Par For The Party
Friday, according to Politifact in the Tampa Bay Times, President Obama was asked at his press conference "what about the Republicans saying that you're blaming the Europeans for the failure of your own policies?" He responded (as transcribed from the TBT)
"The truth of the matter is that, as I said we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last two -- 27 months; over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine.
"Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government, oftentimes cuts initiated by, you know, governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.
"And so, you know, if -- if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry.
"Because the recipes that they're promoting are basically the kinds of policies that would add weakness to -- to the economy, would result in further layoffs, would not provide relief in the housing market, and would result, I think most economists estimate, in lower growth and fewer jobs, not more."
Generally, Republicans are jumping on the President's assessment "the private sector is doing fine," a tactically foolish remark given that it can be taken out of context (as the GOP already has) and strategically highlighted in a campaign ad. (The private sector is doing "better" would have sounded better and been more accurate.) Of course, there has been serious growth in employment in the private sector while the public sector has been shedding jobs. That has been conveniently overlooked by a jealous GOP, which wishes it had been responsible for throwing government workers out of jobs.
Chris Christie figures he is due applause for driving down public sector employment. Condemning the President at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago, the New Jersey governor declared
He said one of the reasons is because state and local government hiring is going in the wrong direction. I swear to you, that’s what he said just a couple of hours ago. Now in New Jersey we have more government workers per square mile than any state in America, but since I’ve been governor we now have fewer people on the state payroll than at any time since Christie Whitman left office in January of 2001. That’s the right direction, Mr. President, not the wrong direction.
Rather than suggesting that government is being made leaner or even that taxes must be kept low, Christie kept it simple: man or woman working for government, bad; man or woman unemployed, good. (Sarcasm Alert) There is no need for subtlety in the age of compassionate conservatism.
The Present could have noted that corporations are sitting on over $1 trillion in cash and outsourcing jobs to Asia while families suffer. Or he might have explained that most state governors used stimulus money to prop up their state budget, allowing them to hold down any tax increases. Instead, he acknowledged the bind state executives are in, with far less flexibility to spend and raise revenues than has the federal government, and less help from Washington than in the past.
But a President sympathetic to their problems is suitable only for insult, so Christie pounced, claiming
It is an outrage to have the president of the United States stand up and say to hardworking governors, to Republicans and Democrats around the country that state and local government hiring is moving in the wrong direction and we’re to blame because the economy is not growing. He’s the one who put forward an ineffective wasteful stimulus plan that did nothing to help this economy. He’s the one who saddled us with all these federal rules and regulations that don’t allow governors to have the freedom to do what we really want and then he has the audacity to stand up this morning and say it’s the nation’s governors and the nation’s mayors who are driving our economy down by not hiring enough people for government work.
It probably didn't escape Christie's attention that only two days ago
on Wednesday, under questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.
In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.
“Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee. “That,” he added, “is a distinct minority.”
As the table (from the CBO via perrspectives.com) above indicates, employment and gross domestic product have increased every year, and are expected to continue to grow, as a result of the stimulus. It had been reported previously and Christie, hardly ignorant, is aware that an increase in spending in an economic slump will boost employment and output.
But lying is so much more convenient, at least in today's Gas and Oil Party. And complaining about "all these federal rules and regulations" restricting the power of a governor is odd coming from a guy who had the power a) to turn down $3 billion of federal financing, "more money than had been committed to any other transit project in America," which would have helped New Jerseyans get to work in New York City; b) reject a 90-10 federal match for women's health services; c) bail out a new casino with a $261 million tax credit to. Then he whines that Obama has deprived him and his peers the "freedom to do what we really want." Admittedly, Christie- who presides over a state whose growth last year outpaced that in three other states- knows more than the President about "driving (an) economy down."
It would be inaccurate to argue that in today's GOP of Limbaugh, Gingrich, Romney,and Chris Christie, lying is optional. It is not optional- it is required.