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The Battle Over U.S. Unemployment

Our best quotes on what Americans think of the U.S. unemployment picture.

September 14, 2003

Our best quotes on what Americans think of the U.S. unemployment picture.

Despite all the sound bites devoted to the topic by politicians, few — if any — gains have been made in recent years to improve the U.S. employment outlook. Our Read My Lips feature traces the battle over the effects of rising unemployment on the recovering U.S. economy.

How is the U.S. job situation?

“If you wonder what happened to the “great American job machine,” so is everybody else.”
(Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post columnist, September 2003)

How real is the U.S. economic recovery?

“Can you have recovery without jobs? It’s kind of like having chocolate cake without chocolate.”
(Alan Abelson, Barron’s columnist, September 2003)

What's curious about the reaction of U.S. consumers to job outsourcing?

“While we all complain about U.S. jobs moving overseas, we still line up at the Wal-Mart cash registers to buy their Chinese-manufactured products. Why? Because we are not willing to pay more for a U.S.-manufactured good.”
(Barry Ferguson, President and founder of BMF Investments, September 2003)

What's really at stake?

“The wholesale movement of jobs and production overseas is handcuffing the recovery.”
(Mark M. Zandi, chief economist at, July 2003)

How do U.S. businesses improve their fortunes these days?

“The jobs report is just awful. Businesses across the board are figuring out ways to do more with fewer people.”
(Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services, September 2003)

Is too much productivity a bad thing for America?

“For companies, and people with jobs — 94% of the labor force at the moment — a surge in productivity growth is good news. It means faster profits, growth and increased real wages.”
(Ian C. Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd., January 2003)

What does the current job market reveal about traditional economic thinking?

“Forget the palaver about jobs being a ‘lagging indicator.’ They’re a very good indicator of the real vibrancy of a recovery.”
(Alan Abelson, Barron’s columnist, September 2003)

How important is the problem to the White House?

“When America works, America prospers. So my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs.”
(U.S. President George W. Bush, January 2003)

Will tax cuts create more jobs?

“Tax relief is stimulating job creation all across the country.”
(U.S. President George W. Bush, September 2003)

Do others agree?

“Enriching the rich, at the expense of the rest of us, just isn’t working.”
(Gray Davis, Governor (D-CA), September 2003)

Is the President's view justified?

“George W. Bush is gifted at cutting through complexity to create shimmering, digestible sound bites: Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Lower taxes, create jobs. Never mind that neither the weapons nor the jobs have materialized.”
(Erika Kinetz, Copeland fellow at Amherst College, August 2003)

Have tax cut policies worked before?

“The last time we had a tax cut, they said it would create millions of jobs. I’ve got news for them. Not one single job was created in Buffalo, New York.”
(Representative Jack Quinn (R-NY), March 2003)

Is the Bush Administration concerned about rising deficits?

“There is no question that the growth plan will have an impact on the deficit — but we have other deficits, a deficit of jobs, a deficit of paychecks.”
(White House Budget Office spokesman Trent Duffy, January 2003)

What is a key political issue for the elections?

“If we go into next year without job growth, then the consumer’s willingness to keep spending comes into question — and recovery is in danger of unwinding.”
(James W. Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, September 2003)

Does the current record play into the hands of the Democrats?

“It's the worst job record since Herbert Hoover was president. It is the worst growth since World War II.”
(Presidential candidate U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), July 2003)

Whose job is on the line if things don't improve?

“At this rate, there will be only one job left to cut by November 2004: George Bush’s.”
(U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Senator (D-CT), September 2003)