On the road to the ‘conservative recovery’

Whenever new economic reports offer more discouraging news, the reactions from the right are always the same: (1) it must be President Obama’s fault; and (2) it’s time to try things the Republican way.

And the political world just goes along, refusing to acknowledge that we’re already trying things the GOP’s way.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said this morning’s jobs report is “proof” that President Obama has “failed.” He added, “Americans need a conservative businessman to get this economy moving again, not career politicians.”

It’s tempting to note that Romney tried to be a career politician, but voters didn’t like him enough. Instead, he was a conservative businessman who got rich laying off American workers, and a one-term governor with an atrocious jobs record. It’s also tempting to ask that if the new jobs report is evidence of Obama’s failure, following the same logic, when the economy created 261,000 private-sector jobs in February, was that “proof” that President Obama was a success?

But let’s put all of that aside and emphasize what really matters: we’re already trying things the Republicans’ way, and it’s not working.

Whether the GOP wants 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 scrapping investments; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt-reduction.

This is the script the GOP wrote. Romney may celebrate the country’s misfortune, but his critique is absurd.

Remember, the public-sector has lost nearly 600,000 jobs since the end of the recession. Here’s a great chart Matt Finkelstein recently put together to help drive the point home:

To put it mildly, this is a brutal drag on recovery — but it’s exactly the approach Republicans demand. As Matt Yglesias explained this morning, “The public sector has been steadily shrinking. According to the conservative theory of the economy, when the public sector shrinks that should super-charge the private sector. What’s happened in the real world has been that public sector shrinkage has simply been paired with anemic private sector growth. This is what I’ve called ‘The Conservative Recovery.'”

Layoffs at the state and local level were mitigated in 2009 by the Recovery Act, which saved thousands of jobs that would have otherwise been eliminated. Those funds have since been exhausted, and the public sector is back to making severe layoffs. This serves as a significant — and easily preventable — drag on the economy. It’s why David Leonhardt recently described as “an unforced economic error” — with all of the problems we can’t control, this is one problem we know exactly how to prevent.

Do Romney and his GOP allies want to save these jobs? Of course not; public-sector layoffs are part of their plan. But when these job losses occur and they hold back the economy, Romney and his cohorts nevertheless blame the White House.

To believe Republican rhetoric on this is to be confused about reality. But since the confusion is pervasive, knowing the facts is apparently irrelevant, at least in a political and electoral sense.