John Boehner’s ‘economists’

In recent months, economists have been offered two competing approaches to job creation in the U.S. President Obama’s agenda, which is popular in national public-opinion polls, enjoys considerable support among independent economists. The Republican alternative, such as it is, has been largely rejected — one independent economist took a look at the GOP plan and concluded that it would fail to help the economy in the short term, and might even “push the economy back into recession.”

And that leaves Republicans in a bit of a bind. How can they claim the policy high ground on jobs when annoying experts, relying on pesky facts, keep reporting that the GOP approach wouldn’t help the economy?

Yesterday, Republican leaders came up with a scheme to cloud the debate. If USA Today‘s headline is any indication, the scheme worked like a charm. The paper told readers: “Economists: GOP jobs plan better than Obama’s.”

Speaker John Boehner released a list today of 132 economists who say the House GOP plan to boost private-sector employment is a better option than President Obama’s plan. […]

The Boehner list is a retort to Obama’s call to have independent analysts compare the GOP plan with his. Those surveyed by Boehner include economists from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Carnegie Mellon University, American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute — fairly conservative institutions. Boehner said the economists’ support for the GOP plan is further proof that Obama needs to engage Republicans.

Even for Boehner, this is just sad.

The Republican “list stunts” never go well. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), for example, will occasionally claim to have a list of 700 “prominent scientists” who agree with him that all climate data is a communist conspiracy. When one looks a little closer at the list, we find that it features economists, some weathermen, some scientists on ExxonMobil’s payroll, and a few qualified experts who disagree with Inhofe and who’ve asked that their names be removed from his list. (He’s refused.)

The Speaker’s new list isn’t much better. One of the “economists” listed bills himself as an “anarcho-libertarian philosopher.” Another is an AEI activist who condemned First Lady Michelle Obama as “the product of lifelong affirmative-action coddling.” Another is a FreedomWorks staffer. Several were champions of the Bush/Cheney economic plan.

One is Art Laffer. Seriously.

The difference in approaches couldn’t be more striking. On the one hand, we have the White House, which produced a credible plan, invited independent scrutiny, and found support from independent economists. On the other, we have congressional Republicans, who found some like-minded ideologues to tell them how right they are.

What a waste. A Brookings study recently concluded, “The parties have not placed co-equal competing options [for job creation] on the table…. Honest Republicans know this.”

When someone finds an honest Republican willing to admit this, let me know.