How we got in this mess in the first place

HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE…. Josh Marshall is listening to congressional Republicans give speeches this afternoon on the House floor, explaining their opposition to an economic stimulus package in the midst of a deep recession. He seems rather pained.

It may not be advisable for anyone to actually listen to the arguments House Republicans are actually making on the House floor. We’re just listening again to Rep. [Jeff] Flake (R) who appears to have himself outdone himself in militant statements of economic nonsense. Earlier today we heard Flake claiming that tax cuts have no stimulus effect if they go to low-income earners who pay payroll taxes and not income taxes.

Now he’s explaining how capital spending on AMTRAK is also not stimulus because AMTRAK doesn’t run a profit. Again, total non-sequitur. I think rail is something we should be spending a lot more on. But you can certainly disagree with that on policy terms. But you can’t claim that that capital spending on rail stock and rail upgrades doesn’t provide jobs. Of course it provides jobs. And whether Amtrak is profitable or not is completely beside the point.

Where did they get this guy?

I can appreciate Josh’s frustration. Listening to House Republicans talk about the economy is not only tedious, it’s a striking reminder that these guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

I mean that, literally. They’re clueless. There are coherent arguments against the stimulus plan, even from a conservative perspective, but actual GOP policy makers apparently aren’t familiar with them. Their arguments about the CBO are wrong. Their arguments about tax credits are wrong. Their arguments about aid to states are wrong. Their arguments about the stimulative benefits of tax cuts are wrong. Their arguments about corporate tax rates are wrong. Their arguments about housing are wrong. Even their arguments about allocation are wrong.*

There’s probably some entertainment value in considering the “stupid vs. dishonest” dynamic — maybe Republicans know their arguments are wrong, and are repeating them anyway — but the end result is always the same. It’s hard to get through a single speech without searching frantically for the Maalox.

It reached the point today that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), a member of the leadership, said Democrats are acting like … wait for it … former Republican president Herbert Hoover. I suppose, by Ensign’s formulation, that makes Mitch McConnell FDR?

And perhaps the single most frustrating part of listening to the Republicans’ nonsense is the painful realization that it’s their misguided worldview that got us into this mess in the first place. It’s the same misguided worldview that opposed a stimulus last fall, which would have made this bigger stimulus less necessary now.

Congressional Republicans, in other words, still believe they have credibility on matters of the economy, and they demand that everyone respect their authority. It’s quite odd.

* edited slightly for clarity