The wrong answer to the wrong question

THE WRONG ANSWER TO THE WRONG QUESTION…. As a rule the weekly addresses offered by President Obama and a Republican official aren’t especially important. But yesterday’s address from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was one of the weekend’s more noteworthy developments.

This week offered new evidence that our fragile economic recovery is on very shaky ground. The monthly job totals from June were deeply disappointing. The real estate market continues to struggle badly. Reports on construction spending and manufacturing activity both disappointed.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that the president’s weekly address talked about the economy, with Obama trying to highlight some more encouraging developments, and talking up initiatives that will generate some new jobs.

But that’s why Chambliss’ GOP response is so striking. His articulation of the Republican message of the week sent an unmistakable signal about exactly what the minority party considers important right now.

“As the Declaration’s parchment has yellowed with age, America has become a rich nation whose ideals and economy have been the envy of the world. We have faced down many enemies at home and abroad.

“But one of the most dangerous threats confronting America today doesn’t come from without, but from within. And I’m talking about our national debt.

“Wisely, the Declaration’s author, Thomas Jefferson, warned of this danger early on. As he once said, ‘There does not exist an engine so corruptive of the government and so demoralizing of the nation as public debt. It will bring us more ruin at home than all the enemies from abroad against whom this Army and Navy are to protect us.’ As usual, Jefferson was right.

“At a time when many Americans are clipping coupons and pinching pennies, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress continue to spend money that they — we — do not have.”

Chambliss went on (and on) from there — talking up the size of the debt, the debt burden per person, the debt growth per day, the debt as a proportion of every federal dollar spent, the expected rate of growth of the debt, interest on the debt, foreign financing of the debt, etc.

The key to America’s continued greatness, Chambliss concluded, is to “secure America’s fiscal future.”

So, literally just one day after the release of the worst monthly jobs report since October, and with a genuine employment crisis undermining the economy, the official Republican message of the week is to talk about the debt — a debt, by the way, that grew by $5 trillion during the Bush/Cheney era because of breathtaking Republican recklessness.

How many times did Chambliss mention the word “jobs”? Literally none. How many references were there to “unemployment”? Zero. What did Chambliss offer in terms of ideas to improve the economy? There weren’t any — he didn’t talk about growing the economy at all.

The most important issue on the minds of Americans went completely ignored, because the GOP has decided a different issue matters more than the economy.

There are few things more important in American politics right now than the realization that Republican lawmakers have no intention of even trying to create jobs. As Chambliss helped demonstrate, by their own admission, Republicans believe strengthening the recovery isn’t the goal; lowering the deficit they created is the goal.

Republicans aren’t just offering the wrong answer; they’re asking the wrong question.