Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 9, 2010

THE WRONG ARGUMENT FROM THE WRONG TEAM.... The latest monthly jobs report, as has been the case for months, was disappointing. The private sector added jobs for the ninth month in a row, but growth was tepid and didn't come close to offsetting the large job losses in the public sector.

Conservative Republicans, who've been wrong about every major economic challenge for the last several decades, seemed thrilled to seize on the unemployment numbers, in the hopes they'd pay political dividends. That may very well prove effective -- the employment picture is still bleak and discouraging, which to the GOP, necessarily means the Democratic approach didn't work.

Let's pause to appreciate how backwards this is.

Honestly, I'm not sure what it is Republicans think they're whining about. The economy is clearly still struggling, but we'd be far better off if the GOP weren't already getting its way.

Putting aside everything we know about the status quo, consider exactly what Republicans think we should be doing right now: keep Bush-era tax rates; slash public-sector employment; stop infrastructure investments; let the private sector grow without any additional economic stimulus.

Then consider the status quo: we have Bush-era tax rates in place (in addition to middle-class and small-business tax cuts Dems passed over GOP opposition); the public sector is shedding jobs by tens of thousands of people per month; infrastructure investments are being blocked (see here and here); and the private sector is trying to grow without any additional economic stimulus.

In other words, the GOP is getting its way and it's complaining about the results.

It's like we're having a debate in a bad "Twilight Zone" episode. Every measure that's come up over the last 21 months that could help create jobs has been fought, watered down, and sometimes killed by Republicans ... who in turn believe the weak job landscape, which they created in the first place, is Democrats' fault. And Americans, feeling pain and anxiety, actually seem inclined to believe them.

Jon Chait had a brief item yesterday that rang true:

"[I]t's worth reiterating that the U.S. is not undergoing some giant Keynesian fiscal experiment. Rather, the federal government is employing Keynesian policies, which are being offset by Hooverian policies at the state and local level, which are slashing government payrolls. [...]

[T]he Republican policy of opposing fiscal aide to state and local government is directly helping produce the kind of terrible job results that a propelling them to victory in November. Quite a racket.

Right. The great irony of 2010 is that unemployment is likely to give Republicans a majority, despite the fact that Republicans made unemployment worse and then kept it that way.

One of the main themes in many key campaigns this year is a simple Republican message: "We tried it the liberal way." Except, we didn't. We tried the conservative way from 2001 to 2008, and it failed so spectacularly, it'll be many years before we fully recover.

We tried some of the progressive approach, and it quickly helped create jobs, reverse the economic downward spiral, generate growth, and stabilize the economy. But instead of keeping our foot on the gas, we stopped. Instead of hitting the economy with more stimulus, we struggled to even pass an extension of unemployment benefits, and failed entirely to take additional steps that help the economy most.

Conservative Republicans were wrong about Reagan's tax increases, wrong again about Clinton's tax increases, wrong again about Bush's tax cuts, and wrong yet again about the Great Recession that Obama is helping end. I saw plenty of Republicans cheering the bad news yesterday, but those who think the GOP has credibility on economic issues just aren't paying attention.

Steve Benen 11:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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I don't understand why the Rupubs are complaining at all; I thought they wanted smaller government. What do they think that means? Smaller buildings?

Posted by: Sandtress on October 9, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

everything you say is true.

nonetheless, the messaging problem is insoluble, because the guy in the oval office, instead of spending the last 22 months making a full-throated defense of liberal policies and denouncing the republicans for obstructionism, spent the last 22 months shying away from icky liberals and treating the republicans like adults.

for an intelligent man, it has been an approach of mammoth stupidity, and now he wonders why the left isn't enthusiastic?

on our host's predecessor blog, in 2008, during the primaries, i was denounced regularly by obama fans for noting that there was no reason to believe he wasn't jimmy carter. i don't notice too many of those defenders now....

Posted by: howard on October 9, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, Steve, I don't know why you bother writing things like this anymore. It has been perfectly clear for some time that any Republican capable of rational thought must be consciously sabotaging the country in the service of regaining power-- presumably to enrich themselves and their corporate overlords, since that is all their policies will accomplish.

Posted by: karen on October 9, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the jobs report wasn't good but it sure looks like Wall Street is happy. Follow the money!

Posted by: fillphil on October 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

"but those who think the GOP has credibility on economic issues just aren't paying attention."

Master of the Bleedin' Obvious. First the media. Then the bankers.

Posted by: PeteCO on October 9, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

But they'll let us keep our guns! And at Jesus' name every knee shall bend!

People eventually will give up on their theologies -- but only just after they give up on their family's bread.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 9, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

You're right in general Steve. But, I think there were quite a few Democrats, particularly conservate ones in the Senate, that gave the Republicans an assist on this.

Posted by: blank on October 9, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems are done this election. Professor President, the man who mediates disputes and rises above differences, is facing trouble because of his resistance to the fight. If people felt the president was on their side, I think things might be different. But, I just don't think a lot of people, even Dems, have much faith in Obama anymore. He destroyed his brand over the course of last year, and may not get it back without facing opposition in Congress. That is, assuming he is willing to fight when it counts.

Posted by: KC on October 9, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

So if the Hoover-like policies are shedding payroll in the public sector, then those same policies must be helping the private sector, no?

The federal-level Keynesian policies have stalled, with money already sent to state and local governments to stem cuts. And there's really not much more they can do to cut interest rates. Even Krugman is wary of anymore QE.

Posted by: JessieR on October 9, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Like attracts like; the American People want their politicians to mirror themselves. You know; kinda stupid, but good company at the local BBQ&Beer festival.

Posted by: DAY on October 9, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Google's results for "jobs bills killed by republicans".

These republicans are enemies of the state, in my opinion.

Posted by: Bill on October 9, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Give the businessmen everything they want...

...and they still won't hire. They'll never hire. Perhaps, someday, a different crowd of businessmen may, but these whom we have today never will.

Even some Republicans may not know this. (I hate to call anyone stupid, but in this case evil doesn't cover it.)

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on October 9, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans have launched an all-out war on jobs so that they can win elections. Let's fight back and put an end on the GOP's war on jobs.


Posted by: Winning Progressive on October 9, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

When a republican talks about smaller government, they are talking about laying people off. If they gain a majority in the house we will see a further decline in local government employment, driving the unemployment rate higher.

Posted by: Karen on October 9, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on October 9, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to make a comment about the Citizens United ruling, which is terrible,and now we find out that the PAC of Judge Thomas' wife is receiving lots of this money, the donors, who are un-identified are able to do this because of her husband's ruling. There has to be something that is very corrupt about the whole thing, and do we have any redress?

Posted by: js on October 9, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting piece. Interesting because it seems to validate, albeit indirectly, the progressive critique of the Obama Administration -- that it effectively allowed the Republicans to set the agenda. Of course it's easy to criticize the Republicans as the Party of No, but because of this administration's strategy of preemptive capitulation, the GOP has absolutely no incentive to say yes to anything. Why should they, when every NO results in more concessions from the White House? Similarly, we hear a lot about how difficult it is to muster a majority in the Senate on any issue. However, this problem has been acerbated by the White House's policy of empowering and supporting Blue Dogs who consistently oppose the Democratic agenda. Add to this Obama's disengagement from the legislative process (his preference is for secret back-room deals), his near-neurotic obsession with "bipartisanship," his refusal to engage in anything resembling confrontation, and his tendency to begin all negotiations by loudly proclaiming his willingness to accept half a loaf, and one is amazed that the White House has been able to achieve anything at all. Currently, progressives are getting trashed because they've consistently called the President out on this. That's understandable. Everyone dislikes the little smart-ass kid who goes around telling people that the emperor is bare-ass naked. Especially if you're the emperor. And especially if it's true. The only question now is whether Obama can learn something from his mistakes and adopt a different approach, or whether he will continue to do the same thing over and over again, and expect a different result.

Posted by: fradiavolo on October 9, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

So if the Democrats are going to use their control of the White House and Congress to implement Republican policies, why should we vote for them?

Posted by: Counterfactual on October 9, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but here is a link to the Dana Milbank article regarding Glen Beck and Mormonism issue.


Posted by: winddancer on October 9, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Steve, for being out there. Your monthly private sector jobs chart is invaluable, and I win arguments with it frequently. I've turned it into my avatar on HuffPost, and I invite anyone to copy it:


But Steve, if you could, try to reach out more to TV, radio, print reporters, and the White House. This message MUST spread, NOW. You are the one with the best ability to do that. Please work your -ss off.

Posted by: pdxist on October 9, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The progressives have sent a very clear message that the private sector needs to severely regulated, shrank, and controlled. Any private sector business would have to be insane to think about expanding while progressives in control of the government. Considering that the Obama Administration is probably going to run a $trillion dollar deficit in for at least the fist five years of the administration and will add more to the national debt in four years than the Bush Administration added in eight, they have to brace for much higher taxes in the future.

Given that the feds will be looking at very financial transaction, it is no wonder that the financial industry is not trying to off shore every tranaction to keep the government from second guessing it.

As the country goes forward, the U.S. is fated to become a third world country where a few progressive elites get to populate the patron class and everyone else are just peons to do the bidding of the government.

Posted by: superdestroyer on October 9, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

"any Republican capable of rational thought"

What a creative idea!

Posted by: Bob M on October 9, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

i guess i'm not busy enough right now, since i actually find myself with the time to engage the witless superdestroyer and his empty clichefest.

the capacity of the tiny mind to confuse the affordable care act with october, 1917 or castro taking control in havana is always a good laugh; the idea that the deficit is large because of spending enacted above baseline since obama has been in charge is moronic; the idea that the private sector wouldn't seize an opportunity to make money today because of fear of some unknown something tomorow without empirical foundation; and anyone who is bracing for higher taxes in the future should thank george w. bush and the republican congress that cut taxes, stole the social security surplus, and increased spending (indeed, proudly ran, in 2004, on the notion that the iraq war should not be paid for, or perhaps you've forgotten the actual point of "he was for it before he was against it").

in short, try to learn something about reality before typing out the moronic claptrap you hear on right-wing talk radio.

Posted by: howard on October 9, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think we are forgetting the fact that the stimulus, as with every other bill, is held hostage to the unanimous consent rule to proceed with business in the senate, AND the 60-vote rule in the Senate as well. Remember all the cuts to stimulus that happened to please Snowe, Specter, and Collins. In retrospect, Dems and Obama got gamed on HCR that consumed way too much time: Barraso, Hatch, Grassley, etc were tools playing a game - they were not negotiating in good faith. Shame on dems/Obama for believing them; but double shame on the bastards playing power games, and not working for the good of the country.

This, and the fact that the REpub scream machine makes up a new terror/fear/worry every 24 secs., so that mainstream americans who lose jobs, houses, and net value hear a simple and loud message, and we get what we have now.

Posted by: bigutah on October 9, 2010 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Voters are reacting to the economy - when it is bad and not improving, they are comparatively hostile to incumbents. There is no reason to think that they believe Republicans' arguments - their trust in all politicians declines in bad times. The rhetoric on both sides is probably largely irrelevant.

Posted by: skeptonomist on October 9, 2010 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Can we not just admit that the vast majority of Americans do not care about politics, do not care about getting screwed by the rich, and are really a lot more concerned about who wins American Idol? Not because they're stupid or contemptible, but because they work hard all day, take care of their kids, and they're tired? If Obama hasn't made their life better, well, then, what's the difference between him and George W. Bush? And guess what? Not very many people are "progressive" or "liberal." Most people are conservative--in other words, they like things the way they are. They're not agitators. Because life in America is pretty damned good--not perfect--not as good as it might be--but even though there hasn't been a lot of wage growth over the last 30 years, it's still probably better than it was 30 years ago for most folks--most folks that vote, anyway. And if you don't vote, you really don't count.

Posted by: kk on October 10, 2010 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

You say: "those who think the GOP has credibility on economic issues just aren't paying attention" is true. The problem is that those who think the democrats have credibility on economic issues also aren't paying attention. Two easy points jut for you.

Obama and his troupe are Keynesians but they were unwilling to commit to the political fight for all of the dollars that the Keynesian models told them were needed. The net result of the cowardly unwillingness to fight for all the required funding is a sluggish recovery, high unemployment, and republican political gains; and a public perception encouraged by think tank hacks and a complicit media that the Keynesian methodology has been invalidated or wounded.

Similarly, the democrats are for free trade until they have to stand up to China and its predatory currency policy that protects its own labor and manufacturing base while harming ours. Rather than move on the policy actions that would force China to let its currency float, we let them lollygag to their own drummer despite the harmful effects to our own economy while the potential political benefits in an election year do not even get put into play.

Posted by: gone_west on October 10, 2010 at 4:11 AM | PERMALINK

What everyone forgets is that the Republican talking point is that tax cuts produce jobs. Since the Bush Tax cuts are still in place, just how many jobs have those tax cuts produced. And why after all this time haven't the wealthy invested in our robust economy? If tax cuts create jobs and reduce deficits like the republicans say they do, why haven't these same tax cuts that are still on the books creating jobs and reducing the deficit.

Posted by: verberne on October 10, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

"...but those who think the GOP has credibility on economic issues just aren't paying attention."

Unfortunately, the majority of the electorate *aren't* paying attention.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on October 11, 2010 at 6:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately, the majority of the electorate *aren't* paying attention."
Posted by: Nancy Irving on October 11, 2010 at 6:13 AM

And those that are, are being told lies by the Publicans, and by their mouthpieces in the corporate media -- lies that are not being responded to by anyone (at least not anyone from whom they're regularly hearing -- least of all from the Obama administration or any Congressional Dem "leaders" -- with the possible exception of Paul Krugman).
The specific lies "explaining" the lack of job-creation over the last 10 years assign the blame to the Dems' ostensible increases in taxes and regulation -- which conveniently elides the facts that job creation was down long before the Dem's won the '06 and '08 elections; that taxes were reduced, not raised, in the first 2 years of the Obama Presidency; and that increases in taxes going back almost 100 years (but most blatantly during the Reagan and Clinton eras) have been more often and more strongly correlated with economic growth, while tax cuts have correlated better with times of economic stagnation.

Posted by: smartalek on October 11, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Conservative Republicans were wrong about Reagan's tax increases, wrong again about Clinton's tax increases, wrong again about Bush's tax cuts, and wrong yet again about the Great Recession that Obama is helping end."

If you believe that I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.
The Republicans have presided over, in the last 30 years, the most massive upward transfer of assetts in history. You think they did this by being mistaken? Oops, sorry? They weren't "wrong" on any of that. They knew exactly what they were doing. The mistake is on your part, and the voters, who think there is a relationship between what they say and what they do and want. The present economic picture, which most of us consider bleak, is Republican Heaven.
Why are they so smug after the generally accepted failure of the Bush Administration? Because it wasn't a failure, it was the crowning achievement of a 30 year subversion. The top 10% have almost all of the money, and the rest of us will do almost anything for minimum wage, which they will abolish as soon as they own Congress.

Posted by: richard on October 14, 2010 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Ive recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

Posted by: administrative assistant on January 20, 2011 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK



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