Silliness

SILLINESS…. This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told his colleagues, “If you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn’t have spent $1 trillion.”

This, alas, is what constitutes a policy argument from Republican lawmakers lately. It’s not that the recovery package lacks merit, it’s that the legislation is big. And big bills should necessarily be rejected, because they’re big. (Republican John Thune highlighted this point nicely the other day.) It’s all quite mind-numbing, like having a debate over economic policy with an eight-year-old.

Slowly but surely, a frustrated few are stepping up to explain how nonsensical the arguments have been over the last couple of weeks. On Wednesday, Daniel Gross took aim at the Republicans’ “nutso” claims.

Contrary to Steele’s assertion, in the history of mankind, the government has in fact created many, many jobs (including the one he held for a few years: lieutenant governor of Maryland)…. Contra DeMint, borrowing and spending are pretty much how the government has pulled itself out of every modern recession. And contrary to what Bond argues, mass transit can be plenty stimulative. […]

There’s plenty of legitimate argument over the stimulus — too much, too little, not fast enough, too fast, the proper mix of tax cuts and spending. Alan Blinder’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal is an excellent guide to some of the debates. But the Republicans in Washington aren’t reading Blinder. And it’s almost impossible for the Obama team, or anybody else, to engage them in serious discussions.

Today, Steven Pearlstein explained that opponents of the stimulus package lack “economic literacy.”

[W]hat’s striking is that supposedly intelligent people are horrified at the thought that, during a deep recession, government might try to help the economy by buying up-to-date equipment for the people who protect us from epidemics and infectious diseases, by hiring people to repair environmental damage on federal lands and by contracting with private companies to make federal buildings more energy-efficient.

What really irks so many Republicans, of course, is that all the stimulus money isn’t being used to cut individual and business taxes, their cure-all for economic ailments, even though all the credible evidence is that tax cuts are only about half as stimulative as direct government spending.

And Paul Krugman, reminding his audience that it’s “hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in,” sizes up the political landscape.

It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

Josh Marshall noted last night that “virtually everything congressional Republicans are saying about the Stimulus Bill wouldn’t cut it in remedial economics,” before adding that pieces such as Pearlstein’s might be a hint of a turning tide. Here’s hoping that’s the case. This debate isn’t an academic exercise — prosperity is at stake. GOP lawmakers and pundits are playing a dangerous game in the midst of a genuine crisis, reading talking points scrawled in crayon.

The more news outlets point out that conservatives haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about, the more the nation’s interests will be served.