Sabotage: The Story Behind The Republican Party's "Top Political Priority"

October 25, 2011 10:48 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Sen. Mitch McConnell

Congressional Republicans won't admit it, but President Obama's proposed American Jobs Act is popular — with voters and economists alike.

According to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent of Americans support the president's bill, which independent economic experts say could create more than two million jobs and prevent another recession. The plan is full of bipartisan ideas, including payroll tax cuts that Republicans have previously supported and infrastructure spending that Republicans admit will create jobs. Senate Democrats have proposed funding it with a surtax on income over $1 million, another policy backed by an overwhelming majority of Americans.

CNN's latest poll shows that even Republican voters support the bill's key components. Yet, despite all their bluster about "listening to the American people," GOP leaders seem to be wearing earplugs. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently pronounced the president's bill dead in the House, where Republicans are refusing to even bring it up for a vote. Similarly, every single Republican member of the Senate — even the so-called "moderates" like Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — voted to block the upper chamber from debating the bill.

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing an economic agenda dominated by deregulation. Ignoring economists and business owners who insist federal regulations are not killing job growth, conservative lawmakers are promising to create jobs by eliminating rules that save lives. Demonstrating the party's blind commitment to gutting federal safeguards, one GOP congressman recently complained about the use of "buzz words" like "cancer" to defend the regulation of carcinogens in the workplace. (Republicans have also made plenty of time for their war on women's reproductive rights, among other efforts that have nothing to do with jobs.)

So why are Republicans rejecting popular ideas they used to support in favor of right-wing policies that simply will not create jobs?

It's difficult to escape the conclusion that Republicans have made a political calculation that requires opposition to any policy that could improve the economy in the near term. A major compromise is not likely to sit well with the Tea Party base, whose enthusiastic support will be vital if Republicans are going to achieve Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) stated top priority of beating Obama in 2012. After all, a bipartisan agreement might help the GOP's historically low approval rate, but it would also bolster the president's image as a pragmatic leader while giving his re-election prospects a boost in the form of a better economy.

Of course, the GOP's behavior is not a recent development. It is a continuation of almost three years of obstructing economic progress while adopting a "so be it" attitude toward the negative impact of their own policies.

Political Correction interviewed former White House economist Jared Bernstein (now with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), Demos director Heather McGee, and the Economic Policy Institute's John Irons, who explained how Republican policies are sabotaging the economy.

Watch our documentary, Sabotage: The Story Behind The Republican Party's "Top Political Priority":

Print