About 10 minutes after taking the oath of office last year, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) held a press conference, at which he declared the Recovery Act “hasn’t created one new job.” A reporter gave him a chance to clarify, asking, “It didn’t create one new job?” The new senator replied, “That’s correct.” It was the first big hint that the guy isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box.

I thought of this last night, watching this exchange during the debate for Republican presidential candidates.

WOLF BLITZER: Governor Perry, the president in his new plan has a lot of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, middle-class tax cuts, tax credits for hiring veterans, tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed people. Are those things you would support?

RICK PERRY: And he’s going to pay for them all with raising your taxes. That is the issue. He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion dollars in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.

I realize the increasingly-hysterical Republican Party is heavily invested in denouncing the Recovery Act. Indeed, it’s necessary for the integrity of the GOP’s entire worldview to believe the stimulus failed.

But reality doesn’t much care about the sensitivities and philosophical beliefs that undergird modern Republican thought.

President Barack Obama’s stimulus package may have created or saved as many as 3.3 million jobs last quarter and lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.8 percentage points, the Congressional Budget Office said.

The Recovery Act immediately improved the American job market and created economic growth where there was none. This isn’t even controversial; it’s just what happened. The stimulus should have been bigger, and we’re not even close to where we need to be, but when Rick Perry says the Recovery Act “created zero jobs,” he’s off by about 3 million.

That said, I do give Perry some credit for thinking about economic impact in a coherent way. The original stimulus in 2009 cost about $825 billion and created as many as 3.3 million jobs. The American Jobs Act would cost about half as much, and independent projections suggest it would create about half as many jobs.

If Perry and his party believe the economy doesn’t need that boost right now, they’re welcome to make their case. But to simply make up nonsense about the Recovery Act isn’t helpful.

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.