Dream on

DREAM ON…. The House Republican Whips released a video this morning, bragging like conquering heroes about their unanimous rejection of the economic stimulus package last week. It’s possible the GOP base will love it — rocking out to “Back in the Saddle” while reading party talking points — but I found it kind of embarrassing. As Jason Zengerle explained, “[I]t’s basically a litany of every tired, failed GOP buzzword (from ACORN to golf carts), all set to the tune of … Aerosmith…. [Y]ears from now, when historians are trying to sort out what went so terribly wrong with conservatism in the early twenty-first century, I really hope this little video doesn’t get overlooked.”

Of course, it’s not just the video. Whether you found merit in the stimulus plan or not, Republican efforts during the debate were a step backwards for the party on its road back to relevance. John Thune took to the floor of the Senate to explain how tall a pile of $100 bills would be if it totaled $1 trillion. Mitch McConnell told his colleagues, “If you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn’t have spent $1 trillion.” GOP lawmakers invested heavily in going after money relating to a salt marsh mouse in California, despite the fact that the bill didn’t actually include such a provision.

It’s not just that the arguments were wrong, the problem is that the arguments were ridiculous. Republicans knew this fight was coming, and struggled to get past their own nonsense. Conservative David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, found it painful to watch, calling the rhetoric from his own party “stupid.” (via Jason Linkins)

The US economy has plunged into severe recession (94% of Americans describe economic conditions as “bad,” according to the Feb 2-4 CBS poll, and 51% say conditions are getting even worse).

President Obama and the Democrats have responded by steering the US radically to the left. Since World War II, the federal government has most years spent less than one dollar in five of national income. Once the stimulus gets underway, the federal government will spend more than one dollar in four. The cost of everything the Democrats want to do comes closer to one dollar in three.

We’re facing more regulation of everything from high finance to the ordinary workplace. The Democrats are expanding Medicaid to crowd out private insurance. The federal government wants a huge new role in redirecting private investment in transportation and energy in the name of “green jobs.”

And facing all this — we’re talking about mice? Could we possibly act more inadequate to the challenge? More futile? More brain dead?

We in fact have a constructive solution to offer, one that would deliver more jobs faster: the payroll tax holiday, an idea endorsed by almost every reputable right-of-center economist. But that’s not the solution being offered by Republicans in Congress. They are offering a clapped-out package of 1980s-vintage solutions, including capital gains tax cuts. Capital gains! Who has any capital gains to be taxed in the first place?

On the substance, I think Frum’s wrong about the way forward, and I disagree completely about his take on excessive government, regulation, the value of a payroll tax holiday, etc. But at a minimum, his position is coherent, which is more than I can say for the policymakers in his party.

“Back in the Saddle”? More like, “Dream on.”

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