After Friday's disappointing jobs report, it was hardly surprising that unemployment was at the center of President Obama's and the Republican Party's respective weekly addresses over the weekend. But the way in which the two sides presented the issue tells us a great deal about the nature of the debate.
For his part, the president talked about the transportation bill he just signed, and the importance of infrastructure investments in growing the economy. This hardly seemed controversial -- we have infrastructure projects that need to be completed; we have construction workers who want to get back to work; so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the value of connecting the two.
On the other hand, we also saw Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) deliver the GOP address, blaming the struggling economy on ... health care reform.
"[The president's] doubling down on policies that are holding us back and making things worse, starting with his health care law," the Republican lawmaker said, adding, "This health care law just flies in the face of what America is supposed to be, and repealing it would revitalize our economy."
Now, I've never spoken to Buerkle, and I have no idea if she actually believes this nonsense. It's possible she said this because someone handed her a script and asked her to read the words on the page.
Either way, it's important to realize how ridiculous the argument really is.
No one should be satisfied with the 80,000 jobs that were created in June -- and as best as I can tell, no one is -- but policymakers aren't able to address the problem if they don't understand it. And if the Republicans' weekly address is any indication, the GOP hasn't the foggiest idea what it's talking about.
Blaming the sluggish recovery on a law that won't be fully implemented until 2014 is just silly. The conservative talking points may persuade voters who don't know better, but there is no credible evidence -- literally, none -- that the Affordable Care Act is hurting the domestic job market.
Indeed, if the law were necessarily a drag on job creation and economic growth, we'd see evidence of it in Massachusetts, where a state-based version of "Obamacare" -- created and implemented by Mitt Romney -- is in effect. Is "Romneycare" hurting Massachusetts' economy? Not at all, though if Ann Marie Buerkle has evidence to the contrary, I'm all ears.
What's more, Greg Sargent recently talked to Joel Prakken, the chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, and Mark Hopkins, a senior adviser at Moody's Analytics, asking whether repealing the Affordable Care Act would improve the economy. Their answer was unambiguous: scrapping the law wouldn't help at all.
So what would help? Supply and demand still rule the day -- the economy is hurting because too many businesses have too few customers. Hire back the hundreds of thousands of teachers, fire fighters, and police officers who've been laid off in recent years, and we create a whole lot of new customers in a hurry, while lowering the unemployment rate by a point almost overnight.
Add in investments in infrastructure, and maybe some intervention from the Federal Reserve, and you have a recipe for vast improvements. It's a shame Ann Marie Buerkle and her colleagues disagree, isn't it?