The problem isn’t spin, it’s substance

THE PROBLEM ISN’T SPIN, IT’S SUBSTANCE…. About a month into the current Congress, Politico reported that the new House Republican majority realized “they’re struggling with their economic message.” Apparently, promising to focus on jobs, and then focusing on everything except jobs, gives the impression that Republicans have flawed priorities.

That was nearly six weeks ago. Today, Roll Call reports that House Republicans still believe they’re struggling with their economic message, and are looking for a “course correction.” What’s the solution? GOP leaders have “told their Members to use every debate to talk about jobs and the economy.”

House Republican leaders are recasting their message on economic issues to highlight the effects of those policies on job creation, in hopes of recapturing the momentum that they fear they are losing.

GOP leaders have recently begun inserting the word “jobs” into talking points, floor statements and press conferences. They acknowledge that they haven’t done a good enough job framing the current debate over spending as an economic issue.

“We’ve always said it was about jobs and spending … [but] sometimes we’re not always the best at explaining” the connection, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged Friday, adding that “that’s why we’re emphasizing it” more now.

In other words, the Republican agenda on job creation is to say the word “jobs” over and over again, and hope that voters find it compelling.

This doesn’t strike me as a sound policy. I don’t imagine congressional Republicans are especially interested in my advice, but I might suggest that instead of simply repeating the word “jobs” they could — I’m just throwing this out there — start trying to create jobs, or at a minimum, stop trying to lose jobs.

For example, the House GOP is unanimously standing behind a spending plan for the fiscal year. Research firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimates that the Republican proposal would cost the nation 500,000 American jobs. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke projects 200,000 job losses; Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi puts the number at 700,000 job losses; the Economic Policy Institute projects job losses of just over 800,000; and data from the Center for American Progress found the proposal would force roughly 975,000 Americans from their jobs. “Emphasizing” job creation is nice, but it’s far less nice while pushing an agenda that would make unemployment much worse.

What’s more, I might also suggest Republicans stop prioritizing policies that have nothing to do with creating jobs. So far, the new House GOP majority has invested quite a bit of energy in trying to strip American families of health care benefits, restrict abortion rights, and accuse Muslim Americans of being dangerous. Other priorities include school vouchers, a legal defense for the Defense of Marriage Act, and English as the “official” language. None of this creates any jobs, and saying the word “jobs” doesn’t change this fact.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said last week, “We are here to try and cut spending and to live within our means, and we think that is an essential step toward creating an environment for job creation in the private sector.”

I desperately want to hear the next sentence — why he thinks this would work. Cantor believes taking money out of the economy, and laying off hundreds of thousands of American workers, would create an “environment for job creation.” And why does he believe that? Cantor hasn’t said. It’s possible he can’t. The radical experiment probably works in his head, but it’s disconcerting that he can’t explain why anyone should take it seriously.

While Cantor struggles to figure this out, saying “jobs” is a poor substitute for actually creating them. Republicans are poised to be good at the former, while Democrats have a record of doing the latter.