I’m a huge fan of infographics, visualizations of data that make the data easier to understand and remember. Political Math has quickly become one of my favorite blogs to find really good infographics. The above visualization was posted last month and it really shows how poorly President Obama has performed when it comes to creating an atmosphere conducive to job growth.
Political Math also provides an explanation of the chart (which I’ve pasted below) that explains the context of the data, why it’s fair to the President, and why it’s not.
Why This Isn’t Fair
1. President Obama hasn’t had a full term yet
This puts him at a distinct disadvantage to everyone else (except John F Kennedy) because he hasn’t had the same amount of time to grow jobs. However it also seems pretty obvious that he’s not going to get out of last place before January 2013. That would require 300K new jobs per month every month from now until then.
2. President Obama came into office in the middle of a recession
In fact, he came in the middle of a recession that was worse in terms of job loss than anything any other president in this chart had to deal with. Now, he did split those job losses about half-and-half with George W Bush, so it’s not as bad as it could have been for him.
3. Presidents only have a certain amount of control over job growth
Actually presidents (and executives in general) only have a certain amount of control over the economy, so this entire exercise is kind of tainted by that fact. But this is the part where we point out that Obama did start this by attacking Mitt Romney’s job record in a similar way.
Why This Is Fair
1. The data Is Unassailable
I’m using the Employment table from the BLS A Tables. This is not the one that most Obama proponents prefer to use. They prefer using the BLS B Tables because they give numbers that are kinder to Obama. But the B Tables undercount employment (they only count payrolls) and everyone knows this.
I counted January-January (or whenever the president left office) for each president. I did this not because it was particularly fair but because I wanted to match how Obama has assigned himself and Romney jobs responsibility. I’m following his lead to show that, if we take him at his word, he doesn’t stand up to his own standard.
2. If we’re going to play the presidential job visuals game…
… this is a totally fair visual to keep in mind. Depending on the metric, Obama talks about jobs in different ways. When talking raw numbers, he likes to talk about the “last 22 months” or however gets us to the low point in the recession. When talking about month-to-month change, he likes to talk about when he came into office which was the worst point of job loss in the recession, so everything else looks good in comparison.
Fairly or unfairly, Presidents and jobs are commonly linked. It’s only fair to give a proper representation of that information.
[Editor's Note] This is unrelated to the above, but here’s the video that turned my on to Political Math and the power of giving folks a way to visualize numbers in a way they understand. Good stuff.