The renewed relevance of ‘highway hypocrites’

THE RENEWED RELEVANCE OF ‘HIGHWAY HYPOCRITES’…. In February, around the time of the first anniversary of the Recovery Act, there was a fair amount of talk about “highway hypocrites” — congressional Republicans who voted against the stimulus, said the stimulus would fail, and said the stimulus has failed, but who nevertheless sought, received, and bragged about stimulus investments that they ostensibly opposed.

The phenomenon has grown since, and has taken on a new-found relevance. The DCCC had this message yesterday:

How’s this for an April Fools’ Day joke? Imagine 128 House Republicans, which is more than 70 percent of the entire Republican caucus, trying to claim credit for economic recovery efforts in their districts they voted against. Only this is no April Fools’ Day joke. This hypocrisy is for real.

“So far 128 House Republicans have tried to claim credit for creating jobs they tried to stop and the only thing missing is the part when they yell April Fools!” said Ryan Rudominer, National Press Secretary, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “More than 70 percent of the House Republican Caucus is still trying to have it both ways by trying to take credit for President Obama’s economic recovery policies that they voted against but even on April Fools’ Day, voters will see what a joke the Republican hypocrisy is.”

There are only 177 House Republicans in Congress; when 128 of them try to claim credit for job-creation programs they opposed and fought to prevent, that’s quite a bit of hypocrisy.

Asked for an explanation, Republicans still rely on the usual spin, insisting that the money was going to be spent anyway, so they wanted to help their constituents.

But, again, that doesn’t change the hypocrisy. These same GOP officials said the stimulus is simply incapable of creating jobs and generating economic growth. But their letters to the administration prove that they actually believe recovery funds are capable of creating jobs and generating economic growth — in their states and districts. It even leads Republicans to take credit for projects that wouldn’t have existed if they’d had their way.

But I can’t help but wonder if the shameless hypocrisy is about to get even worse. After all, last month was the best for job creation we’ve seen in this country in three years. The stimulus prevented an economic collapse, and slowly got the country back on track. Finding an economist who endorses the Republican line — the increasingly-ridiculous notion that the stimulus failed, and that the economy would have been better off without it — is even harder than finding a legal scholar who thinks the constitutional case against health care reform has merit.

And with the stimulus having rescued the economy, what’s the Republican line going to be now? How can the party that created the fire, and then fought like hell to keep it burning, claim credibility over those who put it out?

This is especially embarrassing in a historical context. Congressional Republicans said Reagan’s tax hikes would destroy the economy, but they were wrong. Congressional Republicans said Clinton’s tax hikes would destroy the economy, but they were wrong. Congressional Republicans said Bush’s tax cuts would produce incredible prosperity, but they were wrong. And congressional Republicans said Obama’s stimulus would be a disaster, but they were wrong. It’s an uninterrupted track record of failure on the issue Americans care most about right now.

With that in mind, seeing more than 70% of the entire Republican caucus claiming credit for policies they opposed, I can only assume that total will grow over the next few months.