Fantasy Figures, Real Pain

Early Friday morning, before the Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report, the mainstream media was reporting job gains of as much as 200,000 as more or less the consensus figure. Never mind that 200,000 was not the consensus among reputable economists. The mainstreamers wanted the jobs report to turn up as an assist to the Obama administration, and so they fudged their predictions.

None of those Friday-morning prognosticators will have to face the public again until Monday morning, and by then they will undoubtedly have "forgotten" how far off they were. If they were honest, principled journalists, they would issue a correction at the first opportunity. But that will never happen.

Of course, if mainstream reporters were truly professional, they would never have fudged the figures to begin with. They would never have spent the last two years bending over backwards to make excuses for every misguided policy of the Obama administration. They would never have spent eight years hammering the Bush administration and then indulging in a frenzy of biased reporting with the goal of electing Barack Obama.

By Monday morning, these same newsrooms will undoubtedly have buried the story that the unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8%, well on its way to what reputable economists have long been predicting as a rate above 10% by early 2011. The fact that only 39,000 jobs were created in November is a sobering statistic, especially at a time when the broader unemployment rate stands at 17%.

Just do the math. With 25 million Americans now unemployed or underemployed, it will take 641 months, or 53 years, to create jobs for all who need work. And that figure does not even count the millions of new workers entering the job market each year.

Over and over again, Obama has touted his green jobs initiatives. Just this week, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, the President's EPA Director, Lisa Jackson, insisted that her agency's efforts (that is, to restrict mining, drilling, industrial development, and nearly every other form of growth) will in the long run result in strong job growth. Perhaps Ms. Jackson is thinking about 53 years from now.

Fifty-three years is a long time to wait for a job, but since liberals hope to extend unemployment benefits indefinitely, perhaps 25 million Americans can live on $300 a week until they reach retirement age. Then they can collect Social Security. That's the way it works in Europe, and look at how well it's working out for them.

The real question is, Why are there so few jobs being created? A severe recession like the one we experienced in 2008-2009 is supposed to be followed by a rapid, "V-shaped" recovery. That is what happened following nearly every previous recession. But it is not happening this time. So what's different?

The difference is that Democrats have spent the last two years engaged in an orgy of new spending, regulation, litigation, and taxation -- all of it squarely aimed at America's most successful businesses. Among the thousands of new regulations in the health care reform bill and the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation is a potentially devastating requirement that retailers report whether their goods contain "conflict metals": gold, tungsten, and the like mined in war-torn Central Africa.

This requirement alone is a potential job-killer of significant proportions. Not only does it require retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy to report information concerning their suppliers that they have no way of obtaining, but it also opens the door to class action lawsuits in connection with most of the electronics and many of the other goods they sell. Perhaps that was Sen. Durbin's intention in sponsoring it.

In any case, the Dodd-Frank conflict metals regulation is just one of thousands of such burdensome requirements with which American companies have been saddled in the past two years. The same regulatory approach -- death by a thousand cuts of regulation and litigation -- has been slapped onto every sector of the economy.

Not even Obama's friends in the media and high tech industries are immune. The Justice Department has opened investigations or filed suit against Intel, Google, and others among Democrat-friendly companies. The same goes for Democratic supporters on Wall Street. Not even their fat campaign contributions can protect them from Obama's hyper-aggressive regulatory czars.

The administration seems to have a particular animus toward oil and gas companies. Not a single deep-water drilling permit has been issued in the six months since the Deepwater Horizon accident, and none seems forthcoming. The entire eastern seaboard and the west coast of Florida have been placed off limits for drilling indefinitely, and this at a time when oil prices are trending upward and pressuring the economy further. The EPA is making a frantic effort to restrict hydraulic fracturing, the most promising source of new domestic supply in a century.

Through all of this, the administration and its boosters in the mainstream media seem clueless. Having subjected every business enterprise to the increased costs of heightened regulation and taxation, liberals wonder why the economy is not creating new jobs. They seem to think that the way to create jobs is to have government take over, impose impossibly onerous regulations, prohibit companies from expanding their operations on environmental grounds, decide what products and services a company can or cannot sell, and then tax whatever profit remains, if any.

If state capitalism of this sort were the way to create jobs, the old Soviet Union would still be around, and North Korea, instead of being the world's most repressive and dangerous dictatorship, would be a shopper's paradise. I don't see too many Fendi stores opening up in Pyongyang anytime soon. Unfortunately, I don't see too many jobs being created anytime soon in Obama's socialist utopia, either.

Jeffrey Folks is author of many books and articles on American culture and politics.