WHAT PAWLENTY CONSIDERS ‘PHONY’…. “Meet the Press” host David Gregory spoke briefly to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), and asked him about the recent successes of the Obama administration’s economic recovery efforts. Gregory wanted to know if the president deserves credit for having rescued the economy. The all-but-declared presidential candidate replied:

“[Y]ou can’t push this much money into the economy in the near term and not have it have some effect. But what I would suggest to you is it’s phony effect. I think you’re going to see in 2011, 2012, if you don’t have the private economy pick up the slack of the phony inflation of the economy over the next couple of years, you’re going to trigger a whole set of other adverse events, including potentially inflation.”

Pawlenty’s understanding of these issues has consistently been pretty embarrassing. You may recall, for example, that instead of an economic stimulus at the height of the crisis last year, the Minnesota Republican argued that the key to getting us back on track was a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. It was the kind of prescription that, in a sane political world, would permanently destroy one’s credibility on economic policy.

But Pawlenty keeps talking, and now believes our fragile recovery is “phony.” I have no idea what that means, so let’s unpack this a bit.

First, Pawlenty implicitly concedes that the stimulus has had a positive effect. That’s the opposite of the position from a year ago, and stands in contrast to the usual conservative line, which is that the recovery effort actually hurt the economy.

Second, he thinks it’s imperative for the “private economy” to improve. Pawlenty may or may not pay attention to current events, but in the latest monthly job numbers — which were the strongest in four years — 231,000 of the 290,000 new jobs came from the private sector.

Third, if Pawlenty sees inflation, rather than economic growth, as the key concern, he’s really not paying attention.

And fourth, it may be inconvenient to bring up, but it was Pawlenty who relied on stimulus money to balance his own budget.

Instead of dismissing the recovery effort as phony, the governor should be sending the president a thank-you note.

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Steve Benen

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.