Obama, who was making the case that congressional Republicans should support his proposal to provide aid to state and local governments in order to put laid-off teachers, firefighters and police offers back on the job and that they should also support infrastructure projects to put construction workers back to work, said this morning that over the past two years, "the private sector is doing fine" when it comes to job growth.
Obama pointed to the 4.3 million private sector jobs that have been created over the past 27 months. Over that span, however, the public sector has continued to bleed jobs, which has slowed down the economy as a whole.
But while his point was obvious, Mitt Romney and House Republicans are choosing to take it out of context instead of responding on the merits. Romney says the comments prove that Obama is out of touch:
"He said the private sector is doing fine," Romney said. "Is he really that out of touch? I think he's really defining what it means to be out of touch with reality."And shortly after Romney made his comments, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor piled on. "Take it from me, the private sector is not doing fine," Boehner said. "Are you kidding?" Cantor exclaimed. "It's not doing fine."
In absolute terms, they are right: The private sector jobs situation, while dramatically improved from the Bush years, is not fine. But President Obama wasn't talking about it in absolute terms, he was comparing it to public sector jobs growth. And as he was saying, one of the most important ways to strengthen the private sector jobs market is to make sure that layoffs in the public sector aren't a drag on overall growth. Instead of taking Obama out of context, that's what House Republicans should be focused on.