level.

    The real debate should not be centered on a defective surrogate marker, but on what we are spending on specific items in the budget and whether we are getting enough out of those public investments. But that would require more effort than the average voter is willing to invest.

  62. Frilton Miedman says:

    Coleye, again with the reading disorder thing.

    Go to my post above, where I put a link to the actua;l FRED chart being discussed, Ferguson was referring to all public sector jobs, you’re citing Fed jobs alone – omitting all public jobs.

    Either you’re unable to read, or you’re promoting deception….either way, it’s a theme many of us are sick of.

    Reminds me of that movie “I see dead people, they….they only see what they want to see”

  63. Anonne says:

    Finding the federal employment is easy. http://research.stlouisfed.org/fredgraph.png?g=9Hu

    That chart does not show any other massive spike other than the census, and the trend has been a slight decline since 2011. Either way, it does not reflect a massive spending binge on government employees relative to where we were in 2009.

    Regardless, back on point – Ferguson is, very clearly, a partisan hack hired to provide the veneer of intelligence to the ridiculous lies (yes, lies) about “gubmint spending.”

  64. Jack says:

    This is one of the best food fights on here in a while.

  65. Frilton Miedman says:

    Anonne, wrong chart, this is the chart in discussion – http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?id=USGOVT

  66. Anonne says:

    Frilton, there is an assertion that “USGOVT” means federal and state. So I specifically went to separate the federal from the state employment.

  67. Anonne says:

    And here is the state employment since 2008: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fredgraph.png?g=9HE

  68. StatArb says:

    Kill the messenger ? ? ?

  69. Frilton Miedman says:

    Anonne, right, but for the fact that one person above is attempting to displace “fed only” with total public employee’s, to claim Ferguson is correct.

    The discussion is about total public employment.

    On a semi-related note, Maria Bartiromo had a tax debate yesterday, at one point stating that if the Bush cap gains rates don’t remain, high net worth investors will be “forced” to buy muni’s in order to get their justly deserved tax breaks.

    I think she’s catching on.

  70. Frilton Miedman says:

    EDIT : “…. but for the fact that one person above is attempting to displace “fed only” with total public employee’s, to claim Ferguson is correct.”

    I meant to say “…. but for the fact that one person above is attempting to displace total public employee’s with “fed only”, to claim Ferguson is correct.

  71. Anonne says:

    And I refuted him with facts – even if you separate out the state from federal employment (which is what Ferguson was saying), there is no massive growth in spending on employees. The spike still remains with the Census.

  72. Anonne says:

    I think his criticism is that Bloomberg (and then Invictus) is using the wrong chart. That is fair enough but when you separate out the federal from state, you see relatively stable but slowly declining federal employment.

  73. DeDude says:

    “Maria Bartiromo had a tax debate yesterday, at one point stating that if the Bush cap gains rates don’t remain, high net worth investors will be “forced” to buy muni’s in order to get their justly deserved tax breaks”

    Yes Maria is a rich, socipathic, moron who has no place in a tax debate or any other debate of substance. Her main concern like many of the other right wing pundits is to argue for protection of 1%’ers like herself – country be damned. She is stupid enough to think that the investment goal for someone like her should be not to pay any more in taxes; when anybody with a brain would be concerned about the “after tax” returns on their investments (regardless of how much tax is paid).

  74. Frilton Miedman says:

    DeDude, not just Maria, many talking heads make high 6 to low 7 figure salaries, there’s a natural skew for group-think and confirmation bias within these circles that influences the way they stage a debate or portray a story.

    This is one of a variety of reasons I’ve become a big Ritholtz (and co) fan.

    ~~~

    Annone, we’re saying the same thing, my point is to simply show Coleye the correct chart with as little complication as possible.

    I find the more variables you throw into an argument with some, the more apt to over-complicate or create derivative “data” they can become.

    I.E. – IF the original debate were about fed employees instead of total public employees, Coleye might have sought a chart of a specific sub-sector of Fed employees that has moved contrarily to “prove” an entirely different point about the whole.

  75. Anonne says:

    Let me restate my position: coleye’s criticism is correct in that the chart Bloomberg used is not the most accurate chart to use to refute Ferguson, as Ferguson is the one making the argument about federal employment. Bloomberg, and then Invictus, respond with a chart that includes state employment data.

    Even if you use the right chart (his link, but mine is better because it excludes irrelvant time periods), you still end up in the same place: the spike is purely because of the Census, and how did Ferguson miss that?

  76. coleyc says:

    Invitctus, I will end with this. No where does Ferguson say in the Newsweek spread about stimulus and 2010 jobs. He said during an interview after looking at a chart on TV. Oh My Gosh, he forgot about the census during an on air interview. Hang him.

    Despite that error, he does have a point. The Feds hired nearly 70,000 people during 09 not associated with the census. That is not a small amount. In nearly 10 months the Administration added 1 Apple Computer its payroll. That is the Obama from Chicago and Springfield we know and love. These jobs are now gone, oops money ran out, which it did in Chicago and Springfield too. See a pattern? So essentially, Ferguson was wrong and right at the same time. Adieu

  77. Rick Caird says:

    Invictus, it is true, I did not watch the Bloomberg interview. Rather, I read the Daily Beast response:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/21/niall-ferguson-defends-newsweek-cover-correct-this-bloggers.html

    I comprehend better reading rather than watching.

    That particular graph does not appear in text. However, I did go back and watch the interview. Throughout both the original piece and the response, Niall Ferguson has been talking about total employment. He never broke it down by government and private employment as that graph did. Now, remember, Ferguson was also being interviewed over the phone and this graph you are so proud of was on the screen for about 10 seconds. So, unless Niall Ferguson had a monitor and was watching it, we don’t know if he even saw it. We should also note, the census employment was also at the same time as the supposed stimulus impact. So, to claim this was some kind of a “rookie mistake” is a bridge too far. I notice, too, that out of the whole original piece and the 13 minute interview, you are focusing on 10 seconds.

    In the end, your argument boils down to a complaint about an “off the cuff” interpretation of a graph not only on the screen for a mere 10 seconds, but also was labeled by “months after inauguration” (rather than by year) and has both Obama and Bush on it. Further, it is not a breakout Niall Ferguson had written about in his piece, so it was likely a surprise. The interesting part is that if we take out the spike due to the census, the stimulus did nothing for total employment. In fact, if you go back and look at Ferguson’s original article in the Daily Beast, on page 2 it shows the worst year for unemployment was 2010. 2010 included the census spike. That, surprisingly, is even more fodder to bolster Ferguson’s argument.

    Invictus, this was not a particularly insightful blog post. I have easily argued it is partisan nitpicking generating more heat than light.

    Invictus: Well, I appreciate your honesty in admitting that you did not (originally, anyway) watch the interview.

    It is my understanding that the chart was not visible to Ferguson prior to – or during – the interview, so we must conclude that his comment was based on information he already “knew” to be true. He also goes on to discuss the decline in state and local employment, which of course we’ve seen in spades. Sorry, but there’s simply no getting around a label of Amateur Hour for this one.

    And I am focusing on this egregious error in the same way Bill Buckner is remembered for his. That’s just the way things go sometimes.

  78. Anonne says:

    Invictus was not talking about the Newsweek article. He was talking about the appearance on Bloomberg. He says that up front in the second sentence of this blog. “Forgetting about” the Census is not a small deal – it absolutely skews the narrative about federal hiring if you get that wrong.

    Where people can reasonably differ is in deciding whether or not 70,000 jobs in a year is “a lot.” To me, that is a small amount. Do you realize how many jobs are needed just to keep up with population growth? Opinions differ (see: https://www.google.com/search?q=jobs+needed+to+keep+up+with+population+growth&aq=0&oq=jobs+needed+to+keep&sugexp=chrome,mod=1) but some say 90,000, as a minimum PER MONTH. If 70,000 is all that the federal government added in a year, my opinion is that that is not a lot. Robert Reich has said that we need at least 125,000 jobs per month just to break even and keep up with population growth.

  79. Frilton Miedman says:

    Coleye diverted from the chart in the opening blog “public payrolls”, as reason to completely ignore the comment Ferguson made about the 2010 census spike, used Fed employment as a reason to move on to an entirely different subject….while making the absurd “asshat” statement.

    The chart used the same comparison side-by-side to Bush, it is NOT misleading.

    To use Ferguson’s own words “The stimulus had a very short term effect, if you look back to 2010 you can see a huge spike in payrolls from the stimulus, then it falls back down”.

    I cannot believe Ferguson didn’t realize that was census workers, which leads me to conclude he’s intentionally misleading….he IS NOT stupid, we can all agree on that.

    As for Coleye’s original assertion that Obama “can’t take credit” for the muni & state job losses, I agree, the GOP is to blame for mass layoffs of firefighters, teachers and police across America, not Obama.

    Krugman is correct on this part of the debate, Obama was unable to go far enough, not enough focus went to infrastructure and a bulk of the stimulus went to the top – failing to create jobs.

    Job well done GOP, we’re almost at the goal of third world America….Koch bro’s, Adelson & Romney have never been happier with their tax bill.

  80. Anonne says:

    My comment to him is in moderation, probably because of the google link in it. Anyhow, I think it was fair to criticize the chart because the chart as described would lead people to credit Obama with job losses at the state level, when the reduction of the federal workforce has been minimal. I don’t care about the comparison to Bush, and even then, let us compare apples to apples.

    What I think is wrong on his part is to gloss over the “forgetting” of the Census. I think it is professional malpractice on Ferguson’s part to not realize that the spike was not from the stimulus but from the Census. Getting that fact wrong totally changes the narrative, allowing hacks like Ferguson to acknowledge the stimulative effect of government spending but then say it was short-lived when in reality it was because the Census was over.

    I tend to agree, I don’t think it was ignorance but the same sort of misdirection that he was using in Newsweek. But I will allow that it is possible he didn’t know, because if all you did was listen to Fox News, you might be similarly ill-informed.

  81. Frilton Miedman says:

    Rick Caird Says:
    August 22nd, 2012 at 3:47 pm
    ” …. Now, remember, Ferguson was also being interviewed over the phone and this graph you are so proud of was on the screen for about 10 seconds. So, unless Niall Ferguson had a monitor and was watching it, we don’t know if he even saw it. ”

    Watch the video.

    He readily stated the surge in employment in 2010 was from stimulus, going to on to elaborate that’s why it dropped so suddenly.

  82. coleyc says:

    Uncle Milty,

    The charts I addressed were tangential to the point Ferguson was making. However, I was responding to what rd wrote: “I think the Republicans should run against Obama’s record of shrinking the size of government payrolls and should tout the Bush record of increasing public payrolls to boost employment.” Maybe you missed it but these charts have been posted on this site to show who the real socialist is or something to that affect. I was merely nipping that nonsense in the bud.

    Between 01/05 and 08/08, states added 200k jobs to their payrolls. Easy to add jobs during a bubble when tax receipts are so wonderful. If you think borrowing $.36 for every buck we spend to keep jobs added during a massive bubble, there is a definite job for you in Chicago working for the city. Some don’t think that would be prudent. I agree with them.

  83. Frilton Miedman says:

    Colleye, you almost got to the final conclusion, that no, “Reagan ~didn’t~ prove deficits don’t matter”, in fact, the bill since Reagan has finally come due, despite Clinton paying down a portion, the Bush-Cheney debacle was the last straw.

    Have we all forgotten the appeals for Bush to not cut taxes while spending vast amounts on war and Medicare D?

    At any rate, in the same respect your zeal to refer to the blogger’s topic as “asshattery” proves absolutely nothing regarding the intent of the chart – to illustrate Fergies “foot in mouth” statement that the spike and subsequent drop in jobs in 2010 was stimulus related.

    Bush’s “growth” was done on the credit card, now the bill for that shopping spree is being sold as Obama’s doing by a plethora of salesmen, the ranks of which it appears Fergie has joined.

    The problem is a Congress that agreed to everything Bush proposed, the same Congress that disagree’s with everything Obama tries to propose….all of whom function at the behest of bribers.

  84. courageandmoney says:

    “maspablo Says:
    August 21st, 2012 at 10:51 pm
    I wish the “experts ” who call BR out for his liberal leanings , would learn a little reading comprehension. and understand who the author of this post is !!!”

    Laughing …reading Comprehension. It’s BR’s blog are you really that slow……Does not matter who writes the content he is the filter….So maybe if he posts my mein kampf on his blog? Your ok with that he didnt write it…..fool

  85. Rick Caird says:

    My final post on the topic. I think you guys are all making way too much of this. Ferguson has written an article, defended the article, and done an interview. Of all that he as written and said, you want to focus on 10 seconds in an effort to distract from the other 13 minutes of interview and the two articles.

    In the end, it is inside baseball and a distraction that will distract no one.

    Bill Buckner lost a world series. That hardly compares to Niall Ferguson and the census. I suspect more people remember Buckner because more people care about the world series than whether a spike in public employment was due to the stimulus or the census. Really, does anyone think we will be talking about Ferguson and the census spike next Monday?

    Invictus: I’ll make note of your tolerance of Ferguson’s inexplicable error the next time a Democrat says something utterly boneheaded. I assume you’ll cut him (or her) the same slack.

  86. Dick Watson says:

    I have to agree with the last post — Rick Caird. Ferguson’s point (which I don’t agree with) was that the stimulus was a failure. The chart supports this point. The rest is petty. Uncharacteristicly petty of BR to dwell on it.

    Invictus: One can say the stimulus was a failure. I would disagree, but one could say that. One cannot say it produced a “huge surge” in government hiring that then rapidly dissipated when that surge was, in fact, related to something else entirely. Further, making such an ignorant claim calls into question one’s credibility to opine on the subject in the first place.

  87. Dick Watson says:

    Oh. Sorry. It wasn’t BR it was Invictus. Still uncharacteristic. I respect you both.

  88. Frilton Miedman says:

    Dick Watson, the chart is public sector jobs lost, despite that, private sector jobs have grown.

    The “proof” Ferguson pointed to was the 2010 spike/dropoff from census employment in public payrolls…how does that support his argument that stimulus failed?

    The 2009 stimulus kept us from another 2 to 3 million job losses, we’d easily be above 9% unemployment now.

  89. dfourth says:

    The first-term Bush recession started in March of 2001. That means that all of the decline and recovery occurred during Bush’s first term. By contrast, the second-term Bush recession started in December of 2007. That means that most of the jobs losses were before Obama took office. Of course, that makes Obama look better.

    Here are the actual numbers (from BLS series CES0500000001).

    In December of 2000, private sector employment peaked at 111.677 million. Private sector employment bottomed out at 108.232 million in July of 2003. By August of 2004, it was back up to 109.984 million and reached in 111.844 million in July of 2005. As you can see the entire cycle of recession and recovery was in Bush’s first term (obviously not including full recovery of private sector employment).

    Private sector employment peaked again at 115.647 in January of 2008. It plunged to 110.985 in January of 2009 and bottomed out at 106.773 million in February of 2010. By July of 2012 private sector jobs were back up to 111.317 million. That means that 4.662 million private sector jobs were lost before Obama took office and another 4.212 million after he took office.

    It’s obviously easier to show job growth if most of the jobs losses were on the other guy’s shift. The extreme case of this is FDR. FDR took office at the very bottom of the Great Depression. All of the job losses had already occurred. With new polices (FDR’s), the economy took off. Unemployment fell rapidly (but not to pre-Depression levels) and industrial production doubled in 4 years. If Obama had achieved anything close of FDR’s success we would not be having this discussion.

    To state this directly, by August of 2004 private sector employment was back to 98.5% of its pre-recession peak even though the entire recession was during Bush’s first term. As of July (no August data yet) of 2012, private sector employment is at 96.26% of its pre-recession peak even though the recession started a year before Obama took office.

    These aren’t complex points and they don’t reflect favorably on Fallows (or Obama).

    The real GDP data provide some additional perspective on Bush (first term) vs. Obama. From Q12001 to Q22004 per-capita GDP rose 4.78% under Bush. From Q12009 to Q22012 per-capita GDP rose 4.12% under Obama. The actual GDP growth numbers are even more revealing. 8.045% for Bush versus 6.67% for Obama. Once again, this is in spite of the fact that the entire 2001 recession was in Bush’s first term.

  90. 873450 says:

    aluminum tubes

  91. gman says:

    “Invictus: One can say the stimulus was a failure. I would disagree, but one could say that. ”

    Great survey of rank and file top tier economists done by U of C. (no bastion on of democratic sycophants) would show very little actual debate about the merits of the stimulus. It worked and was worth it! The debate erupts when one side can find a couple of high priced hired guns to come in and obfuscate and leave the masses baffled …hired guns like Ferguson who add an academic veneer to nonsense. I would even considerate it for the right price also…everyone has a price..Koch brothers “call me”!

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-23/the-u-s-economic-policy-debate-is-a-sham.html

  92. Joe Friday says:

    Rick Caird,

    I think you guys are all making way too much of this. Ferguson has written an article, defended the article…

    Ferguson’s defense is that he’s a victim of a conspiracy. He most certainly has not “defended” his ridiculous unsubstantiated assertions.

  93. Joe Friday says:

    dfourth,

    The real GDP data provide some additional perspective on Bush (first term) vs. Obama. From Q12001 to Q22004 per-capita GDP rose 4.78% under Bush. From Q12009 to Q22012 per-capita GDP rose 4.12% under Obama. The actual GDP growth numbers are even more revealing. 8.045% for Bush versus 6.67% for Obama. Once again, this is in spite of the fact that the entire 2001 recession was in Bush’s first term.

    Only if one ignores the GDP Deflator.

    Barrons Alan Abelson addressed the GDP Deflator Inflator issue which had been going on for years. By Q2 of ’08 it was responsible for a ridiculous additional 6.2% of GDP that did not exist, a swing that magically turned negative GDP to positive GDP:

    COCKEYED GDP

    With eight years of massive job losses, declining real wages, and rising levels of Poverty every year, where the hell would the purported GDP supposedly derive from ?

  94. dfourth says:

    JF,

    You are confusing GDP with “the well being of the American people”. GDP rose under Bush 43. However, the gains were mostly captured by the top 10%, 1%, 0.1%, 0.01%, etc.

    Check out the Wikipedia poverty page. Poverty rose overall under Bush, but not in every year. Check out the Wikipedia real median household income page. Household income rose modestly until the crash and then fell.

  95. Greg0658 says:

    JoeF and d4th .. my input is Predator drones* are cheaper – thus less GDP – than troops on the ground, Humvees and roadsweeper tanks .. apples & oranges times in history

    * usees less fuel too – the kickback that just keeps giving (to some)

  96. DeDude says:

    Looking for a spike in public employment as a “measure” of whether the stimulus worked is pretty moronic. The stimulus had a fairly small public employment component mainly focused on trying to prevent the layoff of state and local public employees that were being planned in response to the free fall of the economy (and fall in tax revenues). The failure/success of that minor component of the stimulus would be to look at whether or not we had a huge fall in public employment (as shown above we did not).

    The main part of the stimulus included funds for “shovel ready” projects and tax-cuts. Both of those were targeted at stopping the already evident free fall in private employment, and they were expected to become self-reinforcing, such that when stimulus was removed there would be a continued growth in private sector jobs. A quick check at the private employment numbers suggests that this did indeed happen (although an under-powered stimulus predictably gave a less than desired boast).

    It should be noted that the 0.8 trillion stimulus was a counter to a 2 trillion predicted fall in aggregate demand so it was under-powered from the beginning, because of politics. The help to the states was much less than their lost revenue and as a result nobody would expect it to do anything but soften the blow and lower loss of local/state jobs. China powered their stimulus to fit the size of the slump in aggregate demand, and did not even enter a recession. Our politicians decided that the people should suffer – for the GOP with the motive was the greater good of making Obama a one termer – the blue dog democrats made the stupid mistake of thinking that they could always come back and add more gas if the stimulus ran out before it had hit the goal line.

  97. RW says:

    “It should be noted that the 0.8 trillion stimulus was a counter to a 2 trillion predicted fall in aggregate demand so it was under-powered from the beginning, …”

    In terms of employment the stimulus was underpowered by about an order of magnitude; i.e., sufficient to add approximately 2 million jobs when 11-12 million jobs were what was needed.

    NB: Not that Ferguson could see it much less analyze it appropriately but Obama did make some serious errors WRT the economy that could indeed cost him this election. Even more troubling is most of them were relatively unforced; e.g., not filling the empty FOMC seats with fiscal doves (by recess appt if necessary), discounting Dr. Romer’s economic analysis and prescription, conceding the rhetorical ground to “the beltway consensus” AKA the Very Serious People (VSP’s) resulting in inappropriate budgetary concessions and a grossly premature policy “pivot” to deficit reduction.

  98. smartjill says:

    I value Niall Ferguson. He is a not-too-smart mouthpiece for the Bilderberg Group. For a telling read, see this WSJ article where he lays out the future of Europe as his programmers plan to structure it – complete with Karl von Habsburg as the unelected president of Europe! http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203699404577044172754446162.html

  99. Joe Friday says:

    dfourth,

    You are confusing GDP with ‘the well being of the American people’.

    That’s silly.

    The GDP Deflator impacts GDP, not “the well being of the American people“.

    GDP rose under Bush 43.

    Mostly because of the GDP Deflator.

    However, the gains were mostly captured by the top 10%, 1%, 0.1%, 0.01%, etc.

    Sure, but they’re much too small an aspect of the national economy to be responsible for such a feat in the face of the massive decline by the “99%”.

    Check out the Wikipedia poverty page.

    Wikipedia is opinion.

    Check out the Wikipedia real median household income page. Household income rose modestly until the crash and then fell.

    A) Wikipedia is opinion.

    B) As I’ve previously posted, “Median household income” is not a measure of anything.

    David S. Johnson, who is the chief of the ‘Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division’ at the Census Bureau, has addressed the reason why “Household Income” was rising while actual real wages and salaries were declining. He pointed to the fact that “Household Income” can include other sources of income besides wage and salary earnings. He also provided an example that a household could have added a part-time worker, thereby raising the income of the household, while simultaneously bringing down the median wage.