Larry Summers versus Michael Steele

The Obama economic advisor points out that Republicans don't have much authority to lecture on history. The RNC chairman immediately proves Summers' point.

By Andrew Leonard

Published February 9, 2009 5:31PM (EST)

Larry Summers, Obama's top economic advisor, doesn't count many friends among the American left, but I'm guessing David Kurtz's quip last week at TalkingPointsMemo that "I'm starting to get the sense that Larry Summers is to economic policy in the Obama Administration what Dick Cheney was to national security policy in the Bush Administration," was particularly hurtful. Just three weeks into the new term, and Cheney comparisons are already popping up!

How the World Works is still ready to cut some slack to the new administration. For example, I thought Summers' comment over the weekend to George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," dismissing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's explanation of how FDR's policies didn't help get the country out of the Great Depression, was pretty nice.

SUMMERS: Those who presided over the last eight years, the eight years that brought us to the point where we inherit trillions of dollars of deficit, an economy that's collapsing more rapidly than at any time in the last 50 years don't seem to me in a strong position to lecture about the lessons of history.

Summers was followed on the show by the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, who proceeded to present viewers with his own intriguing view of history.

STEELE: The reality of it is, Bush inherited a recession. He got us through that recession. The spending was out of whack. There's no doubt about that ... But the economy did grow. Close to 6 million jobs were created. Now we're on the downside of that and -- in that cycle. And the question now becomes, how do we as a country shore up this economy?

Close to 6 million jobs were created? Not quite. The final tally, after December 2008, for George Bush's two terms in office was about 3 million jobs created. That's the worst job-creation performance, as the Wall Street Journal notes, "since the government began keeping records."

Just for comparison, during Bill Clinton's administration, in which Larry Summers served a prominent role, 23 million new jobs were created. This is the same Larry Summers whom David Sirota accused in Salon over the weekend of championing "job-killing free trade deals" during his time in Washington.

I'll take some of that job-killing right now, thank you. There are many reasons to dislike Larry Summers. But at least he appears to have a grasp on reality, as contrasted with the other side.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Globalization How The World Works Larry Summers Michael Steele U.s. Economy