REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE FOR CREDIT ON THE ECONOMY, CONT’D…. We learned yesterday that the U.S. economy picked up a little speed in the fourth quarter of 2010 — October through December — experiencing 3.2% GDP growth.

Soon after, the frequently-confused House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), did his best to spin the encouraging news.

“This morning, the GDP projection for the last quarter was released, showing a 3.2% growth for the fourth quarter and suggesting the economy will pick up speed this year. This uptick is no doubt due in part to the certainty that Washington has given the private sector through the recent tax deal and the newly elected House Republican Majority who have pledged to rein in the size and scope of our federal government which has exploded over the last 4 years. At a time when our nation’s debt is over $14 trillion, it’s time to get serious about cutting spending and growing jobs in the private sector, rather than cutting spending and “investing” in new government programs.”

I find it hard to believe even the most shameless, pathetic hack in Washington actually believes any of this. Indeed, reading it, I’m almost embarrassed for Cantor.

Fourth quarter growth covered October through December. The tax deal didn’t pass Congress until mid-December, so unless the business community invented a time machine when I wasn’t looking, Cantor’s timeline has a rather dramatic flaw.

Indeed, the dimwitted Virginian’s entire statement is a series of misguided observations. Government spending grew more under Republican rule than Democratic, but Cantor thinks the opposite is true. We’ve been growing jobs in the private sector over the last year, but Cantor thinks the opposite is true. Investing in job creation, infrastructure, energy, and education will help the economy, but Cantor thinks the opposite is true.

But the larger point is probably more important: Republicans actually want people to believe that they rescued the economy.

Cantor took credit for encouraging 2011 projections earlier this week, and the farcical arguments are part of a growing pattern.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), for example, argued two weeks ago, for example, that the recent good news — private-sector job growth, big corporate profits, major gains in the major Wall Street indexes — that occurred throughout 2010 was the result of Republican tax policies. As Kyl sees it, business leaders in early 2010 predicted the tax policy agreement crafted in late 2010, and started growing the economy based on their future-predicting abilities.

On Fox News last week, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) offered a related argument, insisting that indications of economic improvements are “in large part” because Republicans “won our majority and we’re pursuing pro-growth policies.”

To reiterate a point I’ve mentioned before, this really is fascinating. The economy started growing again in 2009, after the stimulus gave the economy a boost. We saw growth continue throughout 2010 — even after those rascally Democrats passed health care reform and Wall Street reform — while Republicans said Dems were killing the economy.

So to review, Republicans in the Bush era brought the global economy to the brink of catastrophic collapse; Obama and congressional Dems helped turn things around; and now those same Republicans whose policies failed want credit for Democratic successes.

Dems haven’t pushed back too aggressively against this nonsense, and it’s possible no one is foolish enough to take it seriously. Apparently, though, it’s only going to continue, so if Dems don’t have a plan to respond, it’s time they came up with one.

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.