Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
Republicans are jumping all over the news that the recovery stalled last quarter -- claiming that is shows Obama Administration policies are not working, and that only austerity can restore our economy to health.
This is nonsense, as The New York Times points out in a lead editorial today.
In fact, the looming threat of "sequestration" cuts in government spending is what caused the economy to contract, the Times argues, relying on data from the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Congressional Budget Office that show between a million and 1.4 million jobs will be lost this year and next "because of the slowdown caused by withdrawing so much money from the economy."
Military contractors and the Pentagon, anticipating sequestration cuts, caused the recent dip in jobs numbers when they reduced their spending by 22 percent, the Times points out.
Yet Republicans continue to argue that we need more cuts.
About $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts will kick in on March 1, unless Republicans and Democrats reach a deal on some combination of tax hikes and spending cuts to head off this next crisis.
And while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week that members of Congress must redouble their efforts to reach a deal and head off the across-the-board cuts, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan predicted in an interview with the editorial board with the Wisconsin State Journal that the automatic cuts will happen, but that "doesn't even come close" to solving the nation's deficit problem, which Ryan considers our nation's first priority.
Never mind that the deficit shrank steadily over the last few years as a percentage of GDP, as the economy began to recover.
Pushing the economy back into recession will not cure the deficit.
But more importantly, it will cause massive unemployment, and a great deal of economic pain for people who can least afford to absorb it.
As they continue to push their alternative reality, Republicans made a big deal of the fact that the White House jobs council quietly shut its doors last week.
President Obama created the council in 2011. Comprised of business leaders and economists, it was charged with thinking of ways to create more jobs.
Its closure is a sign the President doesn't really care about unemployment, Republicans claimed.
In reality, the jobs council was more nonsense -- and it's a good sign that the President is abandoning it in favor of the more direct route to job creation: expediting permits for infrastructure projects.
Among the corporate CEOs on the council, were the heads of American Express, which cut 550 jobs or 1 percent of its workforce, despite a 48 percent increase in profits to $1.1 billion during the time the council existed, according to a fantastic piece by Kathleen Hennessey and Alana Semuels of the L.A. Times.
The General Electric CEO who chaired the body oversaw plant closings in Ohio, Pittsburgh and Houston while supposedly dreaming up ways to create new jobs for American workers.
And Boeing, which was also represented on the body, announced the day after the Presidential election that it was cutting 30 percent of its management positions in California and 10 percent of its plant workforce in El Paso.
With job "creators" like that advising the President, who needs the Republicans?
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Roe v. Wade at 40: Time to Push Back Against Those in the Stone Age".
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.