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Republican candidates slam Obama after latest unemployment report

August 05, 2011|By Michael Muskal

Even though the latest jobless numbers were slightly better than expected, Republican presidential candidates on Friday jumped on this week’s economic turmoil and renewed fears of recession to castigate President Obama’s policies and push their own agendas.

The July unemployment numbers showed that the United States added 117,000 jobs in July, better than most economists had expected, but still below the number needed just to keep pace with people newly entering the job market. The unemployment rate dipped from 9.2% to 9.1%, but much of that improvement was because people had become discouraged and had dropped out of the jobs market.

A day after the stock market sold off by more than 4% on fears about the European debt crisis and a possible double-dip recession, the opening was positive but stocks quickly gave up their gains in choppy trading.

Polls have indicated that the economy, and its related issues such as taxation and budget cuts, are the major issues in the presidential election cycle. After the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis this week, Democrats have turned sharply to job creation as their key focus.

But Republicans also see the economy as an area where they can score political points and they lost no time in criticizing Obama’s policies, including healthcare reform and stimulus spending, as well as his leadership.

"Today's unemployment report represents the 30th straight month that the jobless rate has been above 8 percent,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the accepted leader among the GOP pack of aspirants, said in a  prepared statement. "The administration promised with their $800-billion stimulus that they would keep unemployment below that number. When you see what this president has done to the economy in just three years, you know why America doesn't want to find out what he can do in eight.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also stressed the leadership issue. "Today's dismal jobs report is a far cry from the hope and change that President Obama promised on the campaign trail,” Pawlenty stated. “This lack of leadership is inexcusable and driving our economy toward decline. It's time for a new president to point us back in the right direction.”

Another Minnesotan, Rep. Michele Bachmann, said Obama's "failed economic policies are digging us deeper into a hole.”

"The president can attempt to blame and spin away this week's bad economic news, but you can't fool the markets,” Bachmann said in a statement. “Mr. President -- the only way to dig us out of this hole your administration has gotten us into is to stop digging."

Not to be outdone, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is running far behind the GOP leaders,  returned to one of the favorite themes designed to attract conservative votes in the Republican primaries, the healthcare overhaul.

"When President Obama should have been focused on creating jobs, he focused on a government-mandated healthcare system that the American people didn't ask for and can't afford," he stated. "America needs a president who knows how to create an economic environment that allows entrepreneurs to thrive and create jobs. This country will never realize its true economic potential until we enact tax cuts, implement regulatory reform and move toward energy independence."

The administration has continued to warn against reading too much into any one monthly jobless report, a theme Austan Goolsbee, the outgoing chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, repeated in a blog post on Friday. He then outlined the administration's proposed plans.

"Bipartisan action is needed to help the private sector and the economy grow -- such as measures to extend both the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, as well as passing the pending free trade agreements with re-employment assistance for displaced workers, the patent reform bill, and a bipartisan infrastructure bill to help put Americans back to work," he wrote.

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