Falling apart under scrutiny

Last week, President Obama had a compelling suggestion for the press corps.

“[H]ere’s a little homework assignment for folks,” he said. “Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is if they’re opposed to the American Jobs Act, and have it scored, have it assessed by the same independent economists that have assessed our jobs plan…. Have those economists evaluate what, over the next two years, the Republican jobs plan would do.”

When the New York Times‘ Jackie Calmes, to her credit, took up the challenge, she found what we expected: published GOP jobs ideas wouldn’t do much to create jobs.

But that was last week. This week, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unveiled the Senate Republican plan — the “Jobs Through Growth Act” — which they claim will create 5 million jobs. How? They can’t say. When? They can’t say that, either.

Greg Sargent asked Gus Faucher, the director of macroeconomics at Moody’s Analytics, for his take on the new GOP jobs plan, and found that the “Jobs Through Growth Act” wouldn’t help in the short term, and could very well make economic conditions even worse.

“Should we look at regulations and make sure they make sense from a cost benefit standpoint? Certainly. Should we reduce the budget deficit over the long run? Certainly,” Faucher said. “But in the short term, demand is weak, businesses aren’t hiring, and consumers aren’t spending. That’s the cause of the current weakness — and Republican Senate proposals aren’t going to address that in the short term.”

“In fact, they could be harmful in the short run, if the focus is on cutting spending,” Faucher continued. “They don’t say explicitly when they would cut spending, but the Republican focus is on cutting spending sooner and later.”

The Senate Republican plan, of course, also mandates a constitutional amendment forcing balanced budgets, which prompted Faucher to add, “Putting the emphasis on balancing the budget now is likely to push the economy back into recession.”

As a point of comparison, it’s also worth noting that Moody’s, an independent firm whose chief economist used to advise the McCain/Palin campaign, analyzed President Obama’s American Jobs Act, and projected it would, if passed by Congress, create 1.9 million jobs and cut the national unemployment rate by a full percentage point.

What would help everyone is a straight-up, apples-to-apples comparison of competing approaches to job creation. The White House can present its bill, and congressional Republicans can do the same. Officials can ask independent, non-partisan economists to scrutinize the plans and note which of the two would boost the economy more, create more jobs, and lower unemployment more.

The problem is, Republicans would never accept such a challenge. They can’t, because they know their plan would come up far short.

Indeed, the White House has already met the challenge and passed — Obama and his team put together a detailed proposal, and the consensus among economists is that it would give the economy a much needed boost. GOP leaders, meanwhile, have released a vague blueprint, with provisions that economists believe might move the economy in the wrong direction.

It’s one of the key reasons the GOP plans are so vague, while the White House plan is a detailed piece of legislation — the latter lends itself to meaningful scrutiny, while the former makes for nice sound bites on Fox News.

Shouldn’t it tell the political world something important when there are two alternatives to job creation, and one is terrified of economic analysis and examination?