March 04, 2010 4:52 pm ET - by Matt Finkelstein
Conservative attacks on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have quieted down recently, after a series of reports indicating that the bill has largely succeeded. Although some Republicans are still claiming that the recovery effort "failed," there has been a noticeable shift in their rhetoric. Instead of arguing that the stimulus "didn't create any jobs" at all, as they did for most of last year, Republicans are now focusing their attention on "net jobs" created.
This rhetorical shift is embodied by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who has routinely railed against the Recovery Act since his campaign. In January, Brown declared, "The first stimulus bill didn't work. They haven't created one new job." A couple weeks later, Brown repeated, "The last stimulus bill didn't create one new job." But by mid-February, he was hedging. In an appearance on Fox News, Brown clarified his statement that "we haven't created one new job," saying, "The net job growth isn't where it needs to be."
Today, Brown completed his shift to the "net jobs" argument. While speaking on the Senate floor, Brown argued, "The hundreds of billions of dollars we've spent and continue to spend on the stimulus package have not created one new net job." Watch:
As we've previously noted, the new talking point undermines the GOP's previous stance. By shifting the focus to "net jobs," Republicans are unequivocally conceding that the Recovery Act did create jobs -- up to 2.4 million, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office -- but complaining that it didn't create more jobs than were lost in the recession. When the bill passed, though, the country was already shedding around 800,000 jobs per month (see chart below). The trend has been moving in the right direction ever since, and job losses are nearly flat, but it's entirely unreasonable to expect "net jobs" to be positive now or any time soon.
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