Blame Where Blame’s Due

At MaddowBlog, Brother Steve Benen offers an important reminder that all the clamoring (mostly among conservatives, but also among some progressives) blaming Barack Obama for the weak jobs machine currently showing its shortcomings misses Republican responsibility for keeping the fiscal firemen from the conflagration:

It seems like ages ago, but it was just last September when the president delivered an address to a joint session of Congress, laying out a detailed plan to boost job creation. It’s easy to forget, but it was a credible, serious plan — the AJA would have prevented thousands of layoffs for teachers, cops, and firefighters; invested heavily in infrastructure; and cut taxes intended to spur hiring.

Steve notes that independent analysts predicted the plan could boost employment by somewhere between 1.3 million and 2 million jobs. But no:

Despite public clamoring for action on jobs, congressional Republicans reflexively killed the American Jobs Act, saying it was unnecessary. The House wouldn’t bring it up for a vote, and a Republican filibuster killed it in the Senate. For GOP policymakers, this was a time when Washington should stop investing in job creation and start focusing on austerity — lower the deficit, take capital out of the economy, and everything would work out fine.

As panic sets in after this morning’s brutal jobs report, take a moment to consider a hypothetical: what would the economy look like today if Congress had followed Obama’s lead, responded to public-opinion polls, and passed the American Jobs Act? In 2012, do you think the nation could use those 1.3 million jobs or not?

That accounting doesn’t include, of course, the Republican impact on the size and structure of the 2009 fiscal stimulus package, or the cuts in non-defense discretionary spending they forced Obama to accept in the various debt limit and government-shutdown hostage-taking exercises.

But more important than the blame Republicans should share for the flagging economy is the prescription they offer now: a lot more austerity matched with the kind of tax and regulatory policies that converted the 1990s boom into the sluggish boom and bust cycles of the 2000s. All the GOP caterwauling now is in support of policies that will immediately damage the economy even more, and make broad-based income growth–not to mention anything like equal opportunity and social justice–an ever more distant prospect.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.