This country is at an historic crossroads, and the path we choose can determine our future far beyond the next four years. Our children and grandchildren may someday bless us or curse us for what we did this Tuesday. Against that background, it is painful to see the petty talking points and gross misconceptions that seem to dominate this year's election campaign.
Take the question of jobs. How many times have we heard about how many jobs have been added during the Obama administration? Yet few people bother to find out whether these are net additions to jobs — which is what is crucial.
The government can always increase some jobs, either directly by hiring more people or indirectly by policies that increase employment in particular industries or regions. But the real question is whether the government's actions create more jobs than they destroy — that is, whether there is any net addition to jobs.
Yet who in the media even asks that question?
Instead, they focus on the unemployment rate. But people who have given up looking for a job are not counted as unemployed. The proportion of the working-age population that is not working is higher now than it has been in many years.
Another gross misconception on the job front is that jobs created during a given administration are a result of the policies of that administration, as are any other signs of economic recovery. But this assumes that the economy is incapable of recovering on its own, without government intervention.
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Thomas Sowell (photo) is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.