Speaker of the House-hopeful John Boehner, now the GOP minority leader, attacked President Obama's handling of the economy yesterday and offered as the alternative a return to Republican policies under George Bush.
He called for fewer regulations on big business, continuing the Bush tax cuts for the rich, a freeze on government pay and hiring, trade deals with countries that violate human rights, an end to the extensions of unemployment benefits and an end to federal aid that is going to states to save the jobs of teachers, police officers and firefighters.
Democrats hit back immediately after his speech this week to the City Club of Cleveland. They blamed the GOP for creating the economic disaster Obama inherited in January 2009, for opposing policies that have begun to reverse it, and for blocking proposals to help small business.
"There are millions of Americans who saw their savings, their paychecks shrink, and who lost their jobs and their homes," Vice President Biden said in Washington. "Mr. Boehner is nostalgic for those good old days, but the American people are not."
Time Magazine's Michael Crowley decried what he called the "lack of leadership" in the Boehner proposals. "Republicans are hammering Barack Obama and the Democrats over the budget deficit, but Boehner's most detailed solution was to call for a return to 2008 discretionary spending levels - a move that would exact painful short-term cuts while bringing a negligible effect on America's medium and long-term budget crisis."
Campaign for America's Future co-chair Robert Borosage called the Boehner proposals "half-baked."
"The Boehner response is to keep tax rates where they are for the rich," he said, "and cut all recovery spending, slashing 25 percent from domestic discretionary spending. We know two things about this program: It will kill more jobs than it creates; and it will add to, not subtract, from projected deficits."
Boehner, who has apparently been chosen to be the public face of the Republican Party over people like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, needed to put forward some type of economic plan. He first became a You-Tube celebrity for his negative "hell-no-you-can't" rant on health care. A policy speech, his handlers hope, will give him more substance.
"But as a plan to get the country going, a plan to put people to work," said Borosage, "or as a plan even to break the ongoing economic uncertainty, this is just silly. The time would have been better spent working on his tan."
Some commentators who were critical of Democrats for running against Bush economic policies again in the current mid-term election cycle had second thoughts about their criticisms after the Boehner speech.
"I've been skeptical that Democrats would get much political traction with their argument that the Republican agenda is just George W. Bush recycled," said the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, "but speeches like Boehner's make me rethink."
OurFuture.org's Bill Scher said the Boehner speech contained "little policy but many lies." Referring to Boehner's speech, Scher said, "He used the phrase 'job killing' to describe the President's economic strategy a dozen times. Yet he embraced a position that would literally kill hundreds of thousands of jobs."
The Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo documented some of the "lies" he found in the minority leader's speech:
Boehner said he had told the president that ongoing uncertainty is hurting small businesses and preventing the creation of private sector jobs. Garofalo noted that, according to the latest National Federation of Independent Business small business survey, nearly half of small businesses cite lack of sales prospects (not enough money in the hands of consumers) as the reason for not hiring: just 12 percent cite "political conditions."
In one part of his speech Boehner attacked the Employee Free Choice Act, calling it a "top priority for public-sector unions that provide the money and foot soldiers for Democratic campaigns. It eliminates a worker's right to a secret ballot in union elections, making it easier for unions to organize while putting employers at a firm disadvantage. Card check is essentially a 'how to' guide for destroying small business jobs."
Garofalo noted that "card check, or majority sign-up, already exists and has been used by more than half a million workers to unionize since 2003 but only because their employers allowed it. Retail employers with sales under $500,000 annually and non-retail employers with sales under $50,000 annually would also be exempt from the bill Boehner is about."
Photo: House Minority Leader John Boehner,R-Ohio, speaks on jobs and the economy at the City Club of Cleveland, Aug. 24. (Mark Duncan/AP)