The problem is not that congressional Republican leaders are unaware of current events. In late July, for example, when the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that gross domestic product fell 0.9% in the second quarter, it took House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just 22 minutes to announce that the United States is now “in a recession.” The California Republican took the same message to the airwaves soon after.
As we’ve discussed, around the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did the same thing, seizing on the data he found politically convenient to denounce Democratic governance.
The reasoning followed a trajectory intended to mirror common sense: There’s a Democratic president and Democratic congressional majorities; there’s some discouraging economic news; therefore the public should blame the party in power.
The problem, of course, is GOP selectivity in applying this principle.
Late last week, Americans received more great employment news: The economy added another 315,000 jobs in August, bringing the total for the year to 3.5 million jobs, with several months to go. This is a total more in line with what we’d expect to see in a full year, not eight months into the year. It also outpaces any individual year from Donald Trump’s term.
But wouldn’t you know it, GOP leaders on the Hill responded to the job numbers by saying literally nothing about the good news. No press releases, no tweets and no public comments. They literally found themselves speechless.
These same Republicans were similarly at a loss for words a month ago. And the month before that. And the month before that. And the month before that. And the month before that.
In fact, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hasn’t issued a statement in response to U.S job data since January, when he released this gem lamenting news he considered “disappointing.”
“Our economy should be soaring right now, but the policies of this administration continue to stifle growth and hold back American businesses and workers.... In less than 12 months, the Biden administration has sabotaged what should have been a V-shaped recovery.”
The House GOP leader was referring to jobs data from December 2021 — a month that we now know saw job creation at 588,000 as the unemployment rate improved sharply. No one rooting for an economic recovery had reason to be “disappointed” by any of this.
McCarthy had pounced on data before it was revised in an encouraging direction, but more importantly, the California Republican was also drawing an unmistakable connection: The Biden administration and its policies are responsible for the job market. It’s a common line: The Republican National Committee also connected Biden’s agenda and job growth over and over and over again. In the upper chamber, McConnell’s Senate website last year blamed “persistent unemployment” on Democrats.
But by that reasoning, shouldn’t Americans give Democrats credit for rapid and historic job growth? If Biden and his party are responsible for economic developments, how is it that this is no longer applicable when the economy creates more than 10 million jobs since the start of last year?