House Speaker John Boehner and members of his Republican leadership team scoffed at the positive jobs data this morning, suggesting that despite new signals that the economy is improving, the president's economic agenda has failed and the country would be better off if the GOP's policies are implemented.
Boehner bluntly advised President Obama's reelection campaign to prod Senate Democrats to "get off their rear ends" in order to bring the unemployment rate down even further. He once again called on the president to pressure Senate Democrats to consider more of the GOP's House-passed legislation, 27 of which the speaker said are stalled in the upper chamber.
"The president asked us to work with [Senate Democrats]. We have worked with them," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "If president really wants to get the economy moving again, really wants to improve his own chances for reelection, maybe he'll pick up the phone and call Senator Reid and ask Senate Democrats to get off their rear ends."
Boehner ripped President Obama for promising that the stimulus bill would keep the unemployment rate from ever exceeding eight percent. The speaker said that the Obama administration had also promised that this far along into the recovery, the unemployment rate should have fallen to six percent by now as a result of the Recovery Act.
"The American people have seen the same story now for 36 straight months," Boehner said, noting that unemployment has maintained a rate above eight percent the past three years. "While we welcome the positive news today I think our point is very simple: we can do better."
Across the aisle, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the data shows that the "immediate priority" of Congress should be for the conference committee to resolve disagreements on extensions to the payroll tax credit and unemployment insurance.
"Today's jobs numbers are a clear sign that progress is being made, but now is not the time to take the pressure off in our work to create jobs," Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement. "House Democrats want to reignite the American Dream, rebuilding the pillars of America that have made our economy strong: small businesses, entrepreneurs, and an all-inclusive and thriving middle class. It's time for Republicans to join Democrats in getting the job done on behalf of the American people."
Boehner refuted the notion that 243,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate dropping to 8.3 percent could be proof that the economy is headed in right direction under the president's policies.
"What I'm suggesting to you today is that we can do better," he said. "The American people are still asking the question, 'Where are the jobs?' and while the unemployment rate is down slightly and a few more Americans are at work, we still have millions of Americans that are looking for work, and if the president would work with us, there are millions more Americans who could be at work. That's our point."
Republicans also repeatedly compared the Obama economic recovery to the speed of the Reagan recovery, mentioning the GOP's political idol five times during the 13-minute news conference.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Reagan had to deal with "a more difficult, deeper recession."
" Unemployment was higher, the inflation was rampant and yet he took an approach that in the third year of his term resulted in the economy booming by then," Rodgers said. "President Obama has taken the approach of borrowing and spending, and those are policies that fail. And if anything, they make it worse."
"If this economy were performing the way it did in the Reagan recovery…we'd have almost 17 million more Americans working today than we do right now," Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, added. "If the Reagan recovery model was followed, we'd have almost $5,700 per capita in greater GDP than we have today."
When Reagan took office in January 1981, the unemployment rate was 7.5 percent. The country steadily lost jobs until December 1982, when the jobless rate maxed out during the Reagan administration at 10.8 percent. Thirty-six months later the rate had fallen to 7.0 percent, and by the end of Reagan's second term, it bottomed out in December 1988 at 5.3 percent.
When Obama took office in January 2009 in the middle of the financial crisis, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. The country increasingly shed jobs until October 2009, when the jobless rate maxed out at 10.0 percent.
In the 27 months immediately following the peak of Reagan's jobless rate, the rate fell by 3.6 percent. In the same time frame following the height of unemployment during the Obama administration, the rate has decreased by 1.7 percent.