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The biggest problem with Republican arguments about job growth

The Republican Party's line on Biden-era job growth isn't just inconsistent, it's also increasingly incoherent.
A help wanted sign is displayed at car wash in Indianapolis on Sept. 2, 2020.Michael Conroy / AP

After robust job growth in the early summer, expectations were high that August's totals would show continued momentum. That's not quite what happened: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported late last week that the economy added 235,000 jobs in August, far short of projections.

Under normal circumstances, if the U.S. economy were to add 235,000 new jobs in a month, it'd be considered great news, but the current circumstances are anything but normal: The economy is still digging itself out of the hole it fell into last year as the pandemic took its toll. August's job numbers weren't terrible on their own, but it was a small step in the right direction when Americans wanted a big step.

To be sure, there was no great mystery behind the disappointing data: The Delta variant of the coronavirus, which was far less evident when July's job numbers were tallied, very likely contributed to August's tepid growth. We've known for a year and a half that there's a direct connection between the pandemic and the economy, and Friday's report was a timely reminder.

At least, that's how the job numbers were seen in reality. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel issued a statement late last week pushing a very different kind of argument:

The latest jobs report is a huge miss and shows Joe Biden continues to squander the economic recovery he inherited. Because of Biden's failed policies and reckless spending, there are fewer jobs and rising prices for everything from gas to groceries.

Congressional Republicans also pushed the line that August's job totals reflect the president's "failed economic policies."

At a certain level, all of this was quite predictable. There's a Democratic president, so it stands to reason that his Republican detractors will make every effort to blame him in response to disappointing news.

But what I find amazing is the selectivity of the GOP arguments.

In May, when job totals fell short of expectations, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insisted that President Biden's economic policies had "stalled our recovery." Around the same time, Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana argued that the White House's agenda was sending the economy into a "tailspin."

The rhetoric appeared pretty foolish soon after, when the economy added over 2 million jobs across June and July, at which point Republicans literally found themselves at a loss for words.

Now, however, they've brought back the talking points from the spring.

So let's recap. In May, Biden was to blame for job growth that fell short of expectations. In June and July, robust job growth wasn't worth paying any attention to. And in August, Biden's "failed policies" — the ones that Republicans conveniently overlooked in the early summer — were once again to blame for a subpar jobs report.

This obviously doesn't work. For one thing, the president obviously isn't responsible for the pandemic's effect on the economy. For another, if the president's economic policies are so awful, how does the RNC and its allies explain what happened in June and July?