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June 03, 2011 9:35 AM The wake-up call

By Steve Benen

It’s become something of a running joke for much of 2011: the more the monthly job numbers improved, the more Republicans were eager to take credit. Just look, GOP leaders said, at all the jobs created since January!

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they won’t take credit for the new monthly jobs report. It’s a nice little scam Republicans have put together: when more jobs are being created, it’s proof they’re right; when fewer jobs are being created, it’s proof Obama’s wrong. Heads they win; tails Dems lose.

For the record, Republicans have nothing to whine about — the economy is advancing exactly as they want it to. The private sector is being left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs quickly; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt-reduction. This is the script the GOP wrote; the party has nothing to complain about when it’s followed to the letter.

The rest of us, however, have plenty of complain about. As Republicans dominate the agenda, and Congress tackles abortion bills and austerity measures, the economy is faltering badly.

Indeed, we’re already seeing the results of austerity — state and local governments are being forces to cut spending, and as a result, tens of thousands of public-sector workers are being forced from their jobs. This, in a nutshell, is the agenda Republicans are desperate to bring to the federal level.

In other words, the GOP has a plan to make matters much worse.

As awful as this morning’s jobs report was, it should, in theory, have one important upside: policymakers who were content to ignore job creation and focus on the deficit just got a startling reminder that those priorities are backwards. The stimulus made the jobs landscape better, and now that the Recovery Act has largely run its course, the job market is deteriorating.

The dominant theory on Capitol Hill is that everything will get magically better just as soon as we take money out of the economy, scrap public investments, focus on inflation that doesn’t exist, and prioritize the debt over the economy.

It didn’t work for Hoover, but congressional Republicans are slow learners.

Honestly, it’s like having a debate about the economy in a Lewis Carroll novel.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • some guy on June 03, 2011 9:40 AM:

    The dominant theory at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is that everything will get magically better just as soon as we take money out of the economy, scrap public investments, focus on inflation that doesnt exist, and prioritize the debt over the economy.

    hechuva job, Timmy G and Larry S.

  • jdb on June 03, 2011 9:42 AM:

    David Camp's Statement on today's Jobs Report: "Not since the Great Depression has our unemployment rate been this high for this long, and yet the President has failed to address the issues that are making it hard for families and employers to get by. He has not offered a plan to deal with high gas and energy prices, there�s no plan from the White House to cut spending and he has off-loaded discussions on the debt. Worse yet, when the President does wade-in, his focus is on raising taxes � taxes that would directly hit the very investors and small businesses we need to create more jobs. The only thing as bad for job creation as higher taxes is the threat of higher taxes. Every time the President or someone in his Administration talks about raising taxes it becomes harder for the 14 million unemployed Americans to find a job."

    http://waysandmeans.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=244478

  • bleh on June 03, 2011 9:43 AM:

    Amusingly, I think there will be at least one unintended consequence: at the end of the day, the federal government will be stronger relative to state and local governments than before the Great Recession. This parallels history. The Republicans may be wishing before long that they hadn't overrreached quite so badly. This too parallels history.

  • Holmes on June 03, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Dave Camp is f'n clueless.

  • whichwitch on June 03, 2011 9:48 AM:

    Good or bad, the President will get the credit/blame for it. Congress is a disfunctional mess but I believe the Republicans still own a good portion of the public with their simple-minded soundbites and misinformation. People don't have the attention span to consider anything else.

  • just bill on June 03, 2011 9:49 AM:

    down the rabbit hole we go..........

  • Mark-NC on June 03, 2011 9:53 AM:

    "but congressional Republicans are slow learners"

    They don't learn because, like most bad students, they don't WANT to learn.

    The truth leans liberal and the Repugnant Ones aren't interested in anything that doesn't support their preferred agenda.

  • c u n d gulag on June 03, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Yeah, but in their version of Lewis Carrol, all they care about is if the 'white rabbit died.'

  • Patrick Star on June 03, 2011 9:58 AM:

    I think the congressional Republicans and the Beltway Media Establishment are (hopefully) learning some lessons from the last few months. One is that there is a HUGE disconnect between Reality and the Right Wing Echo Chamber of Fox/Rush etc. that shapes THEIR reality. THEY think that EVERYBODY is on board with their agenda, and that the elections that swept them into power is a mandate for them to change American society.
    WRONG!!
    The second lesson is that, if they think that the American people are just going to stand by and let them take away Medicare, they are making a HUGE mistake. Every damn poll out there shows that voters don't want any changes to Medicare, but the R's and the Corporate Media don't want to take "no" for an answer. Personally, I hope they keep pushing this failed agenda until it blows up in their faces, and they're exposed as the craven cowards they really are.

  • sjw on June 03, 2011 10:00 AM:

    The Republican economic "plan" is, in fact, political: keep the economy in dire straits deep into 2012 so that it becomes a campaign issue. An unemployment rate of around 9%, for example, will make it that much harder for Obama to get reelected. The political cynicism on display here is mind boggling, but it is of a piece with other Republican positions (e.g., the debt ceiling).

  • Ron Byers on June 03, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Again, could somebody point me to something discussing the real causes of this slowdown. I don't think it is cutting state and local budgets alone. There is more to this. It is world wide and it has been building for months. Is there a lack of money? Is there a lack of demand? What the fuck is really going on. Get to the bottom of the problem

  • Texas Aggie on June 03, 2011 10:04 AM:

    You wonder where the republicans ever got a reputation for being businessmen. Real businessmen have been telling them for a long time that customers with money are a lot more important than taxes to running a business. Republicans just sort of look at them with blank expressions on their faces and go back to talking about tax cuts. How do you get through to these people?

    A good example of this is David Camp's statement above. He conveniently ignores the fact that Pres. Obama had a plan to address the jobs problem, but the republicans cut it down so much that it only did half a job, and now the subject has been changed from jobs to debt reduction. People who take this type of rhetoric seriously haven't been paying attention. The only theory that fits the data is that republicans don't care about American jobs since they already own everything and are doing quite well living off their income from off-shoring jobs, thank you very much. Now that they've maximized their income, they are working on reducing their outgo by getting their taxes cut to nothing.

  • Anonymous on June 03, 2011 10:06 AM:

    Your post, Mr. Benen, represents why I feel miserable as an American citizen these days of malaise!

    I cannot fathom what devices of mind the Republican party has put on public display - a full fledged attack on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal!

    FDR's efforts to pull us together as American citizens, rebuild our national economy by making the U.S. government a viable economic power and partner with our private sector, and holding off both political extremes of fascism and communism at the same time are being desecrated, disparaged and demonized by Boehner, McConnell and company!

    Wake up and feel the pain! -Kevo

  • chi res on June 03, 2011 10:11 AM:

    Is there a lack of money? Is there a lack of demand? What the fuck is really going on.

    There's plenty of money out there, most in the hands of international corporations and the very wealthy. As long as investment rates are low and profits marginal, they'll continue to sit on it and accumulate more capital and more political power.

  • Holmes on June 03, 2011 10:11 AM:

    The recession was the culmination of 6 years of awful Bush economic policy. Said recession led to the housing bubble bursting, The drop in housing prices exposed the insane stuff happening on Wall Street. When Wall Street's house of cards collapsed, we were in a full global financial crisis.

    Corporate America and Wall Street are making a shitload of money again, thanks in large part to the government. However, they aren't hiring because demand is weak. Demand is weak because the housing market sucks, and after 30 years of stagnated wages, high personal debt and a disappearing middle class(even more exaggerated in the last 10 years), no one has any money to spend.

    To make matters worse, the stimulus was undermined by states taking nearly the same amount of money out of the economy in cuts. Even as private sector jobs have increased, states are continuing to increase layoffs, which is preventing any momentum in labor.

    Gas prices, environmental disasters, and problems in Europe and Japan are also putting immense downward pressure on our economy.

    We need a robust response from the Federal level to break the stagnation, but that isn't going to happen with Republicans blocking everything.

  • atlliberal on June 03, 2011 10:12 AM:

    Ron,

    The bottom line is that when you have 15 million people unemployed or working part time, you lose much of your customer base. No matter how much businesses save by cutting expenses, no matter how low taxes are, they will not reinvest until they have customers. 15 million (or more)people with no jobs, no income not paying income taxes, sales taxes, not going out to eat, buying clothes or appliances,let alone houses, depresses the economy and spirals into lower revenue for local, state and federal government. This is why it is right for the government to spend money while the economy is in trouble, as long as it provides jobs,even though they should have been saving for this rainy day when times were good. In the long term, I'm all for balancing the budget, and paying down the debt. But in order to do that we have to grow the economy in the short term.

  • DAY on June 03, 2011 10:12 AM:

    As always, Ron Byers asks inconvenient questions- the ones that cannot be answered with a spinning sound bite.

    I am not an economist, but I have slept in a Holiday Inn. For decades the residential house was used as ever rising collateral for ever increasing borrowing. Not too different from Tulip Mania- or any other Ponzi Scheme.

    And when the chickens finally come home to roost (only to find that their house is in foreclosure), they no longer can access easy money to buy things on easy credit. Sadly, America is based (since the end of WW II) on borrowing and spending (first the home mortgage, then the credit card).

    When your job depends on either making or selling things, and you no longer have customers, you -and the nation- find yourself up the proverbial tributary without any means of propulsion.

  • Josef K on June 03, 2011 10:13 AM:

    Honestly, it�s like having a debate about the economy in a Lewis Carroll novel.

    Bad metaphor. Logic was still logic in Wonderland; witness the argument between the Executioner and the Queen over whether or not the bodiless Cheschire Cat would legitimately be beheaded or not.

    Yes, the economy is slowing down again. Tim Harrison at Minyanville suggests the Recession never actually ended; hard to argue at this point.

    What I want to know is whether the impending default by Treasury will send everything into free-fall or just bend the curve a bit more. I'll wager the markets will react by mid-July if there's no resolution to the debt ceiling before then.

  • Bob M on June 03, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Brilliant putdown of the Republican creepiness.

  • Ron Byers on June 03, 2011 10:16 AM:

    There is plenty of money out there? Right. How come I can't get my bank to lend me very much at anything less than credit card rates?

  • T2 on June 03, 2011 10:17 AM:

    It has been, for two years, obvious the GOP is planning to hold the nation hostage until they can regain the Presidency with one of their crazy white men, who will then serve at the pleasure of Big Corporate.
    Sabotage the economy is the plan. Unemployment is the result. They will now use the terrible job picture that they perpetuate to introduce Job Bills ad nauseum, bills that will be a Trojan Horse to hold all kinds of entitlement cuts and social/cultural program starvations. Breaking the nation in order to more completely rule it.

  • berttheclock on June 03, 2011 10:20 AM:

    "let alone houses"

    How true - The number of people who can qualify today for home loans is shrinking rapidly. In Porland, OR, where there is a high unemployment rate, buyers control the market. The few with cash can and do dictate what sellers must do to refurbish their homes, including, for the first time, demanding and receiving sellers pick up the closing costs. To be in a cash position, today, means total control.

  • patrick II on June 03, 2011 10:23 AM:

    Amazingly enough, in a note from John Boehner it was revealed that part of the republican economic strategy was to release enough public workers (teachers, firemen, etc.) into the private sector that it would drive down wages, and cause business to start hiring again and thus start business on an upswing. Kind of a supply side theory of labor.
    You won't hear this said publicly since (rightfully) they believe it would be unpopular. But if we all get poor enough then we will be cheap enough to hire and get business going again and the economy will be fine. Absolute genius. Maybe the next step that is if we all get even poorer -- dirt poor -- it will be an even bigger business success, until we all get so poor we can declare victory as we spend our last penny on some flour.

  • berttheclock on June 03, 2011 10:31 AM:

    This recession reminds me of the depression in the '30s. During my first year at KU, my room mate was the grandson of a very wealthy banker from Central Kansas. The banker made his vast fortune by being the only one in the area with cash. When, the dust bowl hit Kansas, he bought out, for cents on the dollar, wheat farmers. He ended up being the wealthiest Republican among them. (There were very few Demos around, as they had pulled a Woody Guthrie.)

    This is what the current RepuGs want, today. To pick up the pieces for cents on the dollar and have a vast labor pool of poorly paid workers to slave for them. Welcome to Two Tiered America, the newest Third World Country on earth.

  • atlliberal on June 03, 2011 10:38 AM:

    American businesses are sitting on $2 trillion because they have no customers to buy their products:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703766704576009501161973480.html

    Granted this article was from 2010, but not much has changed.

  • chi res on June 03, 2011 10:42 AM:

    There is plenty of money out there? Right. How come I can't get my bank to lend me very much at anything less than credit card rates?

    Perhaps "out there" was confusing. There's plenty of money, most of it being sat on.

  • Ron Byers on June 03, 2011 10:50 AM:

    It is amazing how Republicans forget that our economy runs well only when we have sufficient money to demand goods and services. The two tiered "America" approach has been tried over and over again and has failed miserably. If you need an example of a two tiered society look at Mexico. Vast resources, a few billionaires, a small middle class and grinding poverty for everybody else. Not even the billionaires are safe.

  • doubtful on June 03, 2011 11:47 AM:

    Not even the billionaires are safe.

    They all suffer from the delusion that whatever bad happens, it won't happen to the.

  • Sam Simple on June 03, 2011 12:11 PM:

    I am afraid what we are looking at is the second leg down of Great Depression 2.0. This might be where it really gets ugly and we see unemployment north of 20%. Of course, it will only get worse if a Republiccan gets in the White House in 2012. We are totally rookie-dooed and tatooed if that happens!

  • beejeez on June 03, 2011 1:34 PM:

    A game for independent voters:

    1992-2011:
    Democratic presidency and control of Congress: Economy reverses decline, begins strongest recovery ever.
    Democratic presidency, Republican control of Congress: Economic improvement continues, then gradually slows.
    Republican presidency and control of Congress: Economy goes from so-so to bad.
    Republican presidency and Democratic control of Congress: Economy declines further.
    Democratic presidency and control of both houses: Economy reverses decline, begins upward swing.
    Democratic presidency and Republican control of House: Economic recovery stagnates.

    Find the common denominator.

  • Danny Gail McElrath on June 03, 2011 2:16 PM:

    Steve, you were doing pretty good until you got to the end and said this won't work and Republicans are slow learners. Not so. They have learned well. It is working just like they want it to. They will drive the economy even further down, creating more misery (which doesn't bother them), and the American electorate, who are the ones who never learn, blind and unthinking, will with a knee jerk, give them the White House and both houses of Congress. And Obama and the Democrats, who are definitely the ones who never learn, will let it happen because, with a few noble exceptions, they are too dumb and scared to stand up and tell the blunt truth to the American people about what the Republicans are doing and what is happening.

  • Stephen Stralka on June 03, 2011 3:15 PM:

    Worse yet, when the President does wade-in, his focus is on raising taxes -- taxes that would directly hit the very investors and small businesses we need to create more jobs. The only thing as bad for job creation as higher taxes is the threat of higher taxes. Every time the President or someone in his Administration talks about raising taxes it becomes harder for the 14 million unemployed Americans to find a job.

    Good God. When we talk about raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, we're talking about directly hitting the people who aren't investing all that money they're sitting on. How hard is that to understand?

    GOP dogma says these are the people, and the only people, who create jobs. Well, they've got plenty to invest, and there are plenty of people looking for jobs, so why the fuck aren't they doing anything? Because there's a possibility their income taxes might increase by 3%? Seriously? What kind of person refuses to help his fellow countrymen in a time of need because he's not sure if he's going to be able to keep ALL of the profits? I mean, obviously there are people like that out there, but they're dicks.

    Oh, but it will hurt small businesses? This one is becoming a pet peeve of mine. (These people spout so much bullshit that you can only get really annoyed by a small portion of it.) How does it follow that a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans will hurt small businesses? Haven't these idiots noticed that by the time business owners join the ranks of the wealthy, they generally aren't small businesses anymore?

    Etc.

  • Typical asshole liberal purist on June 03, 2011 4:45 PM:

    Boy I am so glad all the asshole liberal purists stayed home in Nov 2010 to teach Obama and the Democrats a lesson. It's working out so well, isn't it?

  • Anonymous on June 05, 2011 3:17 AM:

    on jdb's post about David Camp's statement on today's jobs report.

    apparently jdb has studied in bachmann/palin's school of history, if you don;t believe it it's not true and if you don't know it make it up.

    real history will show that when Reagan increased taxes on the corporations the economy was perfectly fine until he reduced taxes on the rich then it nosedived. When Clinton did the same thing, tax the rich/corporations on profits the economy was healed tremendously.

    jdp/David Camp both are probably out buying that just released book entitled "Where's the Birth Certificate", you know the one that was released right after the president released the Birth Certificate. While they're at the book store they should probably pick up a few history books too huh.

  • mike on June 05, 2011 3:18 AM:

    on jdb's post about David Camp's statement on today's jobs report.

    apparently jdb has studied in bachmann/palin's school of history, if you don;t believe it it's not true and if you don't know it make it up.

    real history will show that when Reagan increased taxes on the corporations the economy was perfectly fine until he reduced taxes on the rich then it nosedived. When Clinton did the same thing, tax the rich/corporations on profits the economy was healed tremendously.

    jdp/David Camp both are probably out buying that just released book entitled "Where's the Birth Certificate", you know the one that was released right after the president released the Birth Certificate. While they're at the book store they should probably pick up a few history books too huh.

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