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Cantor Gives GOP Credit for Improving U.S. Economy

January 30, 2011

This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) became the latest Republican to give his party credit for the improving U.S. economy. After the Commerce Department reported American gross domestic product (GDP) jumped by 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2010, Cantor attributed the gains to the December tax cut deal and supposed Republican fiscal discipline.
Which means that Eric Cantor isn't just a coward and liar, but apparently a time traveler as well.
All have been on display since November's midterm elections. Within hours of the vote, Cantor joined the long list of Republicans refusing to detail the specifics of their now-abandoned spending cut pledge. Earlier this month, the Virginian accused the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of "budget gimmickry," prompting Ezra Klein of the Washington Post to respond, "Repealing health-care reform would cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- and Eric Cantor knows it." And on Friday, Majority Leader Cantor has claimed that December's tax cut compromise with President Obama fueled economic growth in October and November as well:

This morning, the GDP projection for the last quarter was released, showing a 3.2% growth for the fourth quarter and suggesting the economy will pick up speed this year. This uptick is no doubt due in part to the certainty that Washington has given the private sector through the recent tax deal and the newly elected House Republican Majority who have pledged to rein in the size and scope of our federal government which has exploded over the last 4 years.

As it turns out, this isn't Cantor's first effort to rewrite a more Republican-friendly history of the economic recovery.
Last Monday, two new surveys from the National Association of Business Economics and USA Today found "more firms expressing positive hiring plans than in over a decade" and "nine of 10 economists said they're more optimistic than three months ago." But as Politico and Washington Monthly explained, Republicans who opposed the Obama administration's recovery measures tooth and nail are now taking credit for the growing economic progress those Democratic initiatives produced.
As Ben Smith wrote Monday, "19 days in, GOP leadership takes credit for job growth." Trumpeting the improving jobs outlook, Eric Cantor's office issued a statement claiming:

THERE ARE THE JOBS: Republicans Prevent Massive Tax Increase, Economy Begins to Improve.

In response, Steve Benen lamented, "Even by the standards of the most shameless hack, this is farcical," adding, "Worse, it's part of a growing pattern."

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), for example, argued two weeks ago, for example, that the recent good news -- private-sector job growth, big corporate profits, major gains in the major Wall Street indexes -- that occurred throughout 2010 were the result of Republican tax policies. As Kyl sees it, business leaders in early 2010 predicted the tax policy agreement crafted in late 2010, and started growing the economy based on their future-predicting abilities.
On Fox News last week, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) offered a related argument, insisting that indications of economic improvements are "in large part" because Republicans "won our majority and we're pursuing pro-growth policies."

Of course, it was President Obama and Democrats in Congress who pursued the pro-growth policies that brought the U.S. economy back from the brink and onto a trajectory for recovery.

Over the past year, the U.S. economy added 1.1 million new jobs overall, including 1.3 million in the private sector, which enjoyed 12 straight months of growth. By last June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the Obama stimulus program had saved or created up to 3.3 million jobs, lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.8% and boosted GDP by 4.5%. A recent analysis of Census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) revealed that federal programs kept 4.5 million Americans out of poverty in 2009. For his part, former John McCain adviser Mark Zandi in August concluded that the combined federal interventions beginning in the fall of 2008 prevented the Great Recession from becoming Depression 2.0:

We find that its effects on real GDP, jobs, and inflation are huge, and probably averted what could have been called Great Depression 2.0. For example, we estimate that, without the government's response, GDP in 2010 would be about 11.5% lower, payroll employment would be less by some 8½ million jobs, and the nation would now be experiencing deflation.

Looking at future quarterly growth rates now expected to top 3.2%, an upbeat Zandi announced last week:

"This growth is now becoming self-reinforcing. Businesses are going to take their stronger sales and begin to hire more aggressively, generate more income, and we're off and running."

No thanks to Eric Cantor or the Republican Party.
(If Cantor's transparently false claim sounds familiar, it should. After trying to pin responsibility on Bill Clinton for the first Bush recession, Republicans tried to blame Barack Obama for the second. For more background, see "GOP Takes Credit, Deflects Blame on Economy. Again.")


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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