Quote of the Day

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may be struggling badly, but that certainly doesn’t interfere with his ability to make ridiculous remarks during press conferences. Consider this gem from this afternoon:

“Two of the biggest obstacles to job growth are out-of-control and entitlement spending and the current tax code. I think the fundamental questions are this: can you control spending without reforming entitlements? I think the answer is no. Do you need to raise taxes in order to get control of spending? I think the answer is no. If you want to see an increase in government revenues, let’s grow the economy and create jobs and broaden the tax base and lower rates.”

It’s not unusual for Republicans to push economic gibberish, hoping reporters and the public won’t know the difference, but Boehner’s assessment is just bizarre.

First, spending isn’t out of control. It’s not a matter of opinion; the claim is just demonstrably wrong.

Second, blaming “spending and entitlement spending” as the biggest obstacles to job growth is incoherent. It’s not only dumb because spending pumps money into the economy and creates jobs, but also because the notion that programs like Social Security and Medicare are interfering with the job market is mystifying.

Third, Boehner talking about increasing government revenues by growing the economy isn’t necessarily wrong — I’ve made a similar argument myself many times — but note that in the Speaker’s mind, the only way to “grow the economy and create jobs” is to cut taxes.

But that’s crazy. Bush’s tax cuts, which Boehner loved and supported, were a disaster and failed spectacularly to deliver on Republican promises on growth and jobs. Indeed, Bush’s tax cuts are, at the GOP’s behest, still in place and they’re still not working. Boehner’s new argument seems to be, “Well, maybe if we just lower rates even more, repeating the same mistake may lead to a different result.”

Worse, the underlying point of Boehner’s pitch is that the Tax Fairy exists, and that cutting taxes will lead to increased revenue — one of the most blisteringly dumb arguments in the Republicans’ quiver.

Why would anyone take this seriously?

In the larger context, it’s worth keeping in mind, Boehner’s under increasing pressure from his own party, which is none too pleased with his recent efforts to play a constructive role in the debt-reduction process. It’s possible, if not likely, that the Speaker is saying increasingly ridiculous things as a way to get back in his caucus’ good graces.

In other words, the poor guy is starting to crack. It’s not pretty.

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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.