CNBC analyst Rick Santelli's Wall Street friends didn't sound very happy Friday morning when he predicted that America's jobs outlook would only improve between now and the election. But that's what he said, and it sounded like he's sticking to it.
“Hey, I want to make a prediction for the Friday before the election number, right now,” Santelli said, reacting to Friday's jobs report. “7.9 on unemployment rate. I wanna make it right now. Right now."
"Oh come on," CNBC "Squawk Box" co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin said. 'That's such a ridiculous silliness. That's silliness."
"I didn't give a reason!" Santelli yelped, seeming to realize he'd just stepped on a few toes. "Don't put words in my mouth!"
The anchors spent the rest of the segment discussing whether the improving jobs figures are part of a conspiracy to help re-elect Obama, which former Obama economist Austan Goolsbee objected to.
"Remember 2004?" he asked. "We had month after month of not very good numbers, and then the Friday before the election there was a huge positive number of job growth, and everybody said, 'What does this mean? How did this happen?' That's the closest thing you've got to evidence."
Santelli seemed wary of suggesting the Obama administration has anything to do with the improving jobs outlook, real or fabricated, even though jobs always weigh more heavily on a president than he should be blamed or credited for. And for good reason: his prediction is especially interesting given his stature as a tea party hero.
Astute news junkies may remember Santelli best from "the rant heard 'round the world," circa February 2009. Just after Obama took office, Santelli delivered a passionate monologue railing against stimulus measures and mortgage modification programs, eliciting cheers from stock traders by vowing to kick off his own "tea party" in Chicago. It quickly went viral online, fueling the push-back which ultimately morphed into the tea party.
"We certainly don't want to put stimulus forth and give people a whopping $8 or $10 in their check and think that they ought to save it," Santelli said. "And in terms of modifications, I'll tell ya what, I have an idea. The new administration is big on computers and technology. How about this, president and new administration? Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the internet as a referendum to see if we really wanna subsidize the loser's mortgages."
But Santelli's advice was not heeded at the White House, which launched a program called Making Home Affordable, aimed at helping struggling, underwater or unemployed homeowners renegotiate and refinance their mortgages to stay in their homes. And while the program has struggled, even being called a "failure" by Republicans, by Feb. 2012 officials said it had helped more than 600,000 families stay in their homes.
For Santelli to predict that unemployment will continue to improve under Obama may come as a bitter pill to many tea party enthusiasts, but his words still ring of relief to most American workers. Unfortunately, that relief isn't entirely born out by the numbers: while the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that more than 4.5 million jobs have been added to the private sector since the recession hit bottom and began rolling back, that hasn't driven down the total unemployment rate because just about as many government jobs have been lost.
But with every marginal improvement, political hay is made. If Santelli is correct and the unemployment rate hits 7.9 percent right before the election, it will be the exact same rate the nation faced the day Obama took office -- and that's likely to be seen as quite the accomplishment considering the circumstances he faced.
This video was broadcast by CNBC on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012.
Photo: Screenshot via CNBC.com.