Unemployment and its flip side job creation are things that have been bothering me recently. The issue has been important all through Obama’s Presidency, but it also neatly illustrates the depth of Republican hypocrisy.
Right at the beginning when the stimulus was moving through Congress, Republicans were already grumbling that the county couldn’t borrow and spend its way to recovery. Obligingly, Obama and Congressional Democrats made the stimulus some 40% tax cuts (because Republicans love tax cuts), but still no House Republican voted for the Stimulus. Could it be that because the tax cuts only benefited people with incomes below a quarter million that Republicans suddenly weren’t in favor of them.? Of course, three Republican Senators (the two women from Maine and Arlen Spector) did vote for the stimulus, after they had made it smaller (and thus less effective). But essentially the Republican Party as a whole said that the government could not help put people back to work, that temporary jobs (where people could afford to buy groceries, pay rent and not have to declare bankruptcy) would have no benefit to the economy.
After that for about nine months we had health care reform/death panels (and “you lie”). But once the ACA passed, we got close to the mid-terms and all of a sudden Republicans started talking about unemployment, after having tried anything and everything to block health care reform. Republicans found the unemployment message very useful in the mid-terms, and were able to take back the House. So of course in January when the new members took their seats, Congress immediately started to work on their campaign promises to address unemployment, yeah?
Well no, instead the Tea Party dominated House took the United States government to the brink of default and bankruptcy with the debt ceiling fiasco. Where was unemployment in January 2011 and after? Well, the Republicans stopped talking about it and so the media (feckless government watchdogs that they are) stopped talking about it.
After the debt ceiling debacle, the assassination of bin Laden (I won’t say anything about why that was a disaster here now), the Arab Spring and Libyan war, we did hear from some conservatives some occasional snarking particularly about how the Obama administration had (stupidly) said unemployment would not go over 8%, but mostly there was silence since the Republican House was not able to make the unemployment situation any better either.
By now we were getting to the Republican primary season, where the only thing the candidates could agree on was that Obama’s policies had failed, particularly for unemployment. Mind you, the Republican candidates had essentially no proposals of their own to make things better, mostly they pledged to undo what (little) Obama had gotten done, like repealing the ACA and Dodd-Frank.
Now somewhere around this time there was discussion about taxing the rich somewhat more heavily, by about four percentage points. Actually, the discussion really started in December of 2010 when the question of whether to let the Bush tax cuts expire or not came to a head (and Republicans took unemployment compensation hostage). When rich people started to complain aloud about having to fire gardeners and maids, Republican politicians and pundits took over the message and repackaged it by saying the small businesses would be hurt by this tax on the top bracket. You know, they told us, these are businesses so small that they do not become corporations (become incorporated) and thus file just a schedule C subject to personal tax rates, yet these small businesses are so profitable that they have over $250,000 grand in bottom line income (as opposed to 250 grand in revenue, from which expenses – like wages for employees and costs of supplies are supposed to be taken out before you get to bottom line income). Anyway, regardless of the fuzziness of the Republican tax and income logic and math, I think this is where we first started to hear about the wealthy being “job creators”. At least when they were talking about small business men (not persons, Republicans don’t roll that way), it almost made sense. But quickly job creator became a generic term for any and all members of the top 1%.
And when Mitt Romney emerged as the clear candidate, he had a ready made narrative about why he would be a better President that Obama. See, Mitt has business experience and he is a member of the top 1% income/wealth-wise of Americans. He has created jobs as a member of that 1%. And suddenly Republicans were talking about unemployment again.
Except that right around and after the debt ceiling debacle, Republicans were also fretting about the deficit. It is too high, it needs to come down so our children and the private sector aren’t strangled by it. The reason unemployment isn’t coming down, according to the Republicans, is because it is the private sector that creates jobs, not the government.
Wait a minute, isn’t there a point where Mitt is extolled as a superior candidate because of his experience in the private sector, creating jobs. But if the government can’t create jobs … shouldn’t we send Mitt back to Bain capital, since according the Republicans the government can’t … uh …
Just to square the circle, as I said Mitt wanted to run on his record, tell us it is his biggest asset. But when Democrats started to dig up deals where Bain ended up bankrupting or carving up some of the companies they acquired, and putting hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) out of work, Republicans accused Democrats of distorting the record . Still, if a candidate says that he is a superior candidate because of his record, isn’t it fair to look at that record?
Such is the tortured path of Republicans on unemployment as a political issue. Meanwhile, I can’t help bur remember Republican accusing John Kerry of being a flip flopper. I guess it is OK as long as the entire party does it together.