The Republicans’ Agenda

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

If you’re not convinced about the Republican Party’s agenda for the current legislative session, listen up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the shot after the 2010 congressional mid-term election.  His goal for the next two years, he said, was to ensure that Barack Obama is a one-term president.

I didn’t hear any other Republican leader disavow that goal, and the Gross Old Party has bent to the task of helping McConnell achieve his ambition.

This is the party that campaigned on the promise to create jobs for American workers. Of course, they knew full well that any decrease in the unemployment rate would be to Obama’s re-election advantage in 2012. And so, instead of focusing on job creation, the Republican legislative leadership decided to make a crisis out of the budget deficit and consequent increase in the national debt. A compliant President Obama yielded the initiative and climbed on the spending-cut bandwagon.

Decreased spending during the current congressional term, in which the Republicans hold a majority in the House, and thus control money bills sent to the Democratically-controlled Senate, has led to greatly decreased funding returned to the states. And that has led to a huge loss in jobs in state government.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Since employment peaked in September 2008, local government has lost 550,000 jobs.

But wait: there’s more.  Last February, in Forbes, of all places, there appeared an article with the headline

GOP Budget Cuts Lead To One Million Lost Jobs – But Protect Boehner’s Congressional District

In the article, the author first took House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to task for his well-publicized lying claim that Obama had added 200,000 jobs to the federal payroll, an assertion that the nonpartisan PolitiFact (I know they’re nonpartisan because I hate them as often as I love them) proved false. The article continued

As luck would have it, Washington Post’s Dana Milbank did take a close look at the end result of the proposed GOP cuts – a net of $59 billion in the last half of fiscal year 2011 – and discovered that they would mean the direct loss of 650,000 federal government jobs. Factoring in the ‘indirect losses’ – those who would lose their employment due to the loss of the money put into the system by the 650,000 federal workers who will no longer have much cash to spend  - the total approaches one million jobs lost.

In the interest of full disclosure, Milbank acquired these projections from budget expert Scott Lilly of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the Obama Administration. So, if it makes you feel any better – make whatever adjustments you think appropriate. However, if you are at all familiar with the cuts to agencies of the federal government proposed by the GOP, pretending that there will not be a dramatic loss of employment would simply be kidding yourself.

Now, keep in mind that the jobs market — including both the public and private sectors — needs to add 125,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.

Then factor in the fact that corporations and banks are sitting on more than a trillion dollars in cash, some of which could be put to job creation, were the owners of this fortune willing to help ease the pain that millions of Americans are feeling. They’re not willing, say the Republicans, because of uncertainty.  And what uncertainty would that be?  The fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the country’s economic future being promoted by guess who?  The same Republicans who are gleefully blaming the president for the loss of jobs.

History has shown more than once that the way to overcome an economic recession — we may as well be honest and call it a depression, regardless of the euphemism the government and most economists choose — is to spend money to create jobs, thus putting money in working people’s pockets which they go out and spend on goods and services, creating more jobs.

The current legislative fracas is another piece of the Republican strategy: Refuse to fund disaster aid unless cuts of the same amount are made to a clean car loan program, even if that refusal leads to a shutdown of non-essential government services at the start of the Fed’s fiscal year 2012, which begins October 1.

Yet last year, according to NPR’s Weekend Edition,

more than a dozen Republicans who voted to cut funding to the program, yet also in recent years sent letters to the Department of Energy pushing for clean-car projects in their own states.

One of those legislators was Rep. David Drier (R-CA), who said a company in his district would create 2,300 jobs making lithium ion batteries, if it got the loan it was seeking.

Last point: some 70% of the economy is attributable to the spending of ordinary Americans. But most folks are avoiding non-essential spending as much as they can.  Why? The fear, uncertainty, and doubt fostered by the Republicans. Why should we spend money unnecessarily when the Republicans are saying spending is bad and to be avoided?

If these facts have persuaded you that nothing will get better until the Republicans don’t have the power in Congress to tie things up, kill jobs, and make us all afraid to spend a dollar we don’t have to spend, what are you going to do about it?  I suggest you want to challenge your Representatives and Senator, if they are Republicans, with the facts you’ve found here and tell them you don’t want them to make things worse, which is what they’re bent on doing.

Don’t just sit there.  Do something.

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