Evil vs. Disgusting

Regular readers know that we’ve been keeping an eye on the “sabotage” question, wondering whether congressional Republicans would consider hurting the economy on purpose, for purely partisan reasons.

Just this month, some high-profile, mainstream pundits have begun exploring the issue, and just last week, two of Congress’ most powerful Democrats broached the same subject.

Michael Tomasky went even further the other day, arguing that Democrats should start “saying openly what has been clear for months or even years now — that as long as economic recovery would work to the political benefit of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been, are, and will be in favor of sabotaging the economy.” Tomasky added this is “obvious,” though many consider the question to “impolite” to repeat.

But it appears the question is being asked more and more often anyway. I hope readers will take the time to watch Rachel Maddow’s segment on this from last night.

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Rachel noted, among other things, that the congressional GOP has decided it’s against their own ideas about helping the economy, which necessarily raises some awkward questions about their motivations.

For those who can’t watch clips from your work computers, here’s a portion of the transcript:

“What is John Boehner’s contribution to overcoming the uncertainty that’s out there? Dragging the nation to the point of defaulting on all of our debts, saying it’s going to come down to the wire, and nobody knows how it’s going to turn out, and maybe we’ll just be crazy enough to let the whole global economy blow up again to make a point? So says the guy concerned about the risk of any uncertainty in the business climate? […]

“The kind way to understand this is as disgusting hypocrisy. The kind way to understand this is shameless, craven, unprincipled, partisan hackery. That’s the nice way to see this.

“The less nice way to see this is that Republicans in Congress actually do care about policy. And they not only care about policy, they believe what they say about policy…. The worst possible thing you could think about what congressional Republicans are doing right now in this game of chicken they are playing on the debt ceiling, the worst possible thing you can think about them, with what they are doing, with the threats they are making to cause another global catastrophe if not another deep recession, the worst you could say about this is that they believe what they say when they talk about policy.

“Because if they believe what they say about policy, if they’re not just making it up fresh every day, then they know what they are doing would guarantee bad economic outcomes — huge risks to the entire American economy and maybe even the global one. Why would anybody want that? Maybe they think that is better for their chances of beating President Obama in the next election.

“Given the choice between thinking of them as that evil and thinking of them as just disgusting, I would rather think of them as just disgusting.”

It’s awful when these appear to be the only two plausible options, isn’t it?

Keep in mind, for much of the country, the problem with policymakers and the economy is that Washington lacks “leadership” and the “political will” to make things better. These assumptions are wrong — the problem is a major party that controls the House and can block at will in the Senate appears unwilling to consider any measures that could improve the economy, and demands measures that would make matters worse.

Which is why I support at least asking the question and having the debate.

Republicans said a payroll tax cut would help create jobs, and now they’re opposed to their own idea. Republicans said the Economic Development Administration is great for the economy, and now they’re opposed to that, too. Republicans have traditionally supported infrastructure investment, but the “infrastructure bank” idea appears likely to be killed by the GOP. Many Republicans endorsed the TANF Emergency Fund last year as an incredibly effective method of lowering unemployment, and the congressional GOP killed that, too.

Republicans are blocking qualified Treasury Department nominees who could also be working on economic policy. Republicans are blocking qualified Federal Reserve nominees who could also help improve the economy, while demanding that the Fed do nothing to promote economic activity. The GOP is demanding that Congress and the White House agree to immediately take money out of the economy and eliminate public-sector jobs, even when conservative economists say that’s crazy. What’s more, these same Republican officials have made it abundantly clear that failure to give them the cuts they want would force them to crash the economy on purpose.

And it’s against this backdrop that one of the most powerful Republican officials on Capitol Hill has argued, more than once, that his “top priority” isn’t job creation, but rather, “denying President Obama a second term in office.”

This is a conversation worth having.