The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The GOP’s unwarranted attempts to take credit for the economy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Larry Downing/Reuters)
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A not-so-strange thing is happening in Washington. Republicans, you know, the ones who did plenty of things to exacerbate the devastating effects of the 2008 financial implosion and then railed against the ravages of the “Obama economy” for the past six years, are now trying to claim credit for the stunning good news of late. Democrats everywhere are rolling their eyes hard over this. But some of them bear the blame for this.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used his floor speech Wednesday to make a spurious link. “After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope,” he said in an address focused on concern for the middle class. “[T]he uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress. So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda.” This comes a week after Grover Norquist, the pied piper of the spending-cuts-and-no-tax-increases-ever claque, tried to take credit for the fabulous economic news.

As my mother would say, “Chile, please!” Or as Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, put it in an e-mail today, “Hahahahahahahahahahaha.” But the fact that Republicans are in a position to even try to take credit for something they actively resisted is the fault of Democrats.

Not all Democrats, mind you. President Obama talked up the economy every chance he could.  I’m talking about the  ’fraidy-cat Democrats who ran away from Obama faster than a victim in a “Saw” movie during the midterm elections. As a result, plenty of good news went untold. Great news that keeps getting better.

Before the November vote, gas prices dipped below $3 a gallon. Today, the average price is about $2.20 a gallon with many states reporting prices below $2. In the third quarter of 2014, the economy grew five percent, something not seen since 2003. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent with 214,000 jobs added for October 2014. The jobless rate stayed the same in November, but the number of jobs created jumped to 312,000. The numbers for December 2014 will be released Friday.

Were the shoe on the other foot, you better believe Republicans would have been running on the good economic news. They would have used those dropping gas prices and unemployment rates and rising economic growth numbers as proof of GOP governance success and competence.

Obama seemed to be the only Democrat willing to toot his own horn on the economy last year. And he plans to keep on rightfully claiming credit when he travels this week to Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee. Someone has to tell the story, if only to thwart the inevitable Republican claim that their complete control of Congress is responsible for our nation’s brighter economic days. Other Democrats will join in, no doubt. But it will have a distinct too-little-too-late feel.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj