The ebola epidemic in West Africa is not just a health care crisis. It has affected every corner of society in the countries most affected. Schools have been closed for months, infrastructure projects have been put on hold and GDP growth has slowed to a crawl. A discussion of the social and economic cost of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
This week’s economic figures suggested the U.S. recovery may have lost some steam. The Labor Department reported hiring in April slacked off for the second straight month. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.1 percent from 8.2 last month as more people dropped out of the labor market. Michele Bachmann formally endorsed her one-time rival Mitt Romney. The department of Justice charged more than 100 individuals with $460 million in Medicare fraud. And the DEA is under fire for its treatment of a detained college student. Greg Ip of The Economist, Susan Page of USA Today and Reid Wilson of National Journal join Diane for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup.
- Reid Wilson editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline.
- Greg Ip U.S. economics editor, The Economist, and author of "The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World."
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
Friday News Roundup Video
The panelists answer a caller’s question about how the unemployment rate is measured:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Unemployment fell to 8.1 percent as the U.S. added 115,000 jobs in April. Republicans criticized President Obama for using Osama bin Laden in a campaign ad. And 13 people were charged in the biggest criminal case on a hazing death. Joining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Greg Ip of The Economist, Susan Page of USA Today, and Reid Wilson of National Journal Hotline.
MS. DIANE REHMYou're invited to join us as well, 800-433-8850. Send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody. Happy Friday.
MR. REID WILSONGood morning.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
MR. GREG IPGood morning, Diane.
REHMGreg Ip, let me start with you. The Labor Department reported employers added 115,000 jobs in April. That's the smallest gain in six months. But the unemployment rate dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 percent. How do you explain that?
IPWell, these numbers were a disappointment. It was the second month in a row that we got job growth well below the 200,000 level. It was a disappointment to people on Wall Street who were expecting something more in the area of 150- to 175,000 jobs. The unemployment rate decline was, you know, positive on the surface. It's now come down a full percentage point since last fall.
IPBut this was one of those months when it went down for the wrong reason. It didn't go down because more people were working. It went down because fewer people were looking for work. The number of people in the labor force dropped. The number of people now participating in the workforce, either by working or looking for work, is the lowest in decades. It speaks to a very sort of sluggish phase of expansion in the economy.
IPIt's not the sign of economy going back into recession. It is still positive job growth. It's better than we saw a year ago when we had a scare like that. And when you look around, it's hard to find other data that suggest a big problem in the economy. The number of unemployment insurance claims dropped. Factory activity seems to be quite strong. Manufacturing employment was up last month.
IPThe stock market has not given up its very strong gains of the year. It may just be that the earlier months when we saw job growth of over 200,000 were a bit exaggerated, perhaps because we had a very warm winter. So it's not that the economy is falling back in recession, but it's still a very painfully modest pace of growth.
REHMSusan, how do you see it?
PAGEYeah. I think -- let's talk about the politics of it since Greg's outlined the economics of it. The politics of this is this is sobering news for President Obama. We had the Alan Krueger, an economic advisor, put out of his -- put out a statement this morning saying it shows the economy is healing.
PAGEBut, you know, it does not feel like an economy that's healing, I think, to most Americans who are all too aware of friends or even themselves being out of work or having trouble finding work or getting so discouraged they don't look for work or having kids coming out of college and unable to find jobs at all.
REHMAnd, Reid Wilson, speaking on Fox News, just moments after the government reported the job growth, Gov. Romney said growth should be triple that amount, that we should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 area. How do you see it?
WILSONI think this is a boon to Romney's campaign to stick with the politics for a moment. When we were talking about foreign policy over the last couple of weeks and Osama bin -- the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, those were sort of difficult times for the Romney campaign. They couldn't quite figure out how to message around that and how to get on track. Now, they get to talk about the economy again, and that's what they want to talk about.
WILSONYou'll notice that in Alan Krueger's statement today, he references the depths of the depression -- recession, rather, in 2007, you know, the Obama campaign that's trying to remind everybody that this was going on when they came into office. Romney's campaign has always said Obama didn't cause the recession, but he made it worse. That is a message that he now gets to drive because these jobs numbers are so disappointing.
WILSONThis comes, by the way, right at a moment when more Americans are trusting President Obama on the economy. His approval ratings on the economy have gone up from, you know, the low 40s or high 30s into the mid- to nearly upper-40s. You know, all that is sort of a positive turnaround. Now, here's some sort of soft indicators that suggest he might be in for a bumpier ride than, I think, he thought.
PAGEAnd, you know, just six more of these monthly job report before people go to the polls and decide who they want to be president, and we know from previous elections that attitudes about whether the economy is getting better or worse gets set around this time, in the spring and early summer. And then it becomes really hard for political candidates to change people's minds, even if there's an upturn or downturn when you get very close to election.
REHMBut, you know, it's interesting 'cause there are other economic figures that point in positive directions, Greg.
IPWell, yeah, sure. So, for example, you know, the manufacturing sector seems to be doing extremely well. Obama has made a big deal the wanting to double exports in five years. And we actually seem to be making progress towards that goal. If you're actually in the corporate sector, profits are doing very well. That's one reason the stock market is up so much. And the drop in the unemployment rate has not been trivial.
IPA full percentage point in less than six or seven months, leaving aside all the wonky reasons why that's a weird development, it's still positive. We're not that -- it's not out of the question that it'll be down to 7.2 percent by November, which is the highest rate it's ever been and a president won re-election.
WILSONThe interesting -- the sort of side note to all that, that I always bring up, is the most important economist in the country, you know, is not at Princeton or Harvard or at some think tank. The most important economist in the country is your neighbor. And how your neighbor feels about the economy is going to drive this election in the long run. Americans' perceptions about the economy were improving. And, as Greg pointed out, every indicator suggests that the economy is getting better.
WILSONPerceptions were getting better as well. However, now, over the last month or so, it looks like they may have stagnated. We'll wait to see the next sort of round of polling to see how Americans feel about the jobs. But to get a sense of how they might, just watch the evening news tonight. Just watch how we talk about these numbers: it's disappointing, it's not enough. And, you know, that's sort of a message that Mitt Romney gets to drive again and bring up these doubts about the economy.
IPAnd I would add, I have been struck by how sensitive the president's approval ratings have been to the flow of economic news. You know, when job growth picked up and the stock market got off to a roaring stock, he opened a very wide lead over Romney in the polls, in the head-to-head polls. And then when gasoline prices spiked up, that lead disappeared. And now, it's only about two or three points. And I think that's intimately related to the very sort of soft tone of some of the economic news lately.
REHMSo what President Obama says he's going to do is create summer jobs for youth.
PAGEYou know, this is interesting. He had an announcement this week where he said he was going to help create about 110,000 new summer jobs in three cities: Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. A couple interesting things about this: one is that it's something he can just do. He doesn't have to go to Congress to get approval to do this program to make these partnerships and try to encourage companies and governments of local and state governments to hire young people or have internships or mentorships.
PAGEIt also is really directed at the age group that is most supportive of him. You know, young people, voters under 30, voted for President Obama 2-1 in 2008. He continues to have disproportionate support among young people. But we also know that they are -- that's the age group least likely to go to vote. And the fact that there's a lot of discouraged young people, you know, of feeling that the hope that many of them felt with Obama's election four years ago has not been realized is making it harder for them, to convince these voters to stand up for him, volunteer for him and go to the polls.
IPOn the other hand, there's also -- unfortunately, this initiative by the president, in some sense, actually shows just how impotent he is in terms of having more direct action. He had proposed last fall a $1.5 billion federal fund to directly create these jobs. This fund that he's announced is actually a cooperative thing where all the money is going to come from the private sector, and we, frankly, have no way of knowing whether they would've created those jobs anyway.
IPSo in some sense, given the, you know, difficulty of getting anything done in this Congress, he sort of left with these initiatives which have perhaps good marketing appeal, but their actual impact is perhaps less obvious.
REHMSo we're back to the basic question: how much can President Obama affect job growth?
WILSONAnd the answer is not very much. You know, the president always gets too much credit when the economy is going well and too little credit -- or rather too much blame when the economy is going the other way. What strikes me at the moment is just how much of an impact, say, somebody like Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, is having an our own elections because of, you know, sort of the troubles in Europe that Germany is spearheading in terms of fixing economies in Spain and Greece and, you know, bailing out that which needs to be bailed out.
WILSONYou know, if Europe goes back into a recession and we get dragged down by some of that negative economic activity, then, you know, the Europeans are going to have a pretty significant say on our own presidential election.
REHMBut look at what's happening in France where you've got an individual who is saying, you know, this austerity is not what's working, and how that translates to what's happening here in this country, Susan.
PAGEYou can make the argument that the austerity program that the European countries have followed haven't helped their economy as much as the programs that President Obama has undertaken here. That's certainly an argument that you can make. Now, in a way, it's kind of a tough argument because you're saying, things would be worse for President Obama, things would be worse if we hadn't followed my policies, even though they're not that great right now. But that is an argument you can make by looking at the really treacherous situation some of these European countries face.
REHMSo are we going to see the Fed do anything more, Greg?
IPI think the odds that they do anything more definitely went up today. At his last press conference, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, was asked, well, what kind of job growth are you expecting? And he said, our forecast looks at something like 150- to 200,000 jobs per month. We've now had two months below that level.
IPSo whatever the odds were on the Fed doing another money printing operation -- or quantitative easing as the (word?) like to call it -- they went up today. I don't think we're over the 50 percent level. I think the Fed would want to see more broad-based evidence of a stalling in the economy. But it's definitely, you know, planning its way back under the table.
REHMDo you think that the next meeting of the Fed would do something in that vein?
IPIt might because, by the time of the next meeting, I believe we will have one more employment report.
REHMHow do you feel, Susan?
PAGEYou know, I think it's amazing. The Feds must be a non-political body, right? And yet look at the big impact you could have on this presidential election because if you want to determine -- if you want to know who's going to win the election, tell us where unemployment in the economy is in October, and we will tell you who will win.
REHMSusan Page, she is Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Greg Ip is U.S. economics editor for The Economist, author of "The Little Book of Economics", and Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline. I see many of you would like to be part of the conversation. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd I can see that most of you would like to talk about the economy. Here's an email from Cornell in Advance, N.C., who says, "Can somebody, please, answer Diane's question about Gov. Romney's statement that the economy should be creating three times as many jobs? Is this even remotely true? Most reports from economists have forecast that this would be slow. Should Gov. Romney be challenged on statements like this?" Susan.
PAGEYeah, of course, he should be challenged. But in fairness, that is a rate of job growth we've seen in the past when the economy was going strong, also true, though, that no one predicted that kind of really robust economic growth coming out of this recession.
REHMWhat do you think, Greg?
IPYeah, I mean, adjusted for the size of the population, the last time we saw job growth in a recovery at that level was in 1982, '83, and that was the last time we had a recession that was anywhere remotely as bad as this one. But things are very different. First of all, we know from experience in other countries that after a financial crisis, job growth is always very sluggish. And also, there are demographic reasons why the number of jobs are growing more slowly right now.
IPThe population is growing more slowly. We're an older population. So the 500,000 number may be what we might have aspired to in a different era. It's simply not realistic now. And, yeah, I think the caller is right. Mr. Romney should be sort of questioned about that assumption.
REHMAll right. And, Reid, there's another accusation being made by Gov. Romney, and that is accusing President Obama politicizing Osama bin Laden's death. What's your reaction?
WILSONWell, it's hard to see -- it's hard to imagine the White House having taken a bigger victory lap around, you know, around the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death. Not only were there, you know, primetime TV specials and the cover of Time magazine and sort of new details that get leaked -- and remember, a year ago, we were assured that they weren't going to leak out new details of the raid.
WILSONAnd then President Obama goes to Afghanistan and announces that he's signing an agreement that was already announced, that essentially that he's ending the war, and we're also going to be staying there for another 10 years and sort of trying to placate everybody on this. It -- I think the Romney campaign has a point. This was a, you know, politicization -- I always screw up that word on this show...
REHMYeah, it's a tough one.
WILSON...of a national security moment. Look, he gets to do that. You know, Karl Rove had a good op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this week, where he said essentially President Obama gets credit for authorizing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But what the White House might have missed is that sometimes subtlety is a better way to do it. Sometimes things can be over-said.
REHMWell, let us not forget mission accomplished.
REHMBut adding to that, didn't Gov. Romney himself take advantage of the anniversary? Susan.
PAGEWell, he did go to a firehouse -- part of the -- one of the 9/11 rescues places with former Mayor Giuliani, bringing pizza to firefighters. I think it cannot be a surprise to anybody that President Obama is eager to talk about the death of Osama bin Laden. It's a signature achievement of his first term. And I think if you look at it more broadly, one of the interesting things that's happened in this election is, since the Vietnam War, Democratic presidential candidates have been criticized for being weak on defense.
PAGEAnd this is a case where President Obama's standing on this issue, the issue of terrorism, is better than his standing on the issue of the economy. And he has, I think, effectively neutralized this as an issue that can be used against him, with the exception maybe of Iran when we see what happens with Iran over the next six months or so. But something -- he's done something kind of fundamental, I think, when it comes to the kind of branding of the parties on this issue.
WILSONThat's an excellent point. He has done for Democrats on national security what Bill Clinton did for Democrats in the economy, sort of changing the way Americans think about the two parties. Now, you take a look at every public opinion and survey that's asked this in the last year or so, and more Americans trust Democrats on national security issues than do Republicans. It's just a fascinating change that we've seen.
IPYou know, it always amuses me when people accuse a president of politicization. I mean, he's a politician, and this is what's supposed to happen. I mean, why do you say politics like it's a bad thing? Bush, as you were saying, did exactly the same thing. I mean, during the 2004 election, Dick Cheney was going around saying, if Kerry's elected, we'll get hit again by the terrorists and so on.
IPI think the difference between then and now is that, yes, Obama does poll very well on terrorism and so forth, but it's not the key issue in voters' minds this year the way it was in 2004 when Iraq was turning into a quagmire. And much as the pop that Obama got in the approval ratings when Osama bin Laden was killed faded very quickly, so will any positive feelings associated with the anniversary.
REHMInteresting. Now, it's also fascinating to me that the other GOP nominees who dropped out of the race have been so slow to endorse Gov. Romney. Susan.
PAGEYou know, it has been interesting. First of all, some of them were pretty slow to get out of the race, even when it was pretty clear that Romney was going to be the nominee. They've been, in some cases, slow to endorse to him, and when they have endorsed him, it's been pretty tepid. You know, I predict that what we're going to see over the next months are not the endorsements of Romney by his rivals.
PAGEWe're going to see Democrats running ads that show the criticism that his formal rivals made during the primaries. Their attacks on Romney were much fiercer than their defense of Romney is now that they're lining up to endorse him.
WILSONThese are exactly the same kinds of lines that we heard from the McCain campaign, for example, when they talked about, you know, when they took up Hillary Clinton's mantle that President Obama wouldn't be able to answer the 3 a.m. phone call. I generally think that endorsements are sort of an over-talked-about story. You know, the fact that Rick Santorum hasn't endorsed, you know, Mitt Romney is not really going to move a lot of voters.
WILSONI think in this -- in Romney's case specifically, the bulk of his voters will be coming out to vote against President Obama rather than in favor of him. It's just sort of the way politics works these days. People have voted in the last four election cycles against the incumbent party, against the person perceived to be in power rather than for anybody. You know, even in 2008, people cared more about the change than they did about the hope.
REHMAnd, of course, Newt Gingrich finally decided it was time to get out. What happens to his campaign debt, Greg?
IPWell, he's got over $3 million of it. Now, he has some cash on hand that he can use to discharge that. But history tells us that these debts can hang around for a very long time.
REHMIs Mitt Romney going to help out?
IPPossibly. Certainly, that is the Gingrich campaign's hope. Some of the other campaigns still have some debts, but they're not in as bad a situation. Santorum has enough cash on hand to discharge most of his debts, for example.
REHMAnd Michele Bachmann did finally come out and endorse him?
PAGEShe did after saying during the primaries that Mitt Romney couldn't possibly defeat Obama in the fall. Now, she says that she thinks she can. She has about $1 million in debt as well. You know, Gingrich, I think, is in the worst situation in terms of his debt because Rick Perry, no problem, you know, he's sitting governor of Texas. Michele Bachmann's out there raising money all the time 'cause she's running for re-election to the House.
PAGEBut Gingrich does not -- Gingrich, number one, has a pretty sizeable debt, bigger than anybody, except Jon Huntsman. And he doesn't have the kind of incumbent office-holding position that encourages donors sometimes to continue to kick in money.
WILSONAnd yet here we are -- by the way, this is the -- I think one of the interesting parts of the Romney campaign to watch. We've got -- he is spending his first few days as the presumptive nominee standing next to Michele Bachmann. One of the big commencement addresses he'll give this year is at Liberty University. This tells me that he still got some work to do, or at least the campaign believes that he still got some work to do with these -- with the social conservative base that has never been terribly trusting of him.
PAGEAnd, you know, the dilemma for him, I think, is that every time he does that -- speaks at Liberty University, stands next to Michele Bachmann -- he creates problems for himself with his kind of natural base, which is moderate Republicans and independent voters who are, in many cases, alarmed by some of the rhetoric they hear coming out of a place like Liberty University.
REHMIt's fantastic to me that Romney's chief foreign policy advisor resigned this week. What happened, Greg?
IPWell, there's still a lot of mystery about exactly what happened. So the advisor was taken on by the campaign a month or so ago. He had a great history...
REHMThis is Richard Grenell.
IPRight, Grenell. He came with very strong endorsements from the previous administration, where he'd been spokesman for the United Nations. Nobody questioned his loyalty or his very strong credentials in terms of foreign policy. But he came with two bits of baggage, which only sort of, you know, became obvious after his hiring. The first was that he had sort of a -- rather acerbic habit of saying, you know, very off-color things on his Twitter feed about people like Rachel Maddow and Callista Gingrich.
IPThe other problem was that he's openly gay, and he has, in the past, a very -- advocated very strongly for the legalization of gay marriage. And as we know, Mitt Romney opposes that. And so, immediately, some of the conservatives, the very same people that Mitt Romney has struggled with, began to, you know, question the wisdom of having this person as a spokesman.
IPAnd soon, according to press reports, he found himself sidelined. He wasn't speaking on press conference calls where that was his natural place, and he resigned. Did he jump, or was he pushed? We still don't really know. The campaign says they tried to talk him out of it, but then the question arises: why did they try and sideline him if, in fact, that is what happened?
REHMIn a morning news interview on Fox News, Gov. Romney said, we wanted him to stay with our team. He said his campaign does not discriminate in hiring practice. He said, he's a very accomplished spokesperson. We select people not based on ethnicity or sexual preference or gender but their capability. Former Massachusetts governor added that he -- that Grinnell had expressed the desire to move on, and he, Gov. Romney, wishes him the very best.
PAGEYou know, I think it's pretty clear he jumped and wasn't pushed. I think the Obama (sic) campaign is distressed that they've got this controversy.
REHMYou don't mean Obama.
PAGEI mean, the Romney campaign...
PAGE...are obsessed -- are distressed by how this is -- has played out. But I think Rick Grinnell, according to people close to him, felt that they should've done more publicly to stand up for him when he was under attack.
REHMWho was pushing against him?
WILSONThere were a couple of -- I think the guys name is Bryan Fischer. A couple of prominent social conservatives have, you know, went on Fox News, wrote a couple of op-eds for...
WILSONSaying that his -- that Grinnell's involvement in the campaign raised questions about whether or not there would be an advocate for same sex marriage in the Romney White House, that this somehow signaled a, you know, the possibility of a change on the issue by Romney himself. There is no indication of that whatsoever.
WILSONThese are people who have -- this -- that the chief agitator, by the way, is somebody who has gone again -- gone negative on Romney's own religion, on Mormonism, calling it anti-Christian frequently. So this is not somebody who is in terribly good with the campaign, but, then again, they didn't come out, as Susan said. They didn't come out and back their own spokesman very much.
REHMSo that when you got to foreign policy issues, nobody turned to Grinnell and said, what do you think about this?
IPWell, that's right. And I think that, in Grinnell's mind, that was as, you know, tantamount to being sort of like pushed out. I think the campaign -- reading between the lines, the campaign was just hoping for breathing space to allow this thing to blow over. And in the fullness of time, perhaps Grinnell could've been reintegrated in the way they'd always expected.
REHMGreg Ip, economist editor for The Economist magazine, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want to ask you all about this Florida hazing where you had 13 people criminally charged on Wednesday in the death of a Florida A&M University marching band member. They were not charged with murder. What do you make of it, Susan?
PAGEDisappointment to the family. They had hoped for a charge of murder or manslaughter in the death of their son. The prosecutors say that would've been a difficult case to make because there were so many people involved in this horrific scene. I mean, it had a name. It was called Crossing Bus C. And new members of the band would walk down the center aisle of the band bus and be pummeled by more senior members of the band as they walked by.
PAGEYou know, the thing that is very alarming about this is that the Associated Press went back and looked through university records. There have been repeated complaints over a period of years about hazing at Florida A&M and with the band, and the university did not take sufficient steps to address it. This is -- these indictments are a warning, a red flag to universities. I think that they need to take accusations of hazing very seriously.
WILSONHazing and bullying are becoming sort of more widely discussed topics nowadays, which is there was a...
WILSON...a big documentary that just came out, you know, the sort of focus on it in books and in the media. So it's interesting that this has cropped up now, and yet it's also a sign that we've got this big problem that we simply haven't addressed as a society.
REHMAnd that poor family, losing that young man, and we have another young man in the news this week, a University of California student, Daniel Chong, who was forgotten in a holding cell without food, water, or a toilet for four days. He -- I don't even know if he was arrested, Susan.
PAGEHe was picked up in a drug sweep, but he wasn't charged. He had been told he wasn't going to be charged, he says. And then he was sent back to this holding cell where they apparently forgot him.
IPThis is just mind-blowing. I mean, people in Guantanamo Bay are treated better than this. It's simply appalling. He sounds like he was probably hours away from death when he was eventually found. And so he's suing the drug enforcement agency for $20 million for poor treatment.
REHMThere are some details here that are truly hard to understand or even imagine. He became so desperate, he took a lens from his glasses, broke it, and tried to commit suicide. He was that desperate.
WILSONAnd it's incredible, and $20 million probably isn't enough to...
REHMSo what's the DEA saying?
WILSONTheir -- I mean, their reaction is they forgot. They didn't know. They didn't realize he was there. And, look, San Diego, I'm sure, is an area in which the DEA office is probably busier than most. But I can't imagine that it's so busy that they would actually go five days...
REHMHow do you put somebody in a room and forget them?
PAGEWell, they say they're going to review their procedures. That sound's like an appropriate thing to do. And I'm assuming there will be repercussions from this. I'm assuming that people will lose their jobs, be reprimanded. I don't know if there will be other legal repercussions or not. But it is hard to understand how this could happen.
REHMAnd the other story still difficult to fathom is John Edwards, and, of course, the man is on trial. His whole life is really right there out in front of the public.
WILSONIt is. It is. And this week, we sort off veered from the tawdry side of the beginning of his relationship with Rielle Hunter to the sort of more at once humorous and yet damning side of how the money to hide her eventual pregnancy was funneled. One of -- the guy who's on the stand today, Bryan Huffman, was the furniture designer, the interior designer who funneled money from this wealthy heiress, Bunny Mellon, through his business and to Rielle Hunter. So it's -- this -- the Edwards thing is getting worse before it gets better.
REHMReid Wilson, editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline. When we come back, it's your turn. We'll open the phones. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMWelcome back. Now, to your calls. First to Bethany Beach, Del. Hi, Ray. How's the weather there today? Hey, Ray, I can't hear you. Can't hear him. Let's go to New Orleans. Good morning, Sheryl. You're on the air.
SHERYLYeah, hi, Diane. I love your show, and I'm a first-time caller.
SHERYLOK. My question is this, I keep hearing, due to the low employment rate versus the, you know, the unemployment numbers, that people are dropping out and giving up on looking for work. And I'm unemployed myself, and I can't imagine doing that. So my question is this: how did you know, all right? I mean, could people be going back to school? Could -- does this speculation or does these numbers include part-time work? Could people be getting part-time work?
REHMIt's a good question, Sheryl. I fully agree with the premise. Go ahead, Greg.
IPIt's an excellent question. And often, you hear this when the unemployment rate is going down but there isn't a lot of job growth associated with that. People say, oh, it's because people are discouraged, and they're just giving up the hunt for work.
IPBut, in fact, we have ways of measuring that phenomenon. There is sort of an enhanced unemployment rate that counts people who are just not looking for work because they're discouraged or that they're working part-time but they'd rather have a full-time job. But here's the thing, that unemployment rate is falling even faster than the overall unemployment rate. So discouragement cannot explain why it's falling so quickly. The point Sheryl made about going back to school is actually very relevant.
IPA lot of the disappearing workers are college-age people who have apparently decided to stay in college longer or go back to college. Other people are retiring early. And there may also be some older people or other workers who have decided to go on disability, and it may be that they will never come back to the workforce.
REHMInteresting. All right. Thanks for calling, Sheryl. To San Antonio, Texas, good morning, Chance.
CHANCEOh, hi, Diane. Yeah.
CHANCEI do like your show very much. Yeah, I heard, you know, Mitt Romney (unintelligible)...
REHMI'm sorry, Chance. I can barely understand you. Would you try to get a little closer to your phone?
CHANCEOK. I just -- I hear the claim that the country should be doing better. I think he has point, but it's not Barack Obama's fault. It's the fault of the Republican Party who is a drag on this country and the people of (unintelligible) so we need to remember that.
REHMAll right. And that is, of course, a view of a lot of people, not necessarily the truth but the view of a lot of people.
WILSONOne of the more fascinating things that I've read in the last few weeks was an op-ed in The Washington Post over the weekend by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein to...
REHMWho are coming on the program on Monday.
WILSONOh, there you go. Tune in on Monday to "The Diane Rehm Show." But their argument was it is the Republicans' fault and -- for their obstructionism, for their sort of moving to the right side of the -- of not only the American political spectrum but their own internal party politics. Whether or not they're completely right, I mean, there is -- there's a lot of nuance here that everybody is a little bit to blame for this, the situation that we're in now. But that's the thing that President Obama is going to try to argue, that, you know, he's going to be running against the Republican Congress.
WILSONHe's going to be running against -- if they strike down the health care bill -- the Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. He'll be obviously running against essentially George Bush's third term. So whether or not they can actually convince Americans that -- you know, that the economy is getting better and that Obama is fixing the mess that the last guy made, that's the real challenge.
IPWell, it's an interesting question. Obama has done a lot that probably helped, primarily the stimulus program. And it's true that absent Republican opposition, he probably could have done more. But one of the reasons Republican opposition works is they're often in sync with the people. For example, a lot of economists believe that we could get the economy growing faster if we could take, you know, a couple hundred billion dollars of government money and use it to refinance people who are stuck in mortgages that are too expensive or are worth more than their houses.
IPGlenn Hubbard, who is the principal economic adviser to Mitt Romney, himself has proposed such a plan, but that polls terribly. People just hate that idea...
IP...because they think that all of those people with mortgages that are too big just got into trouble on their own fault, and why should we, you know, the taxpayers who pay their own bills, bail those people out of their own reckless mistakes. So it's easy to say it's Republican opposition, but it's probably more accurate to say that the public has no stomach for the kinds of measures that would really make a big difference.
REHMYou know, there's another issue out there, and that's Medicare fraud. You have over 100 people charged with trying to defraud Medicare out of $452 million, Susan.
PAGEWhich is a lot of money, any way you count it. You know, one interesting thing about the arrests that were announced this week is that this is a result of Obamacare. This is a result of a program that was set up under the Affordable Care Act that used a computer program to try to identify patterns that might indicate potential fraud in the Medicare program. So the, you know, the health care law has been very controversial, but this is something I think the White House could point to and say, here, it's having a really good effect.
REHMI just would like to remind you that people really hate the term Obamacare. They feel it should be rightly referred to as the Affordable Care Act, so, Susan, for future reference.
PAGEIt -- yes, you know -- but except, even with Democrats now, the thing is it's become the word about which it's known in short.
REHMI know, I know.
PAGEAnd even Democrats, even the White House sometimes refers to Obamacare.
REHMIs that right?
WILSONIt's sort of claiming, you know, claiming ownership of something. One of the big problems that the White House had over the health care debate was they totally lost control of the conversation. The Republicans were able to talk about death panels and to talk about, you know, restricted care and to sort of define this bill while the Democrats -- President Obama still can't sort of convey what health care does in a sound bite or a bumper sticker or something easily digestible.
WILSONSo by calling it Obamacare themselves, yeah, they're claiming credit for something that they may not want, you know, in an ideal world, they may not choose to run a re-election campaign on. But in this world, they certainly have to.
REHMAll right. To Reston, Va., good morning, Harvey.
HARVEYHi, good morning. How are you?
REHMFine, thank you, sir.
HARVEYTwo points I want to make. This hazing business at Florida A&M University, it's a culture in many, unfortunately, black schools. Many parents won't send their children to black universities because of the hazing problem. At Florida A&M, I know for a fact that it's been part of their culture for years. And I think the administration should be criminally charged as well. It's something that's going on.
HARVEYThe fraternities brutalize pledgees. And it's unfortunate, but -- excuse the term, but it's a black mark on a lot of schools, not all of them. And it's something that the press needs to address because it's a well-known fact in the black (word?) community about this hazing problem.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. And, of course, it's not just in the black community. It is throughout the university system and high school system and junior high school system. Hazing, bullying occur, and the country needs to do something about it. There are an awful lot of emails talking about retiring the debts. And here's an email from Perry, who says, "Most of these candidates, both Republican and Democratic, who suspended their campaigns are multimillionaires.
REHM"Even though, legally, they're not personally responsible for the campaign debt, I don't understand why they cannot pay off their debt with their own money." Is that legal or not?
WILSONIt's completely legal. And, as a matter of fact, a lot of the debt that Jon Huntsman owe -- Jon Huntsman's campaign owes...
REHMHe's going to pay...
WILSON...he owes to himself.
WILSONYou know, it's loans that the candidate has given to the campaign. You know, there are senators and members of Congress who keep debts to themselves on their books for years on end. As a matter of fact, I think Newt Gingrich is going to be OK in terms of how he pays off this $4 million debt. Remember, Gingrich has this whole web of organizations, non-profits that we sort of collectively refer to as Gingrich Inc., that he will be able to milk for money over the years.
WILSONAnd people -- he's got hundreds of thousands of contributors who have given to all these other projects. They'll certainly help retire a debt. You know, he even mentioned one of his newsletters in the speech when he dropped out earlier this week. He mentioned that one of his newsletters was on some subject, while those newsletters are coming out of...
WILSONWell, but they're coming out of that -- one of the non-profit sides, so he's got plenty of revenue that's going to come in.
PAGEYou know, I'm sure Mr. Gingrich hopes what you're saying is true. But he's been, in fact, milking that network for his campaign so far.
PAGEAnd I think it's -- there's a great difficulty, I think, in getting people to contribute to a campaign that doesn't exist anymore, who has no chance of succeeding. You know, I remember John Glenn. He ran for president, what, in 1980?
PAGEAnd he spent, I think...
PAGE...30 years trying to pay off his debt.
PAGENot a man with personal wealth, but doing fundraiser after fundraiser, and, of course, people maxed out. You know, your most avid supporters have already contributed all that they can contribute.
REHMAll right. Here's an email from Diane in Brick, N.J., who says, "It was extremely telling that the Romney campaign dismissed or encouraged the resignation of foreign policy expert Richard Grenell. Now that we're beyond the infighting of the GOP primary, the Romney camp nevertheless bound to the dictates of the Family Research Council who objected to Grenell's homosexuality." Susan.
PAGEYou know, Diane, that is not my understanding of what happened. I think that the high command at Romney campaign tried hard to keep Ric Grenell from resigning. Now, there is -- but I think he wanted them to do something more public than to urge him privately to stand. They wanted him -- more of a defense of him against some of these attacks.
PAGEAnd Greg was mentioning the column this morning in The Washington Post by Ruth Marcus, you know, a friend of the News Roundup, saying that people are still waiting for the moment when Newt -- when Mitt Romney will stand up and kind of publicly confront some of the social conservatives and some of the oppositions at which he's at odds, including this one.
REHMAll right. To Manhattan in New York. Good morning, Kevin.
KEVINGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
KEVINI have two quick comments. One is I was listening to radio this morning. The governor of Virginia was taking credit that the state is doing well, and all the other states, they are not doing well. The Republican governor blamed the president. Second, I would like to ask -- I would like a reporter to ask Republican candidate Mitt Romney, in the past three years under the Obama administration rule, did he make more money than before or less money than before? Did he pay more taxes than four years ago or he paid less than (unintelligible) ?
REHMDon't know about that, do we?
WILSONI don't think we know about that particularly. But what I do think is interesting -- he brought up the point about Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of Virginia claiming credit for a good economy. Well, take a look at Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada -- all swing states, all the most crucial states that are going to decide this election -- I'll throw Iowa in there, too -- all of which have Republican governors.
WILSONAnd as the economy gets betters, slowly but surely, they're sort of put in this awkward position of claiming credit for themselves while saying that President Obama made it worse, while saying that, you know, George W. Bush, you know, might have started the whole thing. You know, they're all -- it's a very difficult balancing act.
IPI think the other ironic thing about the governor's comments are that if you actually look at the parts of Virginia that are the most prosperous, it's the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, which is a no-small part due to the all the activity going on under the Obama administration.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Medford, Ore. Hi, Barbara.
BARBARAHi. Good morning, all. Regarding the economy, I just wonder what Americans expect. I mean, if you drive a car into a wall, you can't get into that car and drive it away. And so the last administration took this economy and drove it over a cliff. So, you know, you get in a car, you drive into a wall, and you wreck it. It's going to take time. It's going to take money to repair that so you can get back on the road again. And so I just hope that American people have little more patience, and we invest in this country and get it back on the road.
PAGEBarbara, the White House is on the other line. They'd like to line you up to do an ad for them because that is exactly the case that President Obama is trying to make.
REHMYes, of course. Greg, do you want to add to that?
IPWell, I agree with the analogy. We certainly did drive this car over a cliff. What I disagree with is the notion that it was only a Republican president driving that car. I'm sorry, but presidents and voters have been driving that car for decades, this notion that we should all buy houses and it doesn't matter how many much -- how little money we put down and people who, you know, can't balance a checkbook, they should, you know, own a home.
IPSo the crisis and the recession were a sense -- an essence to consequence of decades of decisions that we as a country made together, not just one administration.
REHMAll right. And, finally, to Tipton, Ind. Good morning, Bob.
BOBGood morning, everyone. Mitt Romney really frustrates me, this stuff about we should be have -- we should be doing three times the job creation that is going on. He can throw out any number that he wants, and there's really no way to prove it. And he does that on a lot of different issues. He throws out these things, and they're almost unbelievable. I basically think that Mitt Romney is a fraud, and I hope the country realizes that.
REHMIt's interesting that you got this sense that, on the one hand, people say, why aren't more jobs being created? And then you've got a candidate throwing out 500,000, and people buy into it.
WILSONBob's got a point. There are numbers that we can all just sort of throw out there and talk about how much we'd like it if these things were happening. But the bottom line is -- and going back to Barbara's point, so the bottom line is Americans are not patient. We are not a patient people. We want things done now. We want the economy fixed now.
WILSONThere is no -- you know, with just two years into the administration, the electorate delivered a stinging rebuke on the Obama administration for essentially not having fixed the economy, for focusing on other things first. But, you know, two years is not enough time to turn around one of the worst recessions in American history so...
PAGEAnd if Mitt Romney gets elected in November, he'll be faced with the expectation he set, that, under his administration, we will see that kind of robust job growth.
IPAnd, frankly, his hypothetical, you know, job numbers that we should be having register as little with the voter, as Obama saying, look at how bad it would have been if I didn't have these policies. It's exactly what Reid said earlier on the show. The one economist whose opinion really matters is the voter himself. He knows with his own lying eyes whether the economy is doing better. And we have seen relatively modest rates of job growth manifest themselves in a better mood in the country and better numbers for the president.
REHMWell, we shall see. Greg Ip, he is with The Economist magazine, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline. Have a great weekend, everybody.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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