President Obama and congressional Democrats see no point in proposing an ambitious job-creation agenda because they know full well that Republicans wouldn’t even consider it. Instead, they’re left with looking for ways to give the economy a modest boost in a way the GOP might find ideologically acceptable.

That effectively leaves Dems with one option: a cut in payroll taxes. It’s not much, but it’d likely be a step in the right direction.

As of yesterday, however, some leading Republicans announced that they’ve finally found a tax cut they don’t like.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who both hold GOP leadership positions, told reporters that the current high unemployment rate is proof that short-term stimulus programs, like the payroll tax reduction, don’t work.

“I don’t sense how this move will install the confidence that small businesses in east Texas and Fortune 50 companies are going to need to take care of the Obama employment gap,” Hensarling said.

“We don’t need short term gestures, we need long term strategies that build into our system simpler taxes, lower taxes, fewer mandates, lower costs, lower energy costs, more certainty,” Alexander said.

This is all manner of wrong.

Hensarling, whose conspicuous confusion is reminiscent of someone who’s recently suffered head trauma, is still throwing around the “confidence” canard. It was wrong when GOP pollsters came up with it two years ago, and it’s just tiresome now.

Alexander rejects “short-term gestures,” but I’d remind the conservative Tennessean that the economy is in trouble right now. The unemployment rate is above 9% today. A “short-term gesture” that economists believe would quickly help with job creation isn’t something to scoff at given that the economy is in need of an urgent boost.

Alexander added that Republicans have “proved” that “short-term government programs … don’t work.” But that’s just ridiculous — a short-term government program stopped the economy from hemorrhaging jobs and stopped the economy from contracting.

But in the bigger picture, GOP lawmakers who’ve always said they never saw a tax they didn’t want to cut have suddenly decided they oppose a tax-cut plan from the Obama White House. It leads to two questions. First, do they oppose cutting taxes because President Obama wants them to? And second, are they rejecting the Dems’ proposal because they don’t think it’ll work, or they’re afraid it might?

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.