They have no idea what they’re doing

Journalistic standards and modern political norms place some restrictions on what a reporter can and will say in a news article. It’s what too often leads to unhelpful he-said-she-said reporting (“Eric Cantor today said two plus two equals five; Democrats and mathematicians disagreed”).

But the New York Times‘ Jackie Calmes has a terrific piece in which she comes very close — as close as is possible in our contemporary media construct — to simply drawing the public a picture the country urgently needs to see, but usually doesn’t. In a measured tone, the NYT article effectively makes clear that when it comes to economic policy, Republicans plainly have no idea what they’re talking about.

The boasts of Congressional Republicans about their cost-cutting victories are ringing hollow to some well-known economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders, including some Republicans, who are expressing increasing alarm over Washington’s new austerity and antitax orthodoxy.

Their critiques have grown sharper since last week, when President Obama signed his deficit reduction deal with Republicans and, a few days later, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit rating of the United States.

But even before that, macroeconomists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year — for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever — was wrong for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years.

Instead, these critics say, Washington should be focusing on stimulating the economy in the near term to induce people to spend money and create jobs, while settling on a long-term plan for spending cuts and tax increases to take effect only after the economy recovers.

Republicans respond to all of this by … not caring at all. Some may want a weaker economy on purpose, some are too blinded by ideology to consider objective information, some aren’t terribly bright, and some, as David Brooks recently noted, simply “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.”

But the bottom line remains the same: nearly everyone who understands economic policy at any level is convinced Republicans — in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail — are spewing gibberish. And in this case, “nearly everyone” includes veterans of the Reagan and Bush administrations, making opposition to right-wing Tea Party nonsense bipartisan.

Also note the scope of the concerns. Current GOP officials aren’t just wrong about stimulus, the timing of budget cuts, taxes, debt reduction, or monetary policy — they’re wrong about all of them at the same time.

In fairness, the article does note one economist — Stanford’s John Taylor — who’s willing to defend the Republican line (as he always does, regardless of merit). But to appreciate the credibility of the GOP’s go-to economist, swing by Krugman’s blog and type Taylor’s name into the search engine.

Regardless, it’s an important article about the nation’s most pressing crisis. Take the time to read it, save it, and send it around.