Here’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe commenting recently on unemployment and federal stimulus money:
President Obama and the Democrats sold the American people a bill of goods. Where are the jobs? Despite White House projections, the stimulus has not helped our economy one bit. Instead, it has saddled our nation with a massive increase in deficit spending and an explosion of debt. In 2009, President Obama and Congressional Democrats promised the stimulus would bring about a full recovery and keep the unemployment below 8 percent. Now, two years later, our nation still faces a 9 percent unemployment rate and our labor market continues to suffer. To help the economy, we need to reduce government spending and peel back government over-regulation. That is the way to help the real job creators in the private sector. The White House continues to be totally out of touch with the American people.
There’s so much wrong with this statement it’s difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with Oklahoma unemployment. The latest numbers showed Oklahoma has an unemployment rate of 6.8, still too high, but certainly much lower than the 14.5 rate in Nevada. So Inhofe simply omits any mention about the state he represents, a state that has the 10th lowest unemployment rate in the country. How many jobs were saved here by the stimulus plan? We do know that the stimulus money prevented deeper cuts in government, especially in education. The U.S. Department of Education says 367,524 jobs were funded in the education sector by stimulus money during the 2009-2010 school year. That’s the reality. I think it’s safe to claim that hundreds of more Oklahoma teachers would have lost their jobs without the extra money. Doesn’t that mean anything to Inhofe? What about the place he’s supposed to represent? Does he even care?
Second, if Inhofe is so concerned about unemployment why did he express opposition against extending benefits to the unemployed? (Read here and here.) If, as he argues, the stimulus plan has not done enough to lower unemployment, and this concerns him, then why would he work against jobless benefits? If Obama has supposedly failed the unemployed, then why would Inhofe punish them further?
Third, the idea the “we need to reduce government spending and peel back government over-regulation” in order to create jobs is about as absurd as it gets. It was under the GOP watch and conservative ideology that an under-regulated banking system took this country to the brink of another Great Depression. Sure, Democrats participated through the years in deregulating banks, but Wall Street and big corporations make up an important segment of the Republican base. What we need is more regulation and consumer protection, not less. Also, drastically cutting federal spending in a time period of low unemployment will do just the opposite of what Inhofe contends. It will increase the unemployment rate, not lower it. (Don’t forget, as well, that most Republicans only care about the federal deficit when it occurs under a Democratic presidential administration.)
Scholar George Lakoff recently wrote:
Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.
So let’s say it again: ” . . . it was conservative values that cause the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.”
Fourth, note there’s no mention of the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan military occupations and their impact on deficits. These are the military actions Inhofe has obsessively supported and continues to support. Cost of War estimates the U.S. has spent more than $1.1 trillion on the occupations and costs continue to grow. That’s more than the $787 billion stimulus package, which also included tax reductions, passed in 2009, and again, the military costs are going to get much higher.
Finally, Inhofe’s tone in his statement is overly political and sophomoric, an obvious appeal to his own special base in Oklahoma, which includes the corporate media. His partisan rhetoric completely dismisses those who support Obama here. Note the clichés “sold the American people a bill of goods” and “out of touch with the American people.” I know partisan political rhetoric in this country is as plentiful as blackjack oak trees in Oklahoma, but for a United States Senator to use it in an official statement that supposedly expresses worry over high unemployment, which should be a non-partisan issue, shows a lack of discretion. It also marginalizes the half of million of Oklahomans who voted for Obama and those who continue to support him.