While sadly unsurprising, it's always instructive to see how differently the partisans in Washington can view the exact same facts.
A case in point today: the Labor Department reported that the nation's unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in November from 9.6 percent because of far slower-than-expected job growth. That is the highest joblessness in seven months, and means that the rate has been at least 9 percent for 19 consecutive months, the longest stretch on record (which doesn't, of course, include the Great Depression.)
Democrats see that as a reason to extend emergency unemployment benefits, which would end for 2 million Americans (including 454,000 Californians) by the end of this month without action by Congress, and to extend tax cuts targeted at the middle class, which also expire Dec. 31 without action.
"Today's jobs report is a clear sign that there is more work to do to create jobs, strengthen our middle class, and revitalize our economy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said in a statement.
"The best way to inject demand into our economy right now is to put money in the pockets of those that need it most and will spend it fastest - America's middle class - and Republicans should join us immediately in that effort. That means keeping in place unemployment insurance for Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, which non-partisan studies have shown return two dollars in economic benefits for every dollar invested. Republicans in the House and Senate must stop holding middle-class tax cuts hostage to a tax giveaway to millionaires and billionaires that adds $700 billion to the deficit while doing little to stimulate economic growth and create jobs."
But Republicans argue that stubborn unemployment shows that the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended for everyone, including the wealthiest Americans. They assert that group - those individuals making more than $200,000 a year or couples earning more than $250,000 - include lots of small businesses, though studies suggest otherwise.
"The economic situation is uncertain at best and steadily evaporating at worst, yet through all of this, there seems to be an alarming lack of urgency by the Democrats as they have refused to take meaningful and definitive action to address the uncertainty created by the expiring tax cuts," Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who will be in the leadership of the GOP-controlled House come January, said in a statement.
"You would think that after the November elections, Democrats would have realized how out-of-touch and misdirected their policies have been, but given the political gamesmanship they engaged in with yesterday's vote that would leave small businesses susceptible to a devastating tax increase, they clearly have not gotten the message. The only question remains how many more Americans will need to lose their jobs until they do?"
It's as if the two parties live in parallel universes, or at least have far different views of the world. And it makes the chances murkier for a bipartisan deal on unemployment benefits and tax cuts.
What is clear is that the economic recovery is not very fast and that 15 million Americans who are looking for work can't find a job.