By Jeff Spross
New numbers released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the economy added a mere 80,000 jobs in June. That’s down from an average of 150,000 jobs a month for the first part of the year, and far too little to keep up with population growth.
Republican intransigence on economic policy has been a key contributor to the sluggish recovery. As early as 2009, Republican fear-mongering over spending and their readiness to filibuster in the Senate helped convince the White House economic team that an $800 billion stimulus was the most they could hope to get through Congress. Reporting has since revealed that the team thought the country actually needed a stimulus on the order of $1.2 to $1.8 trillion. The economy’s path over the next three years proved them right. Here are the top five ways the Republicans have sabotaged the economic recovery since:
1. Filibustering the American Jobs Act. Last October, Senate Republicans killed a jobs bill proposed by President Obama that would have pumped $447 billion into the economy. Multiple economic analysts predicted the bill would add around two million jobs and hailed it as defense against a double-dip recession. The Congressional Budget Office also scored it as a net deficit reducer over ten years, and the American public supported the bill.There have also been a few near-misses, in which the GOP almost prevented help from coming to the economy. The Republicans in the House delayed a transportation bill that saved as many as 1.9 million jobs. House Committees run by the GOP have passed proposals aimed at cutting billions from food stamps, and the party has repeatedly threatened to kill extensions of unemployment insurance and cuts to the payroll tax.
2. Stonewalling monetary stimulus. The Federal Reserve can do enormous good for a depressed economy through more aggressive monetary stimulus, and by tolerating a temporarily higher level of inflation. But with everything from Ron Paul’s anti-inflationary crusade to Rick Perry threatening to lynch Chairman Ben Bernanke, Republicans have browbeaten the Fed into not going down this path. Most damagingly, the GOP repeatedly held up President Obama’s nominations to the Federal Reserve Board during the critical months of the recession, leaving the board without the institutional clout it needed to help the economy.
3. Threatening a debt default. Even though the country didn’t actually hit its debt ceiling last summer, the Republican threat to default on the United States’ outstanding obligations was sufficient to spook financial markets and do real damage to the economy.
4. Cutting discretionary spending in the debt ceiling deal. The deal the GOP extracted as the price for avoiding default imposed around $900 billion in cuts over ten years. It included $30.5 billion in discretionary cuts in 2012 alone, costing the country 0.3 percent in economic growth and 323,000 jobs, according to estimates from the Economic Policy Institute. Starting in 2013, the deal will trigger another $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years.
5. Cutting discretionary spending in the budget deal. While not as cataclysmic as the debt ceiling brinksmanship, Republicans also threatened a shutdown of the government in early 2011 if cuts were not made to that year’s budget. The deal they struck with the White House cut $38 billion from food stamps, health, education, law enforcement, and low-income programs among others, while sparing defense almost entirely.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, those policies — the payroll tax cut, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and discretionary spending for low-income Americans — have the highest multipliers, meaning more job boosting potential per dollar.