It’s not too late to change priorities

In a statement this morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus blamed rising unemployment on “out-of-control spending.”

Perhaps now would be a good time for reasonable political observers to call this what it is: dangerously stupid.

The latest jobs report is truly awful, and comes just a month after a May jobs report that was nearly as bad. Overall, it’s the worst back-to-back trend in nine months, and in the private sector, the worst two-month stretch since May/June of last year.

The question is what policymakers are prepared to do about it.

When the jobs reports were looking quite good in the early spring, Republican leaders were eager to take credit for the positive numbers they had nothing to do with. Needless to say, GOP officials are no longer claiming responsibility, and are in fact now eager to point fingers everywhere else. It’s a nice little scam Republicans have put together: when more jobs are being created, it’s proof they’re right; when fewer jobs are being created, it’s proof Obama’s wrong. Heads they win; tails Dems lose.

To put it mildly, GOP whining is misguided — whether they want to admit it or not, the economy is advancing exactly as they want it to. The private sector is being left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs quickly; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt-reduction.

This is the script the GOP wrote. When it’s followed to the letter, Republican complaints are absurd.

Indeed, the great irony of the 2010 midterms is that voters were angry and frustrated by the weak economy, so they elected a lot of Republicans who are almost desperate to make matters worse.

At this point, the GOP agenda breaks down into two broad categories:

* Ignore the problem: Republicans have invested considerable time and energy into measures related to abortion, health care, NPR, and calling the loyalty of Muslim Americans into question. To date, Republicans have held exactly zero votes on bills related to job creation.

* Make the problem worse: When they’re not fighting a culture war, Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to take money out of the economy, against tax cuts they used to support, and against public investments proven to create jobs, all while threatening to send the economy into a tailspin through voluntarily default. By some measures, the GOP may even be trying to sabotage the economy as part of an election strategy.

We know austerity doesn’t make things better, in large part because it’s not supposed to. That’s the point on austerity — to impose pain and sacrifice, not to grow and flourish. We can already see the results at the state and local level, where officials are forced to cut spending and laying off thousands of public-sector workers. These were preventable job losses, but the congressional GOP refuses to consider state and local aid. Worse, they intend to duplicate the results at the federal level.

It’s not too late. We can boost public investments. The Federal Reserve can stop worrying about inflation that doesn’t exist. We can stop pretending spending cuts can create jobs.

If the politics won’t allow for measures to make things better — if, in other words, Republicans refuse to consider steps to create jobs — then it’s probably time for the public to change the politics.