The Washington Post

Republicans struggle to respond to improving jobs numbers

With the economy now showing signs of a true recovery, there’s a common thread running through all the rhetoric Republicans are employing in response: It’s all premised on the hope that the American people have forgotten just how awful an economic crisis Obama inherited when he took office.

Multiple Republicans have responded to today’s report of 227,000 jobs added in February by attacking Obama’s policies for slowing down what would otherwise be a more robust recovery.

Here’s one of RNC chair Reince Priebus’s responses to today’s jobs report: “back in 2006 the jobs report was better than it was today and Dems were slamming Bush because of it.”

Historians will note that there’s a small problem with the parallel Mr. Priebus drew here: In 2006, the economy was not recovering from the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Here’s GOP Rep. Tom Price, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee: “The fact remains that at this point in an economic recovery, growth and job creation ought to be far more robust. But under this administration, the federal government remains a barrier to economic growth.”.

Here’s GOP Rep. Kevin Brady, Vice Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee: “I find it incredible that the Obama administration is attributing this all too slow increase in payroll jobs to its policies...any improvement that we are seeing is the result of the hard work of the American people and the resilience of the American economy, not from the administration’s policies, but in spite of them.”

No question, far too many people are still struggling; the unemployment rate remains unacceptably high; the economy could dip again; and so on. As Jonathan Cohn notes, it would be far too premature for Obama to take any kind of victory lap.

But economists do seem to think that for the time being, the recovery appears to be real. This leaves Republicans with little choice other than to argue — as they do above — that, yes, the economy is improving, but only in spite of Obama’s policies, which are actually slowing down the recovery. Romney repeated this line in response to last month’s jobs numbers, and it’s likely he’ll repeat it again today.

But the idea that the economy would be recovering faster on its own if it weren’t for Obama’s policies requires voters to have forgotton how deep and severe the crisis really was. The current GOP storyline seems to be relying on mass public amnesia about the basic trajectory of what this country has been through in the last five years. Which is why Obama and Dems are already taking steps to remind the American people just how awful the crisis really was — and why getting them to take a long view of this presidency is so important to Obama’s reelection chances.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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