‘WORSE’ THAN EUROPE…. For the better part of the last couple of months, Republicans on the Hill have experimented with various economic talking points, but they always seem to come back to an old standby: Democratic plans look European.

I’ve never fully understood why this became a GOP favorite. Do most Americans recoil at the thought of some European nightmare? As Matt Yglesias noted in February, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted the stimulus plan would “turn America into Western Europe” if passed, “[I]t strikes me as odd that conservatives seem so convinced that a set of countries whose populations are healthier and longer-lived, and where dramatically fewer children grow up in poverty, is somehow obviously a dystopian nightmare.”

Yesterday, Republicans went a little further, arguing that the Obama administration’s agenda isn’t just reminiscent of Europe, it’s “worse” than Europe.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) … the top Republican on the Budget Committee told The Hill that he owes an apology to Europe for insulting them over the past few weeks. […]

“We owe them an apology because our budget is worse than theirs,” Ryan told The Hill, referring to the Democrats’ budget measure. “To suggest that we’re turning our budget into a European kind of a budget is unfair … it’s unfair to Europe.”

Oh, that House Republican sense of humor. How droll.

It’s difficult to offer a substantive critique of Ryan’s criticism, since I have no idea what he thinks is so awful about “their” “budget.” (Europe is a continent; it doesn’t have a “budget.”) It’s not at all clear what Ryan finds so distasteful about Europe anyway — and why Americans are necessarily supposed to be repelled by the very idea of better health care and more public investment.

Indeed, it’s also difficult to offer a substantive critique of Ryan’s criticism since his criticism is missing a substantive critique. It’s consistent with the larger trend of intellectual laziness. President Obama and his congressional allies have presented a plan to grow the economy, reform health care, address global warming, improve infrastructure, and make a quality education more accessible to all Americans.

Screaming “Europe!” is a child-like way of expressing disapproval. It’s not criticism; it’s not even a slogan. It’s just silly.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.