In what has become routine procedure, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann issued a frustrated response to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor, pointing blame toward his Democratic colleagues.
News came Friday morning of an estimated 96,000 jobs being added to the workforce last month, along with a drop in the nation's unemployment rate from 8.3 to 8.1 percent. But the drop in unemployment numbers reflected a reality less than ideal—hundreds of thousands of workers abandoning their searches for work.
In a statement issued quickly after the report's release, the congressman called the numbers "a disappointment."
Fleischmann suggested his political opponents were responsible for striking fear in the nation's employers because of anxiety over a sequence of impending tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect at year's end.
"I hear from small businesses who are uncertain," Fleischmann said. "They don't know what new regulations will be put in place, and they don't know what their taxes will be on Jan. 1 because Democrats are threatening to raise taxes on thousands of small businesses."
Many of the impending cuts and increases, a combination that has become known as "the fiscal cliff," were put in place by the deal to raise the debt ceiling last summer—which Fleischmann opposed. And nearly one year ago, after being presented with a $447 billion jobs plan pitched by President Barack Obama, Fleischmann described the plan as being "the worst thing we can do."
According to figures released by the White House at the time, Obama's proposal would have provided Tennessee with $1.8 billion in federal funds and created 23,600 additional jobs across the state, had it not been rejected.
Fleischmann's Democratic opponent, Mary Headrick, suggested that the congressman and his Republican colleagues had missed an opportunity to save public-sector jobs by stonewalling the president's jobs plan. In an emailed statement, the candidate said that monthly job reports such as today's should be "taken with a grain of salt" and cited "congressional obstructionism" as a driving factor behind the nation's economic woes.
"We need another stimulus package (see the president's jobs plan) to help save our public-sector jobs (where our jobs hemorrhage) and for our badly infrastructure work such as sewer and stormwater problems and the deteriorating Chickamauga Lock," Headrick wrote. "Congressional obstructionism (not approving President Obama's jobs plan) harms our unemployment rate."
Fleischmann was not the only lawmaker from Tennessee to offer a bruising take on the August unemployment numbers. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who represents Fleischmann's neighboring 4th District, sidestepped blaming Democratic members of Congress, instead pointing his finger directly at the president, fresh off his acceptance speech at Thursday night's Democratic National Convention.
"If only the answer to our jobs crises was soaring rhetoric and well-delivered speeches, this nation would be ushering in a new era of prosperity and not 43 consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent," DesJarlais said in a news release. "Unfortunately for the president, the solutions to fixing our economy aren't located on a teleprompter. Rather, the path to a brighter future will be paved by American entrepreneurs and small business owners across our country."
Sen. Lamar Alexander offered a brief statement on the report, calling its content "disappointing" and suggesting standard GOP talking points as fixes to the problem.
"It is disappointing news that nearly 400,000 Americans dropped out of the workforce last month, bringing the participation rate to its lowest level since 1981," Alexander said. "We need to lower tax rates and reduce the debt to get the economy moving again."
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the estimated number of Americans leaving the workforce was 368,000.