On Friday Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS announced a major advertising blitz. Over the next month, beginning Tuesday, it will spend $25 million on air time in the key swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.
It will all be spent on one ad that, while it may be effective, is in no way informative. The commercial attempts to tie together two GOP talking points that actually have little to do with one another: that President Obama has failed to create enough jobs and that he has created too much federal debt.
“America’s jobless rate is still too high,” intones the voice over. “Barack Obama’s got lots of excuses.” It then shows of a montage of clips of Obama mentioning various global economic conditions. It is not at all clear that Obama necessarily offered every one of these as an excuse for the unemployment rate, rather than merely relevant pieces of context to whatever he was discussing at the time. “But Obama never blames Washington spending and skyrocketing debt,” the ad continues.
There is no effort to explain why federal spending or an increase in the federal debt would lead to a higher unemployment rate. In fact, it is the opinion of most economists that deficit spending is the appropriate response to high unemployment, as it stimulates the economy. The long-term downside to more debt is higher interest rates and inflation. But interest rates and inflation remain low.
Moreover, the ad implies that the unemployment rate and the debt are Obama’s fault, when they are actually the handiwork of his predecessor, for whom Rove worked.
The debt is increasing for reasons that are largely beyond Obama’s control: the wars that Rove’s former boss George W. Bush left for Obama to clean up, the irresponsible tax cuts Bush signed and a decline in tax revenues from the economic contraction that Obama inherited from Bush.
The notion that less federal debt would cause the economy to grow is disproved by both historical and contemporary evidence. During the Great Depression the United States began to rebound in the mid-1930s, thanks to deficit spending. After President Franklin Roosevelt cut spending in 1937, the economy dipped again. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is currently experimenting with austerity, and it has led to their economy recovering more slowly than ours.