They’re not even trying

THEY’RE NOT EVEN TRYING…. I argued yesterday that congressional Republicans are guilty of a “pre-recession mindset.” Evidence to bolster the argument is hard to miss.

The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in unemployment to call for a freeze on government spending and to urge President Barack Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the jump in unemployment to 8.1 percent and the loss of 651,000 jobs in February is a sign of a worsening recession that demands better solutions from both parties.

Boehner criticized the spending bill as chocked full of wasteful, pork-barrel projects…. Boehner said he hoped Obama would veto the bill. He urged the president to work with House Republicans to impose a spending freeze until the end of this fiscal year.

This is, of course, completely insane. As Pat Garofalo recently explained: “The economic stimulus package’s main purpose is to close the GDP gap and jumpstart the economy by spurring spending by households, government and the private sector. A spending freeze would act as an ‘anti-stimulus,’ cutting spending precisely when it’s too low and the economy is moving too slowly.”

But stepping back and considering the larger context, that the top House Republican is seriously and publicly advocating such an idea is genuinely scary. As Paul Krugman noted, “I’m shocked by the total intellectual collapse of the Republican Party in the face of this economic crisis…. I’d really like to see some genuine bipartisanship in America. But that can’t happen until we start having at least somewhat sane partisans.”

Josh Marshall added, “When the crisis is a rapid and catastrophic drop off in demand, you handcuff the one force that can create demand (i.e., the federal government) in the throes of the contraction. That’s insane. Levels of stimulus are a decent question. Intensifying the contraction is just insane and frankly a joke. It’s time to recognize that the only debate here is happening among Democrats and sundry non-affiliated sane people. The leaders of the GOP are simply not part of the conversation.”

Well, at least they shouldn’t be. Given the truly bizarre ideas coming from congressional Republicans, there’s really no reason to engage them in good-faith discussion. A group of people are working diligently to put out a raging fire, and the failed minority party, which helped set the blaze, can’t imagine why no one is taking their more-lighter-fluid agenda seriously.

I know President Obama likes bipartisanship. I know voters love the idea of well-intentioned patriots from across the spectrum getting together to work out meaningful solutions. It somehow seems unfair to block elected officials out of the governing process, just because they’ve created a crisis and are determined to make it worse.

But Republicans, at this point, just aren’t trying anymore. They deserve a lot of things — ridicule, scorn, derision — but at a place at the policy negotiating table isn’t one of them.