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.
Yet the American economy recovered from downturns on its own for more than a century and a half, until President Herbert Hoover intervened after the stock market crash of 1929. Indeed, this was one of those bipartisan interventions so much hoped for by the media -- and the results were catastrophic.
The media misconception today is that what we need to speed up economic recovery is to end gridlock in Washington and have bipartisan intervention in the economy. However plausible that may sound, it is contradicted repeatedly by history.
Unemployment was never in double digits in any of the 12 months following the stock market crash of 1929. Only after politicians started intervening did unemployment reach double digits -- and stay in double digits throughout the 1930s.
There is nothing mysterious about an economy recovering on its own. Employers usually have incentives to employ and workers have incentives to look for jobs. Lenders have incentives to lend and borrowers have incentives to borrow -- if politicians do not create needless complications and uncertainties.