House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appears to have made a terrible error in his speech to the Economic Club of New York on Monday. His mistake was sharing with the audience his actual beliefs, which upon even cursory examination, are so conspicuously unintelligent, it’s rather alarming.
Bloomberg News examined Boehner’s assessment of existing U.S. economic policies and found that the House Speaker “built his case on several assertions that are contradicted by market indicators and government reports.” Jonathan Chait took a closer look at Boehner’s remarks on tax policy and discovered they were “gibberish.”
And the Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus scrutinized the speech and discovered that Boehner is relying on an “incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy.”
Reporters naturally tend to ignore this boilerplate. Journalistically, that makes sense. Boehner’s economic comments were nothing particularly new. Indeed, they reflect what has become the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party. But that’s exactly the point. We become so inured to hearing this thinking that we neglect to point out how wrong it is.
My argument with Boehner is not that he believes in a more limited role for government than I do, not that he is more skeptical of government intervention and regulation, and not that he is more worried about the economically stifling implications of tax increases. Those are legitimate ideological differences. American politics is better off for them.
I’m talking about statements that are simply false.
This is very important, because it removes partisan and ideological concerns from the discussion. I’m a lefty and Boehner’s a righty, so naturally I won’t agree with his policies or agenda.
But that’s not what this is about. The House Speaker is presenting an economic vision based on fantasy, confusion, and lies. The man simply has no idea what he’s talking about.
Marcus, Bloomberg, and Chait walk through a striking list of bizarre errors of fact from Boehner. He said the economy will be worse off if the debt ceiling is raised without massive cuts. He thinks the Recovery Act “hurt” the economy. He believes the public sector is “crowding out” private investment. Boehner’s certain the economy “never” grows after a tax increase. He’s convinced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “triggered the whole meltdown” of the U.S. financial system.
These claims aren’t just wrong; they’re ridiculous. It has nothing to do with Democrats vs. Republicans, or left vs. right. This is Boehner vs. reality.
At an almost instinctual level, the political establishment tends to strongly resist this. I more or less understandable why — considering Boehner’s rhetoric at face value, and assuming he means what he says, is almost terrifying to think Boehner is so painfully confused.
But here we are. We’re left with the discomforting fact that it appears the Speaker of the House, Congress’ most powerful official, when dealing with the nation’s most important issue, is functionally illiterate, bringing the sophistication of a slow child to the debate.