Four of the five major Sunday morning political shows ignored the issue of job creation and economic growth, which economists and voters say are the most important economic issues facing the nation. Instead, the economic discussion on the November 11 editions of these shows focused almost exclusively on the debate over how to achieve deficit reduction.
Among the participants in the major Sunday shows, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Fox Broacasting's Fox News Sunday, and CNN's State of the Union, only This Week guest Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out that the exit polls found that voters say the government should focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.
By contrast, Meet the Press guest Bob Woodward identified deficits and debt as " the big issue" the government must solve. Woodward went on to suggest that Obama should be looking for a "payoff for everyone in the community, not just his base."
WOODWARD: I think the big picture here is that President Obama has got to deliver on the big issue, which is fixing the financial house of the U.S. federal government. It is in disarray. It's not just the fiscal cliff, it's $16 trillion in IOUs out in the world. In a couple of months, in February or March, they are going to have to renegotiate an authority -- lending and borrowing authority -- for another trillion or two dollars, and if the president can fix that and put us on some sort of path of restoration for the economy, that is a payoff for everyone in the community, not just his base.
And he's got to think much more broadly. The job of the president is to find the next stage of good for a real majority and he's capable of doing it.
The Associated Press analyzed data of national exit polls following the presidential election and found that 59 percent of voters interviewed listed the economy as the biggest issue facing the country. In comparison, only 15 percent said that deficits were the most important issue. Similarly, when asked about specific economic concerns, nearly 40 percent of voters said unemployment was the "biggest economic problem facing voters like them."
Economists and other experts also say that job creation and economic growth are the most important issue facing the country.
An op-ed written by economist Dean Baker and West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy executive director Ted Boettner stated that "it is unfortunate that deficit reduction has come to occupy center stage in the national political debate when clearly our country's biggest problem is the jobs deficit." The two added: "Deficit reduction in the near future will worsen the unemployment problem." From their op-ed:
[I]t is unfortunate that deficit reduction has come to occupy center stage in the national political debate when clearly our country's biggest problem is the jobs deficit.
Nearly five years after the beginning of the recession, we still have more than 23 million people unemployed, underemployed or who have given up looking for work altogether. West Virginia would need an additional 27,000 jobs to reach its pre-recession level.
Deficit reduction in the near future will worsen the unemployment problem because it means pulling money out of the economy, either by increasing taxes, cutting government employment or cutting government payments like unemployment benefits and Social Security. Whichever way the government looks to reduce the deficit it will mean that there will be less spending, which in turn means employers see less demand and will want to hire fewer workers.
Former Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Laura Tyson has stated that any deal to cut the deficit "should focus on jobs":
President Obama's immediate priority after the election is to forge a deal with Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff and to buy time to negotiate a long-term deficit reduction plan. The deal should focus on jobs, just as the 2010 compromise deal for a temporary extension of the high-end Bush tax cuts in return for additional fiscal measures to support job creation did. Despite the steady recovery, the U.S. still suffers from a significant jobs deficit: more than 11 million jobs are required to return to the prerecession employment level and absorb the growth in the labor force that has occurred since then.
The prospects of reaching a temporary compromise deal to avoid the fiscal cliff and the significant job destruction that would result are promising. In an early post-election statement, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that if there is a mandate, it is a mandate to find common ground to help the economy grow and create jobs.
With considerable economic slack and record low interest rates, tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit in the short term are neither necessary nor desirable. But as the economy recovers, the United States does face a formidable long-term fiscal challenge. It needs a credible multiyear deficit reduction plan that gradually stabilizes the debt to G.D.P. ratio at a sustainable level. The plan should contain a balanced package of revenue increases and spending cuts that address two other deficits: the investment deficit and the opportunity deficit.
Similarly, as The Washington Post reported, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in February that while Congress must find a sustainable level of federal spending over coming decades, lawmakers must "take care not to unnecessarily impede the current economic recovery." The Post added that Bernanke said focusing on growth now, instead of the deficit, "will lead to lower deficits and debt in coming years."
Moreover, economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman has written that focusing on cuts to reduce the deficit would lead "to the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs."