What is Chuck Grassley talking about?

WHAT IS CHUCK GRASSLEY TALKING ABOUT?…. While the political world has come to expect a certain amount of transparent, mind-numbing nonsense from House Republicans, it’s worth remembering that Senate Republicans are often just as ridiculous.

Take Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), for example. A five-term senator from a blue-ish state, Grassley is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. He’s also purportedly the leading Republican in the chamber working with the majority on health care reform.

And when it comes to the basics of the economic crisis, Grassley has now embraced neo-Hooverism with both arms.

The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee on Monday said an across-the-board freeze on federal spending is needed to reel in President Obama’s massive budget plan, signaling a more active Republican stance in fighting the president’s agenda.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, also said the president is pursuing a “socialist” form of government that will stifle the free market.

Mr. Grassley told editors and reporters at The Washington Times that a spending freeze is necessary to get the federal deficit under control and to show voters that the government is capable of living within its means in hard times.

“What you get when you have an across-the-board freeze is everybody is seen as contributing something,” Grassley told the conservative paper, adding that a three-year freeze can have a “very dramatic” effect.

That’s true, in a Great Depression kind of way.

If I thought Grassley was just spouting nonsense to make the base happy, I could laugh this off as mere partisan stupidity. But I get the sense the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee actually believes this. He seriously wants a spending freeze — for three years — in the midst of a deep and serious recession.

Even David Brooks recently said, “A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane.” Responding to the last GOP officials to call for a spending freeze, Paul Krugman added, “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.”

And why is this such a spectacularly foolish idea? 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.”

It all comes back to what I call the Republicans’ “pre-recession mindset.” In the midst of a crisis, too many GOP policymakers, including Grassley, have not yet realized that things have changed.

Grassley’s bizarre beliefs reinforce a point from a couple of weeks ago: it’s time to leave the minority party out of the policy discussion until they’re ready to sit at the big kids’ table. The party, at this point, just aren’t trying anymore. They deserve a lot of things — ridicule, scorn, derision — but a place at the policy negotiating table isn’t one of them.