Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) probably has a variety of strengths as a politician. A familiarity with the basics of economic policy isn’t one of them.
Over the weekend, for example, the Kentucky Republican insisted a “regulatory onslaught” was “the principal reason” the economic recovery isn’t stronger. It prompted Danny Vinik to explain, in persuasive detail, “McConnell is betraying his ignorance on economic issues.”
Three days later, McConnell shifted gears. As of this morning, the GOP leader is not only impressed with the improved economic conditions, he also wants credit for them (via Sam Stein).
“After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress. So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda.”
This would be amusing if it weren’t so sad.
We just saw an election cycle in which Mitch McConnell argued every day that President Obama is destroying the economy. In fact, his indictment was specific: the combination of “Obamacare,” higher taxes, Dodd-Frank, and federal regulations were a “wet blanket,” holding the country back.
All the while, even as McConnell whined, economic conditions just kept getting better and U.S. job growth reached a 15-year high last year. Which apparently led to an amazing rhetorical detour: never mind all that stuff McConnell said in 2014; in 2015 he wants credit for the recovery’s unexpected strength.
It’s worth emphasizing that McConnell took his time to come up with this rhetorical trick. Two days before Christmas, Americans learned that GDP growth in the third quarter of 2014 reached an 11-year high. And what did the Republican Senate leader have to say about it at the time? Literally nothing.
In fact, when the economic data was released, Republicans – from McConnell to Speaker Boehner to the RNC – apparently couldn’t think of anything to say at all. Two weeks later, however, Team McConnell wants acclaim for the growth he was previously inclined to ignore.
In case this isn’t obvious, that GDP report that was so impressive referred to economic growth in July, August, and September of last year – before anyone could say with confidence what would happen in November’s elections. McConnell is now effectively arguing that businesses and other employers were so excited – over the summer – by the mere possibility of a Republican Senate that economic growth soared. It wasn’t the result of Republican policies, so much as the broad anticipation of McConnell & Co. passing bills for President Obama to veto.
What’s worse: the notion of McConnell actually believing this nonsense or McConnell expecting Americans to buy it?