Saturday, January 29, 2011

Giving Us the Business - Part II

I am afraid that this will become Part II of a series that may continue through November 2012, but it is important.  I am not afraid of writing about it - I am afraid that this false line of reasoning from the current Republican Congress will be repeated and repeated until the public forgets the real truth.  Good thing I'm here.  You're welcome.

As I mentioned in an earlier post this year, the GOP has embarked on a strategy to take credit for every piece of economic good news that will come out over the next two years.  It is Politics 101 to take credit for the good, blame the bad on the other side, and trust in the American gift for forgetting what happened the day before.  We are easily distracted.  "Look, a squirrel!"

Here is House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, getting squirrelly and accepting credit for economic growth:

"This morning, the GDP projection for the last quarter was released, showing a 3.2% growth for the fourth quarter and suggesting the economy will pick up speed this year. This uptick is no doubt due in part to the certainty that Washington has given the private sector through the recent tax deal and the newly elected House Republican Majority who have pledged to rein in the size and scope of our federal government which has exploded over the last 4 years. At a time when our nation's debt is over $14 trillion, it's time to get serious about cutting spending and growing jobs in the private sector, rather than cutting spending and "investing" in new government programs."

Reality check, Eric.  The tax deal that you suggest led to the 4th quarter growth occurred in mid-December, when the quarter was 10+ weeks old.  This was also the 6th straight quarter of growth, despite the Democrat's passage of "growth-killing" legislation, like the Affordable Care Act, Wall St. financial regulation, and student loan reform.  Apparently, in direct contradiction to your talking points, these legislative movements did not destroy the economy.  The markets, pre-Egyptian rioting anyway, are optimistic, and have been all year.

Cantor is not alone in his party in claiming credit for policies he opposed.  On Fox News last week, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) insisted that indications of economic improvements are "in large part" because Republicans "won our majority and we're pursuing pro-growth policies."  Shameless.  He argues that 6 consecutive quarters of grow have come from an event that happened in the final 45 days of an 18 month cycle.  Insulting. 

In the first quarter of 2011, let's not forget the laser focus from the Right on jobs and growth.  As we were told during campaign season, their priority once we entrusted them with our votes would be "jobs, jobs, jobs."  So far, they have introduced a purely symbolic vote to repeal health care reform, a rewrite of abortion laws, and a rewrite of the 14th Amendment regarding birthright citizenship.  Yup, that's a laser-focus alright.  They are pandering to the base, and riding Obama's coattails of economic success while they do it.  I fully expect the GOP to be pictured near a GM plant before 2012, talking about how their tough talk and social policy agenda led to the rebirth of the auto industry in this country - retroactively.

Courtesy of Steve Benen, here's a home-made chart, showing GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began. The red columns show the economy under the Bush administration; the blue columns show the economy under the Obama administration.

Would we like to see more growth?  Slow and steady, yes.  Did the GOP and its policies account for the past 6 quarters of growth?  If anything, they railed against the very policies that have produced the results.  Memory check - in September 2008, things were so bad that the GOP nominee suspended his presidential campaign to fly into Washington and save the nation from financial collapse.  Given how dire things were when Obama walked in the door, these results are pretty good, and achieve in spite of Republican opposition and obstructionism.

Ah, but what about that pesky deficit?  Fact check:  the day of President Obama's inauguration, the federal budget deficit left by the Republican administration was $1.3 trillion. After some additional economy-saving measures were added to the mix, the 2009 deficit reached $1.4 trillion. Last year, things improved slightly, and the deficit fell to $1.29 trillion.  Now it's projected at $1.5 trillion after the GOP lobbied and succeeded in getting their donors the tax cut extension that, had it expired on schedule, would have reduced the deficit by $700 billion over 10 years.

"Listen to the American people."  This has been a familiar refrain.  This is what I hear - Obama's job approval numbers are at 50% after a painful election cycle and stubbornly high unemployment.  He seems to have some Teflon of his own, and I understand now why the GOP would want to co-opt his economic legacy.  I just won't let them do it.

If you want to argue that YOUR policies will lead to more growth, go ahead.  If you want to argue that the Obama agenda has led to growth that is unsustainable, go ahead.  Just don't pretend that any good news is because of anything you've done.  So far, you've done nothing.

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