The misery strategy

    Republicans are lucky that so many Americans have such short memories and pay such minimal attention to what really goes on in Washington. Because if people were more enlightened, the GOP would be shouldering its fair share of the blame for an economy that’s stuck in neutral.I had to laugh yesterday when Mitt Romney’s spinners surfaced on the Sunday shows to pin the latest lousy jobs report on President Obama. Eric Fehrnstrom said that only 69,000 jobs were created in May thanks to Obama’s “deficit of leadership,” and Ed Gillespie said the economy is stalled because Obama has done nothing “to try to bring members of Congress together.” These are potent political messages, especially for the millions of voters who are blind to the realities of divided government and who inexplicably believe that a president need only wave a magic wand to get things done.At the risk of citing ancient history (which is anything that occurred prior to the latest news cycle), I want to time-travel all the way back to last autumn, when Obama championed an ambitious jobs plan that would’ve put teachers, construction workers, police officers and firefighters back to work – if not for the fact that the congressional GOP deep-sixed the bill. The Senate GOP, playing the filibuster card which requires 60 votes for just about anything, successfully prevented the jobs bill from even being brought up for debate. When the American Jobs Act was first proposed, independent economists – including Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and a top ’08 McCain adviser – said that Obama’s measure would create as many as two million new jobs. Forget it, folks. There was no way the Republicans would ever let that happen. They’re invested in rooting for misery, and working with Obama to put people back to work would mess with their electoral master plan.Their top priority is not to forge bipartisan deals that would create jobs. On the contrary, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell articulated their top priority several years ago: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Why ease Americans’ job misery if it means that Obama might win a second term? Better to do nothing, and bank on the likelihood that most voters won’t remember the Republican intransigence that took place one year before the election. So the Senate GOP barred all floor debate on a major jobs bill that, ironically, included a broad array of traditional Republican provisions. The White House had included those provisions in a bid to attract some Republican support. As if that olive branch would ever have worked. Not that anyone remembers this, but, once upon a time, a group of Senate Republicans led by Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed a plan to create construction jobs via an independent fund supported by private money. They thought it was a great idea – construction jobs to repair America’s infrastructure! – but as soon as Obama embraced it, and folded it into his jobs bill, they suddenly decreed that the idea had cooties. Goodbye to their baby; out it went with the bathwater.But fortunately for the GOP, millions of voters don’t track these Washington machinations, or understand the nuances of obstruction-by-filibuster. Nor do they truly grasp the reality of today’s GOP, as articulated by insider Mike Lofgren, a veteran House Republican budget analyst who blasted his brethren when he retired last summer. Check this out: “The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.” (Lofgren’s new book will expand on that theme, while also assailing the Democrats as “useless.”)Nor is it common knowledge that Romney’s proposed cures for the job-creation crisis do not exist. His economic plan is geared for the long term (federal spending cuts a la Paul Ryan, tax reform to help the wealthy, etc.), not for helping jobless Americans in the here and now. Better to say nothing, in sync with the congressional Republicans who do nothing, and let the voters pin all the blame on Obama.The political reality, as the GOP shrewdly understands, is that when times are tough, it’s the incumbent who takes the biggest hit. For now, at least, the GOP’s investment in misery is paying off brilliantly.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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