A concise summary of an economic agenda

A CONCISE SUMMARY OF AN ECONOMIC AGENDA…. Republican Ron Johnson (R), still hopeful about buying Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D) Senate seat, has been reluctant to talk too much to journalists, but he agreed to sit down with the editorial board of the Green Bay Press Gazette the other day. One exchange was of particular interest.

One of the editors noticed that Johnson, a right-wing millionaire, doesn’t have any specific approach to creating jobs, other than “cutting spending.” She asked the candidate whether he was prepared to offer a “real jobs plan.” Johnson replied, “Bring fiscal discipline to the federal government. You know, we’ve got to curb spending.”

Confused, the editor followed up, asking, “So, your jobs plan is to control spending. But what about the middle class?” Johnson literally just shrugs his shoulders, and says, “We have to get the economy moving.”

I guess there’s a reason this guy has been avoiding journalists.

That said, Johnson’s remarks, while frustrating to watch, nevertheless offer a concise summary of a specific economic agenda, widely embraced by the Republican Party in the wake of the Great Recession. Indeed, the Wisconsin candidate was surprisingly candid — his plan to create jobs is to not have a plan to create jobs.

As Johnson sees it, unemployment may be pushing 10%, but that will come down just as soon as the government takes more money out of the economy and lays off more public workers.

What else might help create jobs? Johnson doesn’t have an answer. How would cutting spending produce economic growth? Johnson doesn’t have an answer. What would he cut as part of his drive for fiscal discipline? Johnson doesn’t say.

The larger point isn’t just that Ron Johnson seems deeply confused about the #1 issue on Americans’ minds; the point is that Ron Johnson’s economic message is a perfect representation of his party’s entire economic message this election season. Republicans have gone from saying spending cuts and public-sector layoffs will help with the deficit to saying these same tactics will inexplicably make the economy better.

I know plenty of Americans find this persuasive, but I’m still not sure why.

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Steve Benen

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.