Playing the blame game

Updated
 
Playing the blame game
Playing the blame game

Reports like these were inevitable, but that doesn’t change the fact they’re misguided.

Republicans quickly seized on Friday’s disappointing jobs report as fresh evidence of what they say are President Obama’s “job-killing” policies and further proof of the need for a new occupant in the White House next year.

At a certain level, this is almost amusing. Matt Yglesias noted this morning how “impressed” he is by conservatives’ ability to “pretend to believe Obama is 100% responsible” for all economic developments a year and a half into divided government. He added, “You can’t fake that kind of bulls**t, it takes real conviction.”

But we can go further with this. The same Republicans who are blaming monthly job totals on the White House have argued – last year and this year – that GOP measures have improved the economy, and that credit for recent improvements should go to them, not the president.

The logic is incoherent: for Republicans, when there’s discouraging economic news, Obama deserves all the blame. When there’s good economic news, Obama deserves none of the credit. Job losses in 2010 were Obama’s fault; job gains in early 2011 and 2012 have nothing do to with Obama; and tepid growth in the spring of 2012 are back to being Obama’s fault again.

Remember learning the “heads I win, tails you lose” game as a kid? It’s the GOP’s argument in a nutshell – whether the president deserves credit or blame for a monthly jobs report is due entirely to whether the report is encouraging or not.

But even this doesn’t go far enough in explaining the absurdity on display. If we’re going to assign blame to Washington policymakers for the state of the nation’s job market, how is it, exactly, that Congress bears no responsibility at all? This is, after all, a Republican-led Congress that has plenty of time to fight a culture war – I’ve lost count of the anti-abortion bills that have reached the House floor, including one yesterday – but has shown passive disinterest to the jobs crisis.

Follow this pattern of events:

1. With the job market struggling, Obama unveils the American Jobs Act, a State of the Union agenda filled with economic measures, and an economic “to-do list.”

2. Republican lawmakers ignore the proposals, and the job market deteriorates.

3. The GOP then blames Obama for the failure his policies, which Congress didn’t pass.

I suspect the American mainstream doesn’t much care about these details – they know the economy is hurting and they know Obama’s the president. But for those who care about the facts and are willing to consider the relevant details, holding the president solely responsible for today’s jobs report isn’t just wrong; it’s silly.

As for Mitt Romney, who appears to be delirious with joy this morning, have we already forgotten that the Romney campaign, just this week, said a leader who takes an economy that was losing jobs and turns it into an economy that’s adding jobs is a success? For that matter, isn’t Romney the guy who’s spent the last few months acknowledging that the economy has improved on Obama’s watch?

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Playing the blame game

Updated