President Obama spoke to and with the GOP caucus yesterday, and while the invitation and its acceptance is heartening, it's difficult for the Republicans to look good in this situation. The President, as he should, will always have the last word. It's not a debate, it's the equivalent of a press conference where the press has to be even more deferential to the speaker due to their position and the television cameras. I've linked to the transcript above.
Mr. Obama spoke a lot about responsibility for the economic difficulties, claiming essentially none of it for himself. One claim, or rather a declaration, bears a closer look.
OBAMA: Let's talk about just the jobs environment generally.
You're absolutely right than when I was sworn in, the hope was that unemployment would remain around 8 -- or in the 8 percent range. That was just based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists because at that point not all the data had trickled in.
We had lost 650,000 jobs in December. I'm assuming you're not faulting my policies for that. We had lost, it turns out, 700,000 jobs in January, the month I was sworn in. I'm assuming it wasn't my administration policies that accounted for that. We lost another 650,000 jobs the subsequent month, before any of my policies had gone in to effect. So I'm assuming that wasn't as a consequence of our policies. That doesn't reflect the failure of the Recovery Act.
The point being that what ended up happening was that the job losses from this recession proved to be much more severe in the first quarter of last year going into the second quarter of last year than anybody anticipated.
So, I mean, I think we -- we can score political points on the basis of the fact that we underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be, but those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones that you guys have proposed or the ones that we proposed, could have ever taken to effect.
So the job losses were mounting before Mr. Obama took office, and continued to mount in the first quarter of his presidency (and the second quarter as well, though he didn't mention it). He claims that these should be attributed to the prior president's economic record as none of his policies had taken effect.
Point taken. Now I assume he and the rest of the Democratic caucus will stop crediting the negative GDP growth that occurred at the end of 2000 and during the first three quarters of 2001 to George W. Bush and begin calling that the Clinton recession.
Recall that Mr. Bush was unable to get his tax cuts to kick in until 2003 (see the 8% growth in Q3 of that year). Also, with the negative economic growth he inherited job creation lags, explaining the "where are the jobs" attacks he had to endure. This is the same argument that Mr. Obama is making now.
And I'm certain that Mr. Bush will no longer be blamed for the loss of wealth that occurred in the second two quarters of '00 and the first two of '01 with the market collapse.
Right? We're going to see a level playing field here, aren't we? Or is political point scoring only legitimate against Republicans?