Democrats are getting pummeled by the bad economy, and today's release of the latest government jobless statistics doesn't offer them any reprieve: although the unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.6 percent, 95,000 Americans lost their jobs. It's true that the new number might not matter much because by now, most voters are already all too aware of the tough economic reality. But that hasn't stopped Republican leaders from responding to the latest figures by leaping to attack President Obama and the Democratic Congress, accusing them of mismanaging the economy. Democrats, meanwhile, are on the defensive. Here's what major political figures are saying.
For top GOP leaders, the response to the numbers is pretty clear-cut: they provide proof that Democrats can't be trusted to fix the struggling economy, and show why voters should pull the Republican lever in November.
President Obama and his left-wing allies on Capitol Hill have spent trillions of taxpayer dollars with nothing to show for it but a mountain of crippling debt and chronic joblessness. 95,000 more jobs lost provides further evidence that their agenda of more spending, higher taxes, and bigger government is only fueling more economic uncertainty and making it harder to put Americans back to work.
The unemployment rate has escalated far beyond the eight percent mark that Democrats promised before their so-called ‘stimulus’ bill was enacted into law. For nearly two years, Democrats have been unable to produce an answer to the fundamental question: ‘Where are the jobs?'
House Minority Leader John Boehner, who's expected to become speaker of the House if Republicans take back a majority in that chamber, says the numbers are proof that the nation needs to enact the agenda GOP leaders rolled out in September. (He hammered home the same message during an afternoon speech in his hometown of West Chester, Ohio, Friday.)
This disappointing jobs report demonstrates the pressing need to immediately enact the Pledge to America and help end the uncertainty caused by Washington Democrats’ out-of-control spending spree and job-killing policies.
Elsewhere, the National Republican Senatorial Committee blames Calif. Sen. Barbara Boxer for the stimulus bill, which it says was a failure (Boxer, who is up for reelection, has been a top target of the GOP, which hopes to pick up her seat, although she's currently leading in most polls). And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the news is an argument against ending the Bush tax cuts.
As one might imagine, it's much quieter on the other side of the aisle, with most congressional Democrats staying mum. The administration, however, has gone on the offensive.
President Obama spoke Friday morning in Maryland and focused on a nuance of the report: although private-sector payrolls have increased slowly but steadily over the last few months, public-sector jobs have been drying up as state and local governments get hit by the lagging effects of the crisis (for more on this, see Ezra Klein here on today's report or NEWSWEEK's piece on state and local budget crises here). While acknowledging that the numbers were disappointing, the president pointed a finger at Republicans, who he says prevented effective federal help:
I should point out that these continuing layoffs by state and local governments—of teachers and police officers and firefighters and the like—would have been even worse without the federal help that we’ve provided to states over the last 20 months—help that the Republicans in Congress have consistently opposed. I think the Republican position doesn’t make much sense, especially since the weakness in public-sector employment is a drag on the private sector as well.
And on the White House's blog, Austan Goolsbee—the newly minted chair of the Council of Economic Advisers—offers a rather halfhearted defense:
Given the volatility in the monthly employment and unemployment data, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis also has a statement here.