Beware of Republicans bearing lists

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) will occasionally claim to have a list of 700 “prominent scientists” who agree with him that all climate data is a communist conspiracy. When one looks a little closer at the list, the list features economists, some weathermen, some scientists on ExxonMobil’s payroll, and a few qualified experts who disagree with Inhofe and who’ve asked that their names be removed from his list. (He’s refused.)

But as it turns out, Inhofe isn’t the only one playing this sort of game.

More than 150 economists have signed a statement supporting House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) call for spending cuts at least equal to the amount by which Congress raises the country’s debt ceiling this year, a figure that could total trillions of dollars.

The statement … was released by Boehner’s office Wednesday morning ahead of a 10 a.m. meeting between Obama and the House Republican conference. […]

“An increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms to address our government’s spending addiction will harm private-sector job creation in America,” the statement reads.

Not surprisingly, there are ample reasons not to take this little press stunt seriously. As Matt Finkelstein explained, Boehner’s list include ridiculous right-wing ideologues (one condemned First Lady Michelle Obama as “the product of lifelong affirmative-action coddling”), bitter partisans (one spoke at a Tea Party rally before the midterms and vowed, “In November we will kick your asses out and save this Republic from your socialist tyranny”), and a couple dozen economists who assured Americans that Bush’s economic policy was a “fiscally responsible” path to “economic growth.”

Just as important, if you look closely at the message Boehner is waving around, you’ll notice it’s a rather hack-like political statement that doesn’t even try to explain why austerity would create jobs.

Jonathan Bernstein called the letter from the economists “preposterous nonsense, adding, “They’re not even trying, are they?

Remember, there’s a regular budget process going on, regardless of the debt limit situation. House Republicans have plenty of chances to get “significant spending cuts and budget reforms” through the normal budget process; indeed, they just demonstrated that they are perfectly capable of getting the cuts, at least, through the normal budget process just a few weeks ago when they dealt with the FY 2011 budget.

There is, of course, not even a remotely plausible economic argument supporting the idea that any particular policy has to be attached to the debt ceiling instead of the normal budget process in order to work. None. Nada. Zip. It’s a political claim, not an economic one. And as a political claim it seems, well, ridiculous. […]

Look, I realize these things are just talking points, just part of the spin war…I don’t know why this one set me off. I guess I’d like to see something resembling a serious debate about these issues. I suppose I’d also like to see economists take themselves seriously, instead of being willing props for whatever the messagemeisters of the Republican Party think they need. This? It’s just garbage.

I’ve seen a lot of media outlets touting Boehner’s letter, but practically none bothered to let the public know that it’s a pathetic charade not to be taken seriously.