A mind like a Steele trap

A MIND LIKE A STEELE TRAP…. Michael Steele, the newly-elected Republican National Committee chairman, recently told a national television audience, “Let’s get this notion out of our heads that the government create jobs. Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” It wasn’t the only dumb thing said by a Republican leader during the stimulus debate, but it was among the most memorable.

Yesterday, Steele spoke to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about the Republican position on the economy, and inexplicably, stuck to the same position, arguing, “What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.”

When Stephanopoulos responded, “But that’s a job,” Steele added, “No, it’s not a job. A job is something that — that a business owner creates.”

Stephanopoulos, looking confused, asked, “So a job doesn’t count if it’s a government job?” Steele stuck to his guns, insisting that hiring someone to perform a service isn’t an actual job because government contracts “have an end point.” Apparently, a job is only a job if it’s indefinite.

Stephanopoulos, still confused, said, “I guess I don’t really understand that distinction.” So, Steele kept digging, arguing, “If you’ve got a government contract that is a fixed period of time, it goes away. The work may go away.” Stephanopoulos reminded Steele that “we’ve seen millions and millions of jobs going away in the private sector just in the last year.” (If the possibility of a job “going away” is the standard for having a real “job,” then we’re all unemployed.)

Steele, unaware of the fact that his argument wasn’t working, responded, “But they come — yes, they — and they come back, though, George. That’s the point. When they go — they’ve gone away before, and they come back.”

They do?

Steele went on to say that the government should pass more tax cuts, the “Fannie and Freddie crisis” was responsible for the economic downturn and should be dealt with “more respectfully,” and that Bush’s economic record isn’t so bad given that he “inherited a recession” from Bill Clinton.

That’s quite a chairman the Republican Party has chosen.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.