Last Friday the GOP had a really bad day. It didn't come in the form of new polling results -- or some new political scandal. It was delivered to them by the economic statistics:
- Private sector jobs up 243,000 -- almost 100,000 more than expected.
But you say, this is not bad news -- this is good news. Not for the GOP and its chances of ousting President Obama, seizing control of the Senate or maintaining its majority in the House.
As Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell made ever so clear early last year, the Republican Leadership -- and their backers on Wall Street -- have one and only one goal: to defeat President Obama next fall. To do that, the GOP is betting against the American economy.
For the last two years they have done everything in their power to slow America's recovery from the greatest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
They have opposed virtually every element of the president's American Jobs Act.
They brought the economy to the brink by threatening that they wouldn't allow America to pay its bills during the debt ceiling standoff last year.
They tried their best to prevent extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits that are so critical to maintaining buying power momentum as the economy begins to pick up speed.
And, of course, they advocate returning to the regulatory and fiscal policies that caused the Great Recession in the first place.
But the most significant thing they have done to stall the economic recovery has been their refusal to continue federal aid to state and local government.
In the last 23 months, the economy has created 3.7 million new private sector jobs. But during the same period, it has created only 3.165 net total jobs. That is because government -- mainly state and local government -- laid off a net of about 535,000 people.
If the Republicans in Congress had not refused to continue providing aid to state and local governments, it is likely that unemployment would be in the mid 7 percent range and the economy as a whole would have at least another half million jobs.
And we would also be more likely to have more private sector jobs as well, since the additional teachers and firefighters and policemen who the Republicans basically fired, would have had money to spend on the products and services produced by private businesses.
As much as they like to pretend they don't agree with "Keynesian" economics, many Republicans completely understand that by refusing to provide aid to state and local government, they are hurting the economic recovery -- and that is exactly what they are trying to do.
They have been perfectly willing to allow our kids to have fewer teachers and bigger class sizes, and to allow our cities to have fewer policemen and firefighters all to advance their political goal of slowing the economic recovery.
But despite their efforts to the contrary, the economy is beginning to gain traction. That is very important to the prospects of everyday Americans -- and it is critically important politically.
Anyone who has ever tried to move a car that is stuck in the snow -- or in the mud -- knows what I mean. As long as the car just keeps spinning its wheels, there seems to be no hope. But after you've shaken and pushed, and put sand under the tires and the car finally begins to get the smallest amount of traction -- everyone's spirits change. Suddenly there is hope that you're finally going to get the car moving again.
That's what's beginning to happen to the economy -- and it will have an enormous effect on the attitudes of voters. It begins to give them hope that the president's policies are, in fact, moving the economy in the right direction -- that it actually is beginning to build up steam -- that there is hope that middle class Americans are actually going to see their prospects begin to improve.
And it gives lie to the ridiculous statements of Mitt Romney, who continued to claim as late as last Friday that Barack Obama has made the economy "worse."
The definition of "worse" is "not as good as it was before." The economic disaster that was caused by the policies of the Bush administration -- the same policies that Romney wants to bring back to the White House -- caused the destruction of 8 million jobs. In fact, George Bush was the first president in modern American history to preside over net zero private sector job growth.
As soon as President Obama took office he put into place policies that reversed those jobs losses. Monthly private sector job losses declined continuously and finally turned positive -- and the economy has added private sector jobs continuously for the last 23 months. In the last two months alone, the economy has added 446,000 new jobs. That is not worse. In fact, that is commonly known as better. And that is a huge problem for the GOP political narrative this fall.
In the next several weeks, Congress will rejoin the battle over the extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits for those who are out of work for no fault of their own. Recall that this was the fight that involved the complete surrender of GOP opposition in the week leading to the Christmas holidays. Then, they agreed to a two month extension that guaranteed that the battle would be renewed -- a fight that will once more highlight just how, when it comes to jobs, President Obama and the Democrats are doing battle with a "do nothing Republican Congress."
There will likely be ups and downs in the jobs numbers over the next eight months. But as long as the economy continues to gain traction -- and as long as Democrats continue to battle for jobs legislation in Congress -- there will be many more bad days ahead for the GOP's strategy of making themselves look better by trying to make the economy worse.
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