Quote of the Day

NBC’s Luke Russert had a good question for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) at his weekly press conference this morning: is Grover Norquist a positive influence on Republicans?

Boehner, apparently unwilling to answer, replied, “It’s not often I’m asked about some random person.”

The problem, of course, is that as far as the congressional GOP is concerned, Norquist isn’t some random person at all — he’s the guy who forces nearly every Republican candidate to sign an anti-tax pledge that, in turn, makes bipartisan attempts at governing practically impossible. The GOP can’t even bring itself to consider compromises because of the handcuffs he asked Republicans to put on.

But as interesting as that was, I actually cared more about an exchange between the Speaker and Dave Weigel at the same press conference.

I asked Boehner a sort of related question, keying off the one-year anniversary of the GOP’s midterm victory. One year in, what had been the impact of austerity and a spending-cut focus on jobs? The job market was stagnant.

“Well,” said Boehner, “I think the budget deficit and our debt serves as a wet blanket over our economy, and had investor concerned about whether we’re gonna deal with this problem. And that’s why getting this deficit and debt under control is so important — because it’ll lead to a better environment for job creation in our country.”

At a weekly presser on the Hill, it’s tough for reporters to seek more in-depth explanations of why leaders believe what they say they believe, but I’d love to see Boehner try to explain his worldview in more detail.

Why, exactly, does he think the deficit and debt are holding back the economy? That’s not to say it’s impossible — under some economic circumstances, a larger deficit can lead to higher interest rates, for example — but in 2011, Boehner’s argument is just absurd. The nation has a large deficit, but we also have low interest rates, low inflation, and plenty of investors around the world who are eager, if not desperate, to loan us money. So how in the world is the budget shortfall “serving as a wet blanket over our economy”?

What’s more, whether Boehner can read economic reports or not, the number one reason the private sector has been reluctant to hire and expand is a lack of demand. Indeed, nothing else comes close — when businesses have more customers, then they’ll hire more workers. Boehner wants “a better environment for job creation”? Then the Speaker should be doing everything possible to boost demand.

Except, he’s doing the opposite. Boehner wants to weaken demand — on purpose — while taking money out of the economy and undermining consumer buying power.

It’s why the larger debate over the economy is so stunted — GOP leaders like Boehner believe strange things and can’t explain why. It’s not exactly conducive to a constructive debate.