By: Bob Lucore
Back during the Republican convention, Mitt Romney asked if Americans are better off now than we were four years ago. The question really makes no sense, as several observers have pointed out.
Dean Baker uses a great metaphor. When firefighters race to a burning home and extinguish a fire, it makes no sense after the incident to ask if the house is in better shape than when the fire started. It might make a lot of sense to ask if the firefighters responded adequately, if they used appropriate techniques, or even if the house is in better condition now than it would have been if they had not responded at all.
Comedian Chris Rock is quoted as saying, “If you vote against Obama because he can’t get stuff done, it’s kind of like saying ‘This guy can’t cure cancer. I’m gonna vote for cancer.’” Returning to the burning home metaphor, if the firefighters were unable to save it before it was damaged, would it make sense to listen to criticisms from the arsonists who lit the fire in the first place?
President Obama has often said that the economy is like a car that the Republicans drove into a ditch. The President’s administration has tried to push the car out of the ditch. Now that they are getting the car back on the road, the Republicans want the keys back.
Of course, as Ezra Klein points out, this line of inquiry assumes the we have an imperial President who has complete control over economic policy. But a chief executive cannot dictate the direction of economic indicators single-handedly, especially when consistently blocked by the other party.
Republicans have opposed nearly every effort by the administration to spur economic growth. Not one House Republican voted for the President’s original Recovery Act and only three Senate Republicans voted for it. Many Republicans who had voted in favor of the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system only a few months earlier, voted against the Recovery Act, which put more money in the hands of people. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Recovery Act added as many as 4.7 million new “full-time-equivalent” jobs to the economy in 2010 and that it will still add up to 300,000 new jobs this year.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell revealed his party’s true motivation by saying that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” The Republicans held the good faith and credit of the U.S. government hostage in negotiations over the debt ceiling, and pressured the Federal Reserve not to act to ease credit to increase economic growth. Millions who work in the auto and auto supply industries today need little reminder of how Republicans turned their backs on them when the administration was rescuing their jobs.
Just over a year ago, Republicans killed the President’s jobs bill. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who advised candidate John McCain in the 2008 election, estimated that the bill would have added 1.9 million jobs and 2 percentage points to GDP growth within a year. Now the Republicans ask the electorate to blame the President.
Finally, over the last few days, Paul Ryan has complained about the newest efforts of the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy, efforts which were made necessary by his party’s previous intransigence.
America still has a long way to go to recover from the damage of the last recession. Our odds of doing so will be improved, if we send members of the obstructionist home in November.
Bob Lucore, a long-time ADA board member, is the former Director of Research and Policy for the United American Nurses and has worked for the Teamsters and the Department of Economic Research at the AFL-CIO. . He taught economics for several years at Centre College and Colorado State University and is currently studying Library and Information Science at San José State University.