Exactly one month ago this morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the job totals from December. Forecasters projected fairly robust growth — in the ballpark of 440,000 — and the preliminary totals said the economy had actually created 199,000. The problem wasn’t that this was a poor number, but rather, most were expecting the tally to be even better.
Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee wasted little time in making the obvious argument political argument: Americans should blame President Joe Biden for the good-but-disappointing jobs report.
“This is the worst jobs report of Biden’s presidency so far. Less than HALF the jobs expected were created. It’s clear: His ‘plan’ is not working!”
There was, however, a glaring problem the RNC apparently didn’t consider: The first tally wasn’t the final tally. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the totals from December last week and found that the economy actually created 510,000 jobs in the final month of the 2021.
In other words, forecasters projected an impressive jobs total in December, and the actual number was significantly better than they expected. When the head of the RNC said it was “the worst jobs report of Biden’s presidency so far,” she had it backwards.
But look again at the final five words of McDaniel’s tweet: “His ‘plan’ is not working!” As far as the Republican National Committee chair was concerned, there’s a direct correlation between the Biden White House’s economic agenda, the president’s on-the-job performance, and monthly job totals — and when the numbers are disappointing, it’s necessarily proof that the president is failing.
This wasn’t smart. For one thing, attributing month-to-month fluctuations to an incumbent administration is pretty silly. For another, such political posturing can obviously backfire, as the RNC has just made clear: If Biden deserves the blame in the wake of a disappointing report, it must mean that the president deserves credit in response to an amazing report.
Or put another way, according to the Republican National Committee’s own reasoning, Biden’s economic plan is working.
That’s not my argument; that’s Ronna McDaniel’s argument.
Indeed, it’s hard not to notice that recent economic data has put Republicans in a difficult spot. Two weeks ago, for example, we learned that economic growth in the United States last year was the strongest in nearly four decades. How did Republicans explain this? They didn’t: The RNC didn’t bother to issue a statement. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly acted as if the health of their own country’s economy wasn’t worthy of acknowledgement.
On Friday morning, we learned that the economy created more than a stunning 6.6 million jobs in 2021 — more than the first three years of Donald Trump’s term combined — as the unemployment rate experienced the fastest one-year drop on record. At that point, right on cue, McCarthy and McConnell again had nothing to say.
It’s quite a sight: The Biden-era economy is so good, Republican leaders are literally speechless.
As we recently discussed, the GOP has some options. Maybe leading Republicans would make the case that the robust economic recovery is nice, but Biden doesn’t deserve the credit. Perhaps they’d argue that it’s too soon to applaud good news since there’s still plenty of economic work to do. Maybe they’d insist that the strong growth and millions of jobs in 2021 were the inevitable reaction to the 2020 downturn.
Perhaps they’d argue that the United States economy is a massive beast, and it’s unrealistic to think a president’s agenda is uniquely responsible for year-to-year shifts. Maybe they’d even try to argue that Trump deserves credit for economic conditions he had nothing to do with.
But as it turns out, Republicans are going with an entirely different approach: They’re simply ignoring the good news, as if it didn’t happen.
As for the RNC, unlike the party’s leaders on Capitol Hill, it did issue a statement on Friday, arguing, “Joe Biden’s economy is leaving Americans behind, and the January jobs report shows that there are hundreds of thousands less jobs than he promised.” This was an apparent reference to the president’s assertions from last spring about his agenda creating 7 million jobs.
That’s not a bad spin, I suppose, for a party desperate to criticize the White House in response to good news, but I’d just note for context that if we count the number of jobs from the beginning of January 2021 through the end of January 2022, the current total is 7.1 million jobs.
That doesn’t sound like an economy that is “leaving Americans behind.”