This morning's jobs report was pretty grim; the payroll survey showed zero net job creation for August, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised downward the payroll reports for June (26,000 fewer jobs than initially reported) and July (32,000 fewer jobs than initially reported).
What's remarkable is that in the face of this and with an election looming, the federal government under President Obama keeps acting in various ways to make things harder for the businesses that actually create jobs. The latest news is that the government is reportedly going to sue Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase in an effort to blame them because homeowners can't pay their mortgages. Never mind that it may be the homeowners' fault they can't pay their mortgages, not the fault of the banks. Never mind that it may be the government's own fault for helping to make it an economy so crummy that people can't pay their mortgages. The banks are convenient scapegoats, so they will be sued, and the litigation or settlement talks will drag on enough to prolong the sense of "crisis" and further delay a robust recovery.
This comes at the end of a week in which the Justice Department has blocked the T-Mobile-ATT deal; the Securities and Exchange Commission sent real-estate stocks tumbling with news it was looking to tighten regulation on real estate investment trusts; the Wall Street Journal editorialized about the National Labor Relations Board's new rule requiring companies to put up posters reminding employees of their right to organize labor unions; and the most popular story on Yahoo! News involves the federal secretary of education musing about raising public school teacher pay to start at $60,000 a year and increase to $150,000. As Drinking With Bob would say, "What's next?"
Taken one at a time, each of these actions might be justifiable or understandable or surmountable. But together with ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank and the "balanced" or "Buffett" approach to deficit and debt reduction — i.e., big tax increases — the effect is a drag on the economy. Others reply that the economy is crummy in much of Europe, too, and President Obama can't be blamed for that. Perhaps. But perhaps it is also Obama-like policies — high taxes, out-of-control spending, and complex regulations — that got Europe into trouble.
A related dynamic is that the press and market commentators seem focused on each new government move — Chairman Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech, or the latest statement from the Federal Open Market Committee, or Obama's big jobs speech that he's been holding in reserve during his summer vacation — rather than on the longer term. In that context, Governor Perry's promise to "work every day to make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can" might strike a lot of voters as the sort of "change" they can believe in, or at least prefer to the incumbent.