Political Animal


November 11, 2011 10:35 AM Explaining to Mitch McConnell why better isn’t worse

By Steve Benen

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said something the other day that got me thinking. As part of a larger condemnation of President Obama’s handling of the economy, McConnell presented the Republican vision as best as he could:

“There’s no denying the fact that the policies of the past two and a half years have made a bad situation worse. For two and a half years the Democrats completely dominated this town. They got everything they wanted.

“And what happened? Unemployment has hovered around 8 percent for 32 months, the so-called Misery Index is worse than it’s been in 25 years, actually unemployment’s hovered around 9 percent, consumer confidence is at levels last seen during the height of the financial crisis, but if there’s one number that really stands out it’s this: 1.5 million. That’s the number of fewer jobs we now have in this country since the day President Obama signed his signature jobs bill into law.”

Anyone with even passing familiarity with the facts knows McConnell is either wrong or being deliberately misleading. Indeed, it’s hard to even know where to start.

We could mention that Democrats certainly didn’t “got everything they wanted.” We could point out that after President Obama “signed his signature jobs bill into law,” the job market immediately started getting better and the recession, as a technical matter, ended.

We could also try to help McConnell explain that a net decrease in jobs is unavoidable when one starts with an economy that’s fallen off a cliff. In 2008 and 2009, the U.S. economy lost a combined, jaw-dropping total of 8.6 million jobs. If McConnell thinks that number can be replaced over the course of a couple of years, he’s a fool.

But the more I thought about this, the more I tried to think of the best way to help the confused Senate Minority Leader understand the larger circumstances. With that in mind, here’s a homemade chart I put together, showing private-sector job growth — Republicans say public-sector jobs don’t count, so for now, I’ll play by their rules — by year over the last two decades. The blue columns show annual totals under Democratic presidents; red columns show annual totals under Republican presidents.

Keep in mind, that column on the right shows 2011 to date, but there are still two months to go in the calendar year. If recent trends continue, we can expect to add more than 200,000 private-sector jobs to the total thus far. But even without the November and December totals, private-sector job growth in 2011 is already the strongest the U.S. economy has seen in five years. It will very likely be even stronger than the growth seen in the final year of the Clinton presidency.

(In case anyone’s curious, the overall annual totals are less impressive — spending cuts have led to massive public-sector layoffs — but 2011 is still the best year for jobs since 2006, even combining the public and private sectors.)

This is not to say it’s a great year to be celebrated; it’s not. Jobs are being added far too slowly, and this year’s totals only look encouraging because they’re compared to the previous Republican administration, which had a horrendous jobs record.

But the trend is pretty obvious. The economy had fallen off a cliff, and now it’s better than it was.

Now look again at the McConnell quote: “There’s no denying the fact that the policies of the past two and a half years have made a bad situation worse.”

In what universe does this claim make sense?

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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  • MattF on November 11, 2011 10:42 AM:

    Oh, facts, schmacts. Obama makes things worse, just because.

  • Gregory on November 11, 2011 10:47 AM:

    In what universe does this claim make sense?

    In that it follows the standard Rove playbook of accusing your opponents of your own weaknesses. Leaving aside the lies about the economy being worse and the Democrats getting "everything they wanted" -- public option, hello? -- McConnell needs to counteract the growing realization that the current economic situation -- including the imbalance between the middle class and the top 1% -- is the result of decades of Republican policy.

    Fortunately, while the so-called "liberal media" will be happy to report McConnell's focus-group-tested bullshit without qualifier, the American people still rightly blame Bush the Lesser for the economic mess. And why not? His policies were clearly geared to the top 1%, and we've known since Reagan that "trickle down" is a dmanable lie.

  • T2 on November 11, 2011 10:48 AM:

    what universe? The one where his Government provided pay check comes from...the one where he'll lie to keep his job.

  • Stonedwino on November 11, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Mitch McConnell is the definition of a scumbag and an asshole all in one. Why anyone pays any attention to anything he says is totally beyond me...

  • c u n d gulag on November 11, 2011 10:51 AM:

    "In what universe does this claim make sense?"

    In a universe where the Republicans in the Senate filibuster anything that doesn't either hurt the economy, hurt Obama, or give Congress more pay/benefits/days off.

    And in a Congress where the Republican controlled House has, for over 10 months, done nothing but pass a handful of BS bills about national motto's, or restricting women's and workers rights.

    THAT universe!

  • karen on November 11, 2011 10:54 AM:

    I don't understand why you don't call this what it is. Mitch McConnell cannot possibly be this confused. He is obviously, obviously, LYING. (See Big Lie technique.)

  • Grumpy on November 11, 2011 10:54 AM:

    In what universe does this claim make sense?

    In a universe where McConnell went on to say, "...worse than I imagine it could have been otherwise," instead of forcing us to conclude that he meant, "Worse than before Obama took office."

    ...compared to the previous Republican administration, which had a horrendous jobs record.

    Even with a net loss of jobs, McConnell thought Bush deserved re-election in 2004.

    Does McConnell even read this blog? No wonder he's ignorant.

  • stormskies on November 11, 2011 10:56 AM:

    "In what universe does this claim make sense?"

    In the universe of Lucifer where McConnell is an unresolved hemorrhoid on the asshole of Lucifer itself ..

  • Darsan54 on November 11, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Mr. McConnell is totally lying. To say Democrats have dominated Washington or the political arena is totally false. To say they have gotten everything they wanted is also false. We wanted Gitmo closed, Congressional Repubs blocked it. We wanted the Bush tax cuts to expire, Congressional Repubs blocked it again. Anything that would have helped was blocked by Congressional Repubs.

    Mr. McConnell is talking to his party, his base and his followers. Nothing he says can be expected to be accurate.

  • Lifelong Dem on November 11, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Unfortunately, it makes sense in the universe of the low-information voter who listens to right-wing media. You really don't understand how many AM talk shows are out there dominated by regional Rush wannabes who parrot everything coming out of McConnell, Boehner, Hannity, Limbaugh and all of Fox News. For those people, America has been driven to its knees by a radical liberal agenda.

  • sparrow on November 11, 2011 11:07 AM:

    In what universe does this claim make sense?

    The obvious answer is in another universe where fact is called fiction and fiction presented as fact. That was just too easy. I'll jump to Astronomy for 500, Alex.

  • DAY on November 11, 2011 11:12 AM:

    Steve, forget about your attempts to have a dialog with McConnell.
    All's fair in love and war; make no mistake, the Republicans are at WAR with Obama. I think he knows that. Do you?

  • SYSPROG on November 11, 2011 11:32 AM:

    Repeat after me Steve...he is a LIAR. He didn't get where he is by being 'confused'...he lied to Kentucky and he continues to LIE LIE LIE.

  • Mike on November 11, 2011 11:42 AM:

    What bothers me more than McConnell's blatant lies is the utter lack of a rebuttal from Democrats. Where are the quotes from Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi? Why aren't they telling people that the economy IS getting better, and that the improvements stopped AFTER the Republicans took control of the house?

    Republicans continue to win the rhetorical war,

  • Texas Aggie on November 11, 2011 12:27 PM:

    Here's another hypothesis for Yertle's misstatements of fact. When you reach his age, you really are not capable of differentiating reality from imagination and dreams. My mom (84 years at the time), who was bedridden, was sure that she had gone to the train station the day before to pick me up when I came by car to visit. She was also sure that she had talked with Dad who had died several years before.

    Yertle is in the same mental stage and, while he can function on a low level (eat, sign papers, get places on time) with the help of his aides and other office staff, he isn't functioning at anywhere near what one would call a rational level. I suspect that he really believes what he says and the polls and statistics that he imagines are as real to him as actual facts, which he ignores because they don't fit his worldview. Frankly, I suspect that the man is as senile as St. Ronald of Alzheimer's was.

  • golack on November 11, 2011 1:28 PM:

    Steve--look at your plot...How many of the job losses in 2009 were under the Bush Administration???

    Granted, under normal circumstances, one month out of a year should make much of a difference--but they were not normal circumstances...

  • Ken Houghton on November 11, 2011 2:26 PM:

    golack - Many more than the ones in 2001 that should be given to the Clinton Administration, but if you're looking for consistency.

    Change in USPRIV 1/2001: -47,000

    Change in USPRIV 1/2009: -841,000 (The largest one-month layoff level in the entire recession, though some of that was possibly post-Xmas. Then again, 12/2008 was the sixth-worst month since 6/2000 with -636K, while November of 2008 was second-worst [tied with March, 2009] at -787K, so I'm having trouble seeing Holiday Hiring skewing the numbers.)

  • TCinLA on November 11, 2011 2:54 PM:

    In what universe does this claim make sense?

    Why, it makes perfect sense in Republican WackoWorld, don't you know?

  • Peter Orszag on November 11, 2011 3:44 PM:

    "Granted, under normal circumstances, one month out of a year should make much of a difference--but they were not normal circumstances..."

    Maybe for you.

  • brian on November 11, 2011 3:57 PM:

    This is why people laugh at loony liberals. Facts. The trillion dollar stimulus was promised to hold unemployment at 8%, it is now 9.1%. In fact 1.3 million jobs have been lost since the Obama Democrat stimulus plan was enacted. In fact 2 mil jobs have been lost since Obama took over the White House. The democrats have brought misery, despair and hopelessness to Americans.

    Fact 1: Jan 2009 142,201,000
    Fact 2: Feb 2009 141,687,000 employed
    Fact 3: Oct 2011 140,302,000 employed


    Just the facts Ma'am, just the facts. Only loony liberals call this success.

  • Anti Socialist on November 11, 2011 4:00 PM:

    The successes are in the millions:
    45,800,000 on food stamps
    50,000,000 on medicaid
    ...and climbing.

  • David on November 11, 2011 4:01 PM:

    Steve Benen is arguing that the economy got better under Obama.


    What kind of crack is Steve Benen smoking, and can he please share it with the 20%+ Americans who are un- and underemployed?

  • bri on November 11, 2011 4:05 PM:

    As I recall the democrats controlled Congress for 4 years. What is their job record. Oh no those pesky Labor of Bureau statistics tell the tale. Under the democrats Congressional regime, Jan 2007-2011, 6.4 million jobs were lost. Plus the Pelosi-Reid Congress created the first Trillion dollar deficits.

    Fact 1: Jan 2007 146,033,000 employed Democrats seize Congress
    Fact 2: Feb 2009 141,687,000 employed Stimulus passed
    Fact 3: Jan 2011 139,323,000 employed Pelosi booted


    Just the facts Ma'am, just the facts. Only loony liberals call this success.

  • Manzoa on November 11, 2011 4:09 PM:

    Yeah, things are just grand...unless you are among the 14 or so million unemployed people or the 28% of people whose homes are underwater and heading toward foreclosure or you enjoy paying twice as much for a gallon of gasoline as you did when Obozo was elected....this site is full of Kool Aid drinking losers....put down the crack pipe, leave you parents' basement and try working for a living. Wake-up loons, it's midnight in America and the only hope we have is to change the president in 2012.

  • brian on November 11, 2011 4:12 PM:

    Let's go the the Bureau of labor stats again. We have observed that losing jobs under democrat rule is called a success by loony libs. Logically it would follow that they would call a policy that creates jobs a failure. The facts on the Bush tax cuts passed Jun 2001.

    Fact 1: Jan 2002 135, 701,000 employed
    Fact 2: Jan 2008 146,407,000 employed
    Fact 3: Jan 2011 139,323,000 employed

    11 million jobs created after the first tax cut implemented in Jan 2002 until Jan 2008. The democrats took Congress in Jan 2007. Since the democrats have ruled Congress 7 million jobs lost.


    Just the facts Ma'am, just the facts. Only loony liberals call the tax cuts a failure. But at least they are consistently stupid.

  • SickofObama on November 11, 2011 4:14 PM:

    For all you leftist loons out there:

    Imagine if every network were like FOX News, every newspaper like Rush Limbaugh's radio program. You think Obama's poll numbers would be the same? Welcome to our world. Its easy to be the president when the media adores you. If Bush had turned in jobs numbers anywhere close to Obama's for 3 years, would he have been reelected?

  • Hewston on November 11, 2011 4:22 PM:

    Unreal - the economy has gotten better under Obama? More diseased liberal logic - Obama promised to cut our debt in half by end of his first term - he's quadrupled it, he promised millions of green jobs and a path to energy independence - gasoline has doubled in pricee, we've wasted BILLIONS on gov't handouts to "green" companies now bankrupt and there are no sustainable green jobs. Unemployment, under-employment and "screw-it-I-won't bother looking" is at highest percentage in history, record number on food stamps, record number in poverty, he promised a balanced budget - he doesn't even pretend now to have one. He campaigned saying every American family will pay $250 less a month for healthcare under his plan - healthcare costs have skyrocketed and vast majority of Americans have rejected his plan. He has FAILED ON EVERY measure of the economy. Only empty-headed, malcontented, juvenile liberals and OWS trash could possibly by this garbage.

  • BurkeVA on November 11, 2011 4:24 PM:

    If the economy has improved under Obama, then the Dolphins will play the Colts in the 2012 Super Bowl! I understand partisanship and have no problem with it. But stupidity is another thing. Don't you folks understand that Obama is destroying your future, too, not just us Republicans? When does partisanship stop and common sense take over?

  • brian on November 11, 2011 4:28 PM:

    Might as well look at the job creation record of the Republican Congress Jan 1995 to Jan 2007. This 12 year record is certainly going to be a failure in the eyes of the loony dems. Since I have the Bureau of Labor stats handy might as well post 'em.

    Fact 1: Jan 1995 124,663,000 employed
    Fact 2: Jan 2007 146,033,000 employed

    Darn those pesky facts 22 million jobs created under the Republican Congress. Yes that is what loony liberals call failure.


  • biggerbox on November 11, 2011 7:46 PM:

    I'd be hard pressed to recall a period in my entire adult life where Democrats "got everything they wanted", certainly not one lasting two and a half years, and certainly not the last two and a half.

    Where is my repeal of the Bush tax cuts, so that the deficit is getting back under control? Where is my single-payer health care plan? Where is my massive infrastructure program, creating jobs and building public goods that will be with us for the rest of the century? Where is my massive educational spend, so that we have an educated and well-trained workforce?

    Hell, where are the Wall St. banksters doing time for crashing the world economy?

    I don't know what universe McConnell's been visiting, but I'd like to go there.

  • Thales on November 11, 2011 9:08 PM:

    Benen's chart is just horribly flawed. There's an obvious problem with it that Benen completely -- maybe, conveniently? -- overlooks:


    It's as bad as that debt chart that Nancy Pelosi put out earlier this year.

  • Mark on November 11, 2011 9:15 PM:

    It makes sense in a universe where there are a lot of voters who believe the last thing they heard.

  • Hewston on November 11, 2011 10:35 PM:

    [troll elsewhere - mod.]

  • Hewston on November 12, 2011 7:01 AM:

    Pathetic - unable to post facts - get a REAL job - one that actually adds value.