Between the country's impressive economic growth and robust job figures, it's finally beginning to look like a real recovery is underway, six years after the official end of the Great Recession. Amid this improving economic climate, President Barack Obama's job approval rating has ticked up slightly. Continued strength in the American economy would also be a boon to Democrats' hopes of holding onto the White House and recovering ground in Congress in 2016. But according to newly installed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voters should thank Republicans for the recovery.
"After so many years of sluggish growth, we're finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration's long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress," the Kentuckian said today. "So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda."
The Democratic National Committee responded to McConnell's remarks in an email with a subject line reading , "DNC to McConnell: Hahahahahahahahahahaha." McConnell's assertion that the anticipation of a GOP Congress magically boosted the economy would indeed be quite funny, if not for how maddening his remarks are.
At every available opportunity, Republicans in the Obama era have taken measures that -- intentionally or not -- undermined the economy's performance. Starting with the GOP's near-unanimous opposition to the administration's 2009 stimulus, the party has opposed countercyclical fiscal policies geared toward priming the country's economic pump. As the initial stimulus proved too small and states and localities cut public sector jobs amid dire budgetary straits, Republicans blocked a measure championed by Obama that would have allocated $35 billion to state and local governments to create or save jobs for public workers like teachers and firefighters.
But Republicans have done far more than obstruct. No less destructively, the party successfully pushed a woefully counterproductive austerity agenda once it assumed control of the House of Representatives in January 2011. (The administration should not be absolved of blame for its part in acceding to a regime of drastic spending cuts.) In October 2013, the research firm Macroeconomic Advisers calculated that budget cuts had decreased annual growth by 0.7 percentage points since 2010; meanwhile, austerity increased the unemployment rate by 0.8 percentage points.
Moreover, GOP-pushed cuts in unemployment compensation and food stamps took money out of the hands of people who would have spent it in the economy. Food stamp benefits, for instance, generate $1.74 in economic activity for every dollar put into them, according to Moody's Analytics.
More than half a decade into a recovery whose benefits have mostly accrued to the nation's wealthiest citizens, many American workers are finally experiencing a real improvement in their economic fortunes, and data on GDP, employment, and wages increasingly reflect that. But the nation's economy is improving despite, not because of, a Republican Congress.