President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tomorrow night, which he’ll follow with several public events far from the Beltway. Thursday, Obama will take his message to Tennessee.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) decided to extend a caustic “welcome” to the president in advance of his visit to her home state.
“Welcome to Tennessee,” she said. “While you’re here take a look around because this is what a thriving economy looks like.“Despite what your teleprompter may tell you, our success is not a result of your failed policies. It’s rooted in what’s always made our state and country great – hard work, ingenuity and fiscal responsibility.”
At this point, I’m starting to feel a little sorry for far-right lawmakers droning on with teleprompter jokes. After all these years, such cheap rhetoric tends to say far more about lazy lawmakers than the president.
And for the Tennessee Republican to complain about “failed policies” seems nearly as foolish, given the success the president had in rescuing the economy from the Great Recession he inherited.
But that’s not the interesting part. Rather, I was struck by Blackburn’s boast: if Obama wants to see “what a thriving economy looks like,” the president should look no further than the Volunteer State.
Is that true?
I checked the handy dandy chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows that Tennessee’s unemployment rate is 8.1%, more than a full point higher than the national average. That doesn’t sound especially impressive.
But it gets worse. On a national level, Tennessee ranks 43rd out of 50 states when it comes to unemployment, with 50 being the worst. In fact, Tennessee is one of only a handful of states that saw its jobless rate go up, not down, over the last year. (Republicans control the state House, state Senate, and governor’s office, making it tough for GOP officials to blame Democrats.)
The White House hasn’t said exactly why Obama will visit the Volunteer State this week, but it’s likely because he sees it as a state in need of an economic boost.
So here’s the follow-up question for Blackburn: does she know that Tennessee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and unlike most states, it’s not improving? And if she does know that, why would she say the state economy is “thriving”?
Maybe someone could put the answer on a teleprompter?