THE GOP’S NEW SCHOOL-TEACHER CONSPIRACY…. Last week, the House returned from its recess to approve a key state-aide jobs bill. The move was good policy and good politics — it included $10 billion to save as many as 160,000 school teachers’ jobs, and $16.1 billion in state Medicaid funding (FMAP), all in a package that doesn’t add a dime to the deficit.

Republican opposition was nevertheless nearly unanimous. Though the basis for the hostility was a little vague — apparently, if Dems are for it, Republicans are against it — congressional Republicans labeled school teachers, firefighters, and police officers whose jobs were on the line as “special interests,” unworthy of rescue.

Soon after, the more hysterical wing of the party went further. As Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Sharron Angle (R-Nev.) saw it, the state-aid jobs bill was actually an elaborate scheme to take tax-dollars, make sure the funds were “laundered through the public employee unions,” and then use the money to help Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.

Today, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) joined the conspiracy caucus.

“Much of those checks that will be distributed will have an automatic deduction in them that will transfer some of that money into the coffers of the unions and their political action money will go into the campaign accounts of 95 percent Democrats. This is a blatant money-laundering scheme that’s cooked up by Nancy Pelosi.”

See the conspiracy? School teachers, instead of being laid off, will continue to teach kids. When they get paid for their work, they’re likely to pay dues to a union. The union will, in turn, pool those dues and spend some of the resources in support of allied political candidates. And some of those candidates will likely be Democrats.

Ergo, Democrats weren’t saving jobs and helping schools — that’s just what they want you to think — but rather, were hatching a devious money-laundering scheme. How clever!

Of course, the implications of such a fiendish plot have broad applicability. As Eric Kleefeld asked, “Could the same logic be applied to government spending on wars and military contractors under Republican administrations?”

In the larger context, it’s actually helpful to Democrats that Republicans are still complaining about the jobs bill, because the more attention the effort receives, the better it is for the party that supported it. This was, after all, a popular, common-sense package — which lowered, not raised, the deficit — to save middle-class jobs. Voters can be fickle and unpredictable at times, but most folks tend to like school teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

As we talked about last week, the campaign ads seem to write themselves. Indeed, this is a debate to build an election around — with a struggling economy, Democrats proposed a fiscally-responsible plan to save hundreds of thousands of jobs, specifically helping our local schools. Republicans said we can afford tax cuts for billionaires, but not teachers’ jobs.

It’s not every day the two parties’ approaches to government get spelled out so clearly, giving the public a stark choice between two very different ideologies.

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.