Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver the official Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. While Rubio has been pitched as the “savior” and “new face” of the GOP, a preview of his speech gives the indication that he is just as disconnected from the current economic reality as the rest of his party.
Previewing his speech for The Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes, Rubio said he would make the case that the national debt “has a direct impact on unemployment” and that it is hurting job growth:
“The debt has a direct impact on unemployment. Every dollar that is being lent to the government is a dollar that is not being invested in our economy,” he says. “The immediate danger of the debt, and the one that speaks to people in the real world, is the fact that the debt is contributing to the fact that they don’t have a good job.”
The idea that the national debt is harming economic growth is a favorite tenet of conservative orthodoxy, but there’s no evidence of that orthodoxy being correct. European politicians have spent the last four years attempting to spark economic growth through deficit and debt reduction, and the result has been total failure. Multiple rounds of spending cuts across Eurozone countries were never followed by economic growth, and now the Eurozone is back in recession, as are seven of its 17 countries, while unemployment is at record highs.
The United States bucked that trend and pursued economic stimulus, resulting in faster growth than Europe. Still, spending cuts have dampened the recovery. Government spending flatlined in recent years, and crunched state and federal budgets have led to the loss of roughly 700,000 government jobs — most of which are teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other middle-class public workers that could be contributing to economic growth if only they had a paycheck. The loss of those jobs has reduced demand and led to the loss of more jobs in the private sector.
America’s problem is that it is focused on spending cuts (which the Congressional Budget Office says will further dampen growth in 2013) and is not investing enough to offset the lack of private demand. Economists estimated that the American Jobs Act (blocked by Republicans three years ago) would have created more than a million jobs while boosting economic growth.
A rational Congress would look both to Europe and the U.S.’s own situation and realize that austerity has failed. But Rubio and Republicans remain convinced that the debt is “contributing to the fact that” Americans don’t have good jobs. To the extent that’s true, it is because politicians like Rubio are focused more on the debt than they are on policies that would actually help create the jobs Americans are looking for.