It’s about far more than hypocrisy

IT’S ABOUT FAR MORE THAN HYPOCRISY…. If it were up to me, reports like these would have been near the top of the Democratic Party’s talking points for the last year.

Rep. Pete Sessions, the firebrand conservative from Texas, has relentlessly assailed the Democratic stimulus efforts as a package of wasteful “trillion-dollar spending sprees” that was “more about stimulating the government and rewarding political allies than growing the economy and creating jobs.”

But that didn’t stop the Republican lawmaker from seeking stimulus money behind the scenes for the Dallas suburb of Carrollton after the GOP campaign against the 2009 stimulus law quieted down.

Sessions wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in February urging him to give “full and fair consideration” to the affluent city’s request for $81 million for a rail project, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. His letter suggested that the project would create jobs, undercutting his public arguments against the stimulus.

Obviously, this isn’t just about Sessions. Literally the same exact conservative lawmakers who voted against the stimulus, and continue to rail against it, also urged the administration to spend stimulus money in their states and districts. And we’re not just talking about random backbenchers — we’re talking about high-profile Republicans, including several members of the GOP leadership in both chambers.

The key angle to this isn’t the hypocrisy, though that’s certainly amusing. The point to remember here is what this tells us about the Republicans’ economic agenda and the coherence of these members’ ideologies.

GOP lawmakers, all of whom rejected and tried to kill the Recovery Act, continue to tell the media and Tea Party zealots that government spending is a disaster. The Republican line is (a) stimulus spending didn’t work; and (b) stimulus spending is literally incapable of working.

But when several dozen congressional Republicans plead for additional government spending — in order to help the economy — the whole argument falls apart.

I’m well aware of the standard Republican reply to all of this — the funds were going to be spent anyway, so these members figured they might as well seek some resources for their own constituents.

But that’s not only wrong; it misses the point. The correspondence these Republicans sent to the Obama administration makes the entire GOP talking point look demonstrably ridiculous precisely because they explicitly argue that the requested stimulus funds would create jobs.

In other words, Republicans have argued that the Recovery Act can’t create jobs, won’t create jobs, hasn’t created jobs, will create jobs, and has created jobs — all at the same time.

If these GOP officials believed their own rhetoric, this would be impossible, suggesting they couldn’t possibly mean what they say. Indeed, we have the written requests for stimulus funds to prove that even Republicans think the stimulus is good policy.

Here’s a letter from Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) saying that government spending in his district would “create jobs.” And here’s a letter from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) saying that government spending in his district would “create jobs.” And here’s a letter from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that government spending in his state would “create jobs.” And here’s a letter from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) saying that government spending in his state would help with “job creation.” And here’s a letter from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) saying that government spending in his district would help “put people back to work.”

Despite the deep partisan divides, we’re all Keynesians now.