An incident that happened on Friday displays the nature of America’s current political climate.
In a major economic policy statement as part of a press conference (watch the statement here; go ahead, I’ll wait), President Obama chided Congressional Republicans for declining to move forward on job creation. Republicans in the House and Senate, and Mitt Romney on the campaign trail, responded by misrepresenting the President’s words (that is, by lying about what he said), and so refused to address the underlying issues.
The statement is just over seven minutes long. The President spent the first half discussing Europe’s economic situation, and Greece’s possible exit from the Eurozone. He touched on how this might affect America, and on how Europeans are starting to realize that it’s hard to climb out of an economic slump if a nation’s economy isn’t growing.
The President then went on to describe how America is doing. After nearly two years of bleeding jobs,we’ve now had twenty-seven consecutive months of private-sector job growth. State and local governments, however, have defunded over 450,000 pubic sector jobs. The President pushed for federal assistance to rehire police and fire fighters and teachers, to engage in infrastructure repair, to assist homeowners having trouble with their mortgages, and to give small businesses a tax break for hiring more workers.
He went on to point out that, although we’ve created 4.3 million jobs in the last twenty-seven months, the recovery is not moving fast enough. The President proposed the American Jobs Act last fall, but Republicans blocked most of it. We need more action, we need more jobs, and we need them now.
It was a call and a challenge, an acknowledgement of how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go. It also was an indictment of Republican obstructionism, underlining the Republican commitment to doing nothing in the face of the ongoing recovery efforts.
In answer to a reporter’s question, President Obama said,
The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we created 4.3 million jobs over the last 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 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 the — 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.
Amazingly, this answer furnished a soundbite to Republicans, allowing them to change the subject, and to attack the President. Take six words out of context, and the purpose and thrust and meaning of the President’s statement, his press conference, and the issue of the day, is utterly changed:
“The private sector is doing fine.”
Clearly, the President was telling us that the recovery is happening — but not fast enough, not far enough, and we need to do more. But Republican spin is consuming the media, and the pretense is on.
“Where we are seeing weaknesses in our economy, had to do with state and local government, often times cuts initiated by 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 flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in,”
The only thing Republicans heard (or so they claim) is, “The private sector is doing fine.”
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said:
Today, President Obama inexplicably claimed that ‘the private sector is doing fine.’ But the 23 million Americans who are struggling for work are not ‘doing fine.’ Job creators and small businesses are not ‘doing fine.’ The middle class is not ‘doing fine.’ There is no denying that President Obama has been fundamentally hostile to job creators and his policies have prevented our economy from rebounding. America needs a president who understands the economy and knows how to get our country back on track.
Mitt Romney asked, “Is he really that out of touch?” He went on to say the President was “defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people.” He said the comment “is going to go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding.” John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and others, have also weighed in, accusing the President of being “out of touch” and of not realizing that people out of work are not “doing just fine.”
The President has had to “clarify”, and has even been said to be “backtracking” on his original remark.
Have you caught what’s going on? We aren’t talking about how Republicans are preventing the creation of new jobs. By taking six words out of context, and by pretending that was all President Obama said, Republicans have effectively changed the subject.
But let’s take them at their word. Let’s pretend Republicans really are so stupid that their attention span lasts six words. They’re complaining that the President, not understanding that there are still people out of work, isn’t doing anything to help them.
For instance, we need a jobs plan. Like the one Republicans refused to enact last fall.
Apparently, professional Republicans are hoping Americans are also stupid enough to have an attention span that lasts six words. They hope we won’t understand that the message the President gave on Friday was the opposite of what Romney and Boehner and Cantor are claiming. They hope we won’t notice that the people who are standing in the way of faster recovery — the people who threw 450,000 public employees out of work — the people who refuse to discuss ways of actually creating more jobs — are the Republicans.
On the one hand, we have a President who is desperately trying to put Americans back to work, and who is pointing out how far we’ve come, and how far we have left to go, and what we have to do to get there. On the other hand is an opposition party addicted to half-truths, outright falsehoods, and doing anything in their power to play political games rather than do anything that would help the nation.
What happened Friday displays the nature of America’s current political climate.
- President Barack Obama: “Private Sector is Doing Fine”(newstalkcleveland.com)
- Shock: House Republicans and Mitt Romney would rather take Obama out of context than create jobs(dailykos.com)
- Obama gets grief for saying private sector ‘fine’ — Boston.com(boston.com)
- Obama says it’s clear US economy ‘not doing fine’ — Reuters(reuters.com)
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About dcpetterson (187 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson