White House press secretary Jay Carney laid the blame for a surprise economic contraction squarely at the feet of congressional Republicans today, saying economic threats during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations had prevented important defense spending.
“Our economy is facing a major headwinds, and that’s Republicans in Congress,” Carney said.
The Commerce Department projected Wednesday that the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Carney said that was partially attributable to the threat of sequestration, which would implement across-the-board spending cuts if a long-term deficit deal is not reached.
“This is political brinkmanship that results in one primary victim. That’s American taxpayers and the American middle class,” Carney said, acknowledging the GDP projection was bad news.
“I don’t think anytime you see a reduction in economic growth that it’s good news,” he said.
Carney said economic observers were “rightly appalled” by the threat of sequestration or default to drive a debt deal, and charged that Republicans were harming the economy to the benefit of the wealthiest Americans.
“It can’t be we’ll let sequester kick in because we insist tax loopholes remain in place for corporate jet-owners,” Carney said.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), pointed the finger of blame for the still-looming sequester back at the White House.
“These arbitrary, automatic cuts were a creation and demand of the White House in 2011,” said Buck. “Twice the House has passed legislation to replace them with common sense cuts and reforms. If there was any uncertainty late last year about the sequester, it was because the Democratic-controlled Senate, per usual, never lifted a finger to pass a plan to replace it.”
Republicans have argued that dire threats are necessary to force Democrats to agree to entitlement reforms and spending cuts. The Republican National Committee on Wednesday circulated a document labeling Obama “President -0.1%” and argued the GDP numbers were evidence the president’s stimulus plan had not worked.
The unexpected dip was the first time the economy shrank since the 2009 economic depression, and came as a surprise to economists, who had projected modest growth.
In a statement posted Wednesday morning, Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, said that reduced government spending from the sequester and economic uncertainty stemming from the fiscal-cliff negotiations was likely to blame. Krueger also said Hurricane Sandy likely disrupted significant economic activity.
Read more at THE HILL.