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October 24, 2011 10:05 AM ‘Focusing on the wrong problem’

By Steve Benen

Ask congressional Republicans what’s wrong with the economy, and they’ll point to federal regulations. Recent analyses from CNN, the New York Times, the AP, the Economic Policy Institute, the Wall Street Journal, and McClatchy newspapers — relying on, among other things, BLS data, surveys from the National Federation of Independent Business, and Brookings Institution scholarship — all said the same thing: government regulations are not responsible for holding back the economy.

CNN’s Candy Crowley pressed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to explain the gap between Republican rhetoric and all available evidence, asking, “Are you focusing on the wrong problem?” He replied:

“Well, you know why people aren’t buying. They’re unemployed. I mean, the private sector is not going to get going here until the government gets its foot off the throat and lets people who know how to create jobs and grow businesses do that.

“Look, Candy, all of these people are not making this up. I don’t think people who are running companies are making it up. They realize what is making it difficult for them to grow and expand.”

Maybe McConnell didn’t understand the question. Crowley had just cited a survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, asking business owners what’s holding the economy back. The most frequent response was poor sales, not government regulation.

Confronted with this information, McConnell is comfortable pretending he’s still right, and that the private sector agrees with him, reality be damned.

As for that first part of his answer, McConnell’s correct that unemployment undermines economic demand, but let’s not forget that McConnell (a) is making a Keynesian argument that he disagrees with; and (b) wants to make unemployment worse on purpose by laying off hundreds of thousands of additional public-sector workers (because they’re public-sector workers).

In other words, confronted with reality, and asked to defend his number one economic talking point, the top Senate Republican is quickly reduced to incoherence.

When the political world wonders why a sensible debate over economic policy seems literally impossible, I hope McConnell’s responses yesterday will come to mind.

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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  • martin on October 24, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Confronted with this information, McConnell is comfortable pretending hes still right, and that the private sector agrees with him, reality be damned.

    He's not pretending anything. As you point out 2 grafs later, he's repeating his talking point. If enough people hear it, and enough of those believe it, he's done his job, which is to defeat Obama and regain power for the Republicans.

    I know you think his job is to legislate and serve the country, but you are not living on the same planet as McConnell.

  • DAY on October 24, 2011 10:26 AM:

    My bid'nez is cleaning up superfund sites. There's big costs in gettin' rid of what the call 'hazardous waste', so I bought me a hot dog company, and hired a bunch of folks to combine the two, ship them weiners to discount stores and such.
    Now they tell me I can't do that no more. Durn gummint regulations!

  • c u n d gulag on October 24, 2011 10:27 AM:

    You expect Mitch "Yertle, the Anti-Gay Gay Turtle" McConnell, a self-hating gay man, to accept reality?

    Reality is in an alternate universe for him and Boehner, and the rest of these "Pirates of the Economy!"

  • jcricket on October 24, 2011 10:27 AM:

    The R's answer to everything is to game the system further in the direction of the top 1%. Reduce taxes on the 1%, eliminate any law or regulation that keeps the 1% from taking more out of the social contract than they are now.

  • Josef K on October 24, 2011 10:33 AM:

    In other words, confronted with reality, and asked to defend his number one economic talking point, the top Senate Republican is quickly reduced to incoherence.

    Does the man ever speak coherently? I can't recall a single time, personally.

  • Peter C on October 24, 2011 10:38 AM:

    "until the government gets its foot off the throat and lets people who know how to create jobs and grow businesses until the government gets its foot off the throat and lets people who know how to create jobs and grow businesses"

    McConnell needs to have a more accurate understanding of what it is like to have a foot on his throat. He needs to learn that it has nothing to do with being limited to only two helpings of chateaudriand.

    The Republicans care only about the 1% - the 'haves and have mores'.

  • Tired Liberal on October 24, 2011 11:08 AM:

    And did Ms. Crowley follow up by correcting Senator McConnell and restate that the surveys do not support his claims that small businesses blame regulation for their problems? I didn't think so.

  • skip1515 on October 24, 2011 11:08 AM:

    "Maybe McConnell didn�t understand the question. Crowley had just cited a survey...(snip)..Confronted with this information, McConnell is comfortable pretending he�s still right, and that the private sector agrees with him, reality be damned...(snip)...In other words, confronted with reality, and asked to defend his number one economic talking point, the top Senate Republican is quickly reduced to incoherence."

    Yes, and CNN's Candy Crowley doesn't call him out on this, according to this article. *That* is the real problem: politicians of every ilk get to repeat their talking points, not matter how idiotic, without ever being confronted by a common sense analysis by reporters. As long as journalists in every medium continue to believe their job is to provide a platform for political positions, and to never, ever call into question the validity of politicians' statements, then the public will continue to be swayed by sound bites.

  • Registeredguest on October 24, 2011 11:15 AM:

    We heard the same thing on Meet The Press, Jack Welch with no push back from Gregory and nodding approval from Harold Ford spouted the same "too much regulation" as one of the main reasons business isn't hiring.

    Why can't we have a better press?

    And why does Harold Ford keep getting invited on MTP? He never has anything worthwhile to add to the conversation.

  • SYSPROG on October 24, 2011 12:09 PM:

    Yes...my favorite quote from the Sunday shows was Post Turtle proclaiming 'the President is clueless and tone deaf' on the jobs front. WOW! And the commentator just say there nodding...Jack Welch was ridiculous yesterday. And Harold Ford? REALLY? That guy is a bobblehead just agreeing with the last person talking...

  • Joe Friday on October 24, 2011 12:15 PM:

    Registeredguest,

    "We heard the same thing on Meet The Press, Jack Welch with no push back from Gregory and nodding approval from Harold Ford spouted the same 'too much regulation' as one of the main reasons business isn't hiring."

    That was disgusting to watch.

    Both Welch and Ford were blaming:

    * Overregulation, even though that's been debunked.

    * High corporate taxation, even though more than two-thirds of corporations pay zero taxes and the rest pay less than 5%.

    * The Obama White House being anti-business, even though that has been debunked.

    Gregory is a tool.

  • Rabbler on October 24, 2011 12:57 PM:

    Have any of these studies rejecting the idea that regulations impede recovery considered all the horrific, barbaric, yet profitable, things businesses would do if they were totally unregulated?

  • bjobotts on October 24, 2011 6:22 PM:

    Yet Candy Crowley says nothing to rebuke McConnell's willful ignorance and stunted vision. Therein lies the problem...allowing this propaganda to go forward as if it had credibility.

  • bjobotts on October 24, 2011 6:40 PM:

    Let's get off this kick of "the wealthy are job creators". Or "No poor person ever gave me a job" routine. NONSENSE!

    The wealthy don't give jobs... jobs are created by "DEMAND". If there is no demand for your goods or services then you won't hire people to provide them. Laying off in the 'public sector' pulls money (and taxes) out of the economy so there is less demand for goods and services...meaning that unemployment creates more unemployment...which leads to less money for the treasury and less ability to provide government services etc. etc. etc. It's so fu**ing obvious that even McConnell should be able to grasp it (which means he's lying AND he doesn't give a chit about jobs or the economy).

    What O'Connell needs as well as Cantor and Boehner is the book "LEGISLATING FOR DUMMIES". There must be one for just such idiots who have no business being in government if they are unable to understand the above. M & M's...Misguided & Misinformed. Nothing Mitch says ever makes any sense. He just likes the sound of his own voice. Wake up Kentucky.

  • FitterDon on October 25, 2011 1:12 PM:

    Gregory is not a tool. Tool implies he has a use, I don't see it.

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