The economic news on Friday was even better than optimists expected: the United States added nearly 300,000 jobs in December, wrapping up the second best year for the American job market in over a decade. In fact, looking at the last two years combined, 2014 and 2015 were the best back-to-back years for job creation since 1998 and 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom.
While no mainstream American politicians publicly root against the U.S. economy, the fact remains that this strong job growth must be baffling to Republicans. GOP orthodoxy, repeated ad nauseam, is that President Obama’s domestic agenda – the Affordable Care Act, higher taxes on the wealthy, Wall Street regulations, environmental safeguards, et al – is crushing the economy and stifling the American job market.
The only way to put Americans back to work, Republicans insist, is to do the exact opposite of the policies that cut the unemployment rate from 10% to 5%.
Obviously, that’s a tough sell for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the facts, but it got me wondering: how exactly did Republican officials and candidates respond to Friday’s good news?
When I say they reacted to jobs report with silence, it’s important to stress that I’m being quite literal. For years, the Republicans’ economic line was, “Where are the jobs?” With over 14 million new private-sector jobs created in the last 70 months, the new, more salient question has become, “Where are the Republicans on jobs?”
Over the weekend, for example, I checked House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) official blog, which used to publish a statement with the release of every new jobs report. Friday, however, featured plenty of new content, none of which referenced the job numbers.
The Republican National Committee’s official blog also used to issue once-a-month press releases on unemployment, but on Friday it said nothing. The same is true of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ Twitter feed.
There was similar silence from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Senate Republican leadership team.
How about the presidential candidates? Nothing from Donald Trump. Or Ted Cruz. Or Marco Rubio. Or Jeb Bush. Or Chris Christie.
Look, I don’t expect GOP presidential candidates to issue a statement celebrating President Obama’s successes in putting Americans back to work after the Great Recession. And I certainly don’t imagine Republicans are going to announce a plan to reevaluate all of their bogus assumptions about Obama’s agenda and the economy.
But we’ve reached the point at which Republicans no longer seem interested in talking about job creation at all. It’s as if they hope ignoring the issue altogether will keep people from noticing one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the job market in a generation – which might even work, since much of the political world barely stopped to notice Friday’s jobs report.
Republicans could say the good news will be even better if they’re elected. They could celebrate strong job growth and make the case that Obama deserves no credit. They could say something about the issue that, up until quite recently, dominated the political debate like no other.
But for now, it seems the GOP has decided the easiest course of action is to pretend the good news on jobs simply doesn’t exist. Up until fairly recently, such a scenario would have been hard to even imagine.
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