GOP Amnesia and the American Jobs Act

The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Washington Post/Getty Images

(The Root) — The Republican Party has spent the past three years honing its winning political strategy: to lie, keep lying and hope Americans will believe it. The monthly jobs report released by the Labor Department has become a circus event for these shenanigans, giving Mitt Romney, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) regular opportunities to cry foul, blame President Obama for a crisis of their party's own making and deflect cause and effect.


This June's report was released on Friday and showed modest improvement of 84,000 jobs added. Naturally, President Barack Obama responded tepidly to the slight gains: acknowledging that so much more needs to be done to restore the 8 million jobs lost during the Bush-Cheney recession and highlighting the fact that positive job growth is always a step in the right direction. And with more than 4.4 million jobs added under Obama's leadership — and millions more saved by his bailout of Detroit automakers and the stimulus package — the president reminded Americans that things are getting better.

Romney — fresh off a Jet Ski-filled vacation at his $8 million summer estate in New Hampshire — used the unemployment figures as an opportunity to attack Obama's record. "The president's policies clearly have not been successful … in reigniting this economy," Romney opined. "The kick in the gut has got to end." This is the well-rehearsed GOP playbook: Ignore all progress, paint a grim picture, call every Obama success a failure and claim that his every strength is a weakness.

Romney, who has yet to articulate an immediate plan to create jobs, spins a web of lies. And like much of the GOP's rhetoric, what Romney says makes no sense. What is most troubling is that much of the unemployment malaise could have been avoided had congressional Republicans acted on President Obama's plan announced last September, the aptly named American Jobs Act.

President Obama proposed the AJA at a time when the country was creating an average of more than 200,000 jobs per month. The $450 billion package of fiscal measures amounted to nearly 3 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and was designed to take effect in 2012. Tax cuts — the Republican holy grail — made up about 56 percent of the AJA's total cost and were completely paid for by the president's long-term deficit-reduction plan. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the AJA "could have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years." 

What did the plan include? An extension of unemployment benefits; a 50 percent payroll-tax cut for employers committed to hiring; $30 billion in federal grants to states, which allowed them to hire more than 135,000 teachers, police, firefighters and state workers; and $90 billion in infrastructure spending — while supporting 400,000 service jobs in construction and education.

The Tea Party Caucus waged an all-out propaganda campaign against the AJA, decrying it as more stimulus and an example of big government. House Republicans obstructed the Jobs Act, refusing to allow it even to come to a vote. Senate Republicans used the much-abused filibuster to defeat it. But polls continued to favor the president, and as a result, Obama was able to force Boehner & Co. to pass a one-third cut in employees' payroll taxes and an extension of unemployment benefits. 


And herein lies the rub: The GOP is touting a flailing economy, saying that Obama's policies are the cause of the malaise — but it is Republicans who have deliberately orchestrated these outcomes by refusing to pass a signature, jobs-focused piece of legislation.

What is worse is that their destructive tactics disproportionately fall on the backs of African Americans, Hispanics, low-income earners and the poor. The GOP does not care — since it calculates that disheartened citizens will be less motivated to go to the polls come November. And with new voter-id laws in place, the black and brown vote will be subject to a perfect storm of suppression that spells a win for Romney.


Republicans are betting on a premise that white working-class voters will become so frustrated with the economic slowdown that they will vote against the first African-American president and instead elect a rich white guy and private-equity magnate — who notoriously destroyed companies while profiting enormously.

As such, stalling the recovery — and even forcing the economy back into recession — is now central to the GOP's strategy to win. It's an insidious plan, the evidence of which is clearly visible through the party's rejection of the AJA. 


So what do the American Jobs Act and Republican obstructionism have to do with black unemployment rates? The answer is simple: The economic recovery has largely benefited white Americans, leaving behind too many others.

Government jobs have historically been the pathway for African Americans to enter the middle class, beginning at the dawn of Jim Crow, when discrimination and segregation served as stark barriers to private-sector opportunities. Over the past decades, one in five blacks has been employed by state and federal government. But in the last three years the public sector has shed 700,000 jobs, and the vast majority of those have belonged to African Americans and women.


Republicans rejected President Obama's progressive plans Pathways Back to Work, which supports low-income jobs, and Project Rebuild, which rehabilitates communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Their inaction left an additional 1 million jobs on the table. 

Using rhetoric to cloud honest debate, Republicans talked about the Keystone Pipeline, which most independent assessments say won't create more than 20,000 temporary jobs, but they reject Barack Obama's plan to employ millions. In addition, Romney's "59-Point Economic Plan" has been weighed in the balance and found wanting, with economists agreeing that it would weaken the economy and cost jobs. 


Meanwhile, American infrastructure is crumbling, our education system is falling steadily behind, and for a vast majority of black and brown citizens, the hope of an American dream is becoming increasingly elusive. What the GOP has bet on is that those people will be so broken, they won't bother to vote. 

It is incumbent upon you to prove them wrong.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing regularly on MSNBC, Al-Jazeera and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.


Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.