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The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013

johnzaring2012The February jobs report was released Friday, showing that 236,000 jobs were added, which means unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since 2008.

That number would have been even better if the economy hadn’t seen a forced loss of 10,000 public sector jobs, and if the recovery weren’t hamstrung by a feckless, dysfunctional U.S. Congress.

The best news is that jobs in construction are coming back – with 48,000 added – which means the recovery in the housing market, which had been devastated by the financial crash five years ago, is real.

Each week there is clearer evidence that if Republicans were in control of the economy, we’d be right back in a recession.

The good old human wet blanket, House Speaker John Boehner, interpreted this positive economic news a little differently. He trotted out his tired talking points, saying, “Any job creation is positive news, but the fact is unemployment in America is still way above the levels the Obama White House projected when the trillion-dollar stimulus spending bill was enacted, and the federal government’s ongoing spending binge has resulted in a debt that exceeds the size of our entire economy.”

You know, the same John Boehner who also said, “Our goal here is to cut spending.”

So what’s the truth?  Since March 2010, the private sector has added jobs every single month, reversing months and month of red ink begun under President George W. Bush.  Meanwhile, the federal government has been reducing public sector jobs and funding for jobs at the state level.

Ask the average Republican, though, and he’ll tell you the opposite: that Obama is a socialist dictator who has been expanding government at an alarming rate.

Except it isn’t true.

Before the November election, the GOP’s mantra was that the economy was terrible, and they constantly downplayed its prospects because their candidate, Mitt Romney, insisted he was the only guy who could fix it.

Well, Obama won, so you would think that Republicans in Congress, who will themselves soon be up for reelection, would want to see the economy improve, if only so they could lay claim for a share of the credit for its revival.

But that only matters in a general election, and in today’s GOP, being against Democrats in general and President Obama in particular is beyond necessary, because these politicians have a greater fear of being primaried from their own right flank than losing in the general.  Thus, they take the contrary position on nearly every issue just to solidify their base.

A jobs report is backward looking, so this is the last set of numbers we’ll see pre-sequester.  The history of the American economy has shown that when you withdraw government spending at the same time the private sector is withdrawing spending, you lower the GDP.

Beyond being simple logic, the statistics reflect this perspective, and no one has ever explained to me how cutting government spending leads to growth.  They can’t, because history has proven that it doesn’t happen.  And still this drumbeat is heard from conservatives.

Cut spending, cut spending, cut spending – Boehner and others on the right have been repeating this mantra for five years.  In that time, plenty of countries in Europe have employed that approach, so after a week when virtually every day saw a new record high in the stock market, it is worth considering what’s happening across “the pond.”

The head of the International Monetary Fund recently predicted that the Euro Zone, which has embraced German-style austerity with open arms, will stay in recession for the rest of 2013.  In a statement, the IMF said, “The Euro area continues to pose a large downside risk to the global outlook.”  The IMF is also predicting that Europe’s economy will contract by 0.2 percent in 2013, while it expects the U.S. economy to grow by 2 percent in 2013 and by an additional 3 percent in 2014.

And yet, it is becoming increasing clear that the GOP’s rejection of science doesn’t only apply to climate change; it also applies to the economy.

Paul Ryan released his budget Monday, and it not only includes another basket of cuts that would further cripple the economy should it ever be put into practice; he ironically includes revenue sourced from the increase in taxes on the top 2 percent Obama fought Republicans to achieve. Comically, it also assumes the repeal of Obamacare, which is little more than a fantasy of those to the right of the right wing.

Remember when they all called Obama’s policies and Obama himself a job killer?  Boehner, Romney, Ryan, they all predicted disaster.  In reality, the stock market is at an all-time high.   Still, the elephants on FOX News are crying wolf.  They are still calling for austerity and cuts to discretionary spending.

Remember what Republicans said about taxes when they went back to Clinton-era rates?  You know, all that malarkey about how raising taxes on the top 1 percent would hurt the job creators and lead to private-sector job cuts?  Have you seen those job losses in the statistics?  Umm, no.  That’s because these tax increases did not kill jobs.

Republican economic policy is based only in ideology, not in reality.  We’d be a lot closer to full employment if the government weren’t shedding jobs.  Since Obama became president, 740,000 government jobs have been cut, which is roughly 1 job cut for every 5 created in the private sector.

We can expect greater damage as the sequestration cuts take effect.

Whose jobs have been getting whacked?  Firefighters, cops, teachers, public safety workers, first responders, TSA agents, border patrol agents, air traffic controllers.  The true impact of the sequester will be felt in coming weeks and months, so expect more public sector job losses to put a further drag on the economy.

Furlough notices are going out every day.  One example: All 60,000 border agents will get a notice, losing an average of 14 days of employment due to the sequester.  Gulp!

The simple truth is that you’ve got to have government spending during a slow economy. It is the very point of stimulus.

Yes, my Republican friends, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.  But it is still broken.  It is time for the elephant to get the hell out of the way.


John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.



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