(Update: See also Steve Benen’s post on this subject (link) in which he points out that Senator McConnell spent most of last year claiming the economy was terrible.)
New Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) — and thanks to all of you who sat out the last election for making that possible — has just done something predictable but no less comical: He issued a news release today (link) that reads in part:
After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.
To review, the economy was in a nosedive when Obama took office in 2009, with the rate of job losses accelerating every month. When the economic stimulus was passed — a smaller one than the administration had wanted, thanks to conservative opponents in Congress, but still a stimulus — the private sector job situation started improving immediately, with rapidly declining rates of loss followed by regular increases. Public sector employment was another matter. Except for temporary census jobs in 2010, federal and especially state and local government employment plummeted and acted as a drag on the economic recovery, and Republicans in Congress managed to shut down the government in 2013 for reasons they were never able to articulate clearly, costing the economy billions.
But the recovery continues, and today the unemployment rate is already more than a percentage point below what Mitt Romney optimistically promised he’d be able to achieve in 2016. Another piece of good news is that under Obama the federal budget deficit has been falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War 2. Stock market growth has been robust (but as most investors know, for at least the last 85 years, the market has done substantially better with Democrats in office).
The U.S. economy grew at an excellent rate in the second and third quarters of last year, that is, April-September. (The fourth quarter numbers aren’t available yet, but news will likely be good there as well.)
It’s unsurprising that McConnell would want to claim credit for the good news, but attributing it to the mere “expectation” that Republicans would take over the Congress is a reach. In fact, now that Congress actually is in Republican hands, the bull market seems to have ended.
McConnell’s claim has been disputed and outright mocked all over the place, including by Philip Bump at The Washington Post (link), who provides a number of useful graphs that make it clear that economic growth and the acceleration of that growth have been broadly continuous under Obama’s term of office (with bumps here and there, as during the GOP’s shutdown).
Other pundits mocking McConnell include Brian Beutler at The New Republic (link), Vikas Bijaj at The New York Times (link), and a lot of other places you can easily find with your favorite search engine.
And since I quoted from McConnell’s press release, it’s only fair to quote the Democratic National Committee’s reaction to it, the first sentence of which reads, in its entirety, “Hahahahahahahahahahaha.”
Here’s the full statement, from DNC communications director Mo Elleithee:
Hahahahahahahahahahaha. That Mitch McConnell is one funny guy. He likes to remind people all the time that he’s not a scientist. Now we know he’s not a mathematician or an economist either. The fact is, under President Obama we’ve had 57 straight months of private sector job growth leading to nearly 11 million jobs added. All Republicans have given us is a government shutdown that cost the economy $24 billion. I get why he wants to take credit for the economic recovery. But maybe he should first do something to help contribute to it.
By the way, one of the first actions undertaken by the newly seated (and even more Republican) House of Representatives is a move to complicate a routine transfer of funds inside the Social Security Trust Fund, a change apparently intended to engineer a crisis and force a cut in benefits if it actually becomes law. (See this link.) I’m sure we’ll hear more on that later, but for now Talking Points Memo has a succinct report (link) on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s take, which as you’d expect isn’t exactly favorable.