‘Focusing on the wrong problem’

Ask congressional Republicans what’s wrong with the economy, and they’ll point to federal regulations. Recent analyses from CNN, the New York Times, the AP, the Economic Policy Institute, the Wall Street Journal, and McClatchy newspapers — relying on, among other things, BLS data, surveys from the National Federation of Independent Business, and Brookings Institution scholarship — all said the same thing: government regulations are not responsible for holding back the economy.

CNN’s Candy Crowley pressed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to explain the gap between Republican rhetoric and all available evidence, asking, “Are you focusing on the wrong problem?” He replied:

“Well, you know why people aren’t buying. They’re unemployed. I mean, the private sector is not going to get going here until the government gets its foot off the throat and lets people who know how to create jobs and grow businesses do that.

“Look, Candy, all of these people are not making this up. I don’t think people who are running companies are making it up. They realize what is making it difficult for them to grow and expand.”

Maybe McConnell didn’t understand the question. Crowley had just cited a survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, asking business owners what’s holding the economy back. The most frequent response was poor sales, not government regulation.

Confronted with this information, McConnell is comfortable pretending he’s still right, and that the private sector agrees with him, reality be damned.

As for that first part of his answer, McConnell’s correct that unemployment undermines economic demand, but let’s not forget that McConnell (a) is making a Keynesian argument that he disagrees with; and (b) wants to make unemployment worse on purpose by laying off hundreds of thousands of additional public-sector workers (because they’re public-sector workers).

In other words, confronted with reality, and asked to defend his number one economic talking point, the top Senate Republican is quickly reduced to incoherence.

When the political world wonders why a sensible debate over economic policy seems literally impossible, I hope McConnell’s responses yesterday will come to mind.