The Labor Department's November jobs report showed that the economy is steadily improving, but at a sluggish rate -- much as it has been for months. Both the White House and leaders in Congress have seized on the latest figures to push their plan for averting the so-called "fiscal cliff."
With 146,000 jobs added to the economy in November, the White House called it critical to "continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class." How? Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in a White House blog post about the figures that, the "most pressing" issue before Congress is extending the Bush-era tax rates on income under $250,000.
The Bush-era tax rates are set to expire next year. President Obama is urging Republicans to extend the rates on income under $250,000 as part of an economic package to avert the "fiscal cliff" -- the series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect next year. In a press conference today, House Speaker John Boehner said that there has been "no progress" in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations this week.
The White House argues that Republicans are threatening the weak recovery by refusing to immediately extend the tax cuts for the middle class. Boehner maintains that the president's plan to raise taxes on income over $250,000 would hurt the recovery by taking a toll on small businesses. "The risk the president wants us to take, increasing tax rates, will hit many small businesses that produce 60 percent to 70 percent of the new jobs in our country," he said today. "That's the whole issue here."
The Republican National Committee (RNC) said in a release following the jobs numbes today that "despite the weak economy, Obama and his liberal allies are pressing to steer the country over the fiscal cliff."
Economists have explained that the "cliff" is actually more of a "slope." And, in fact, economist Mark Zandi said Thursday that negotiations could extend until February before having a serious impact on the economy.
Republicans used the jobs report to again call into question Mr. Obama's entire economic strategy. The RNC zeroed in on the fact that the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent largely because many job seekers simply gave up looking for work last month. "The labor force continues to shrink and long-term unemployment drags on nearly four years after Obama promised a recovery," the RNC said.