Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of three House Republicans on the so-called super-committee, appeared on Bloomberg TV over the weekend, and fielded a very good question from Al Hunt. Pat Garofalo has the video and ran this transcript:

HUNT: Why under those pre-Bush tax cut tax rates did the economy do so well in the ’90s? And why under the Bush tax rates, less for the wealthy, to do so poorly in this decade?

UPTON: Well, a couple things. One, spending went up, Al, the wars. I mean, that’s trillions of dollars. And also there was no change in the entitlements. And we also know —

HUNT: But that shouldn’t hurt the economy. That shouldn’t hurt economic growth.

UPTON: Yeah, but that impacts the debt and the deficit.

HUNT: But I’m asking, why did the economy grow a lot? Why were more jobs created in the previous decade under higher taxes than in this decade under lower taxes?

UPTON: I don’t know specifically the answer to that question.

Well, no, of course he doesn’t. There’s a perfectly sensible response — tax breaks that largely benefit the wealthy, contra GOP dogma, don’t improve the economy or create jobs — but Upton can’t admit this out loud. Well, he could, but the Republican congressman knows the punishment for such honesty would be severe.

I was especially fond of Upton, scrambling, trying to say wars and public spending somehow slowed down the economy. First, Upton voted for those wars and the public spending throughout the Bush era. Second, there’s literally nothing to suggest the wars and the spending undermined job growth. And as for the notion that Republican policies “impacted the debt and the deficit,” that’s true, but again, there’s nothing to connect this to the failure of the GOP agenda to create jobs.

Kudos to Hunt for posing the question. I wish more Republicans would hear this more often. Reagan raised taxes and the economy improved; Clinton raised taxes and the economy improved; Bush slashed taxes and the economy was awful. How does the GOP explain this?

Indeed, Garofalo flagged this report from the Center for American Progress’ Michael Linden, who found “in the past 60 years, job growth has actually been greater in years when the top income tax rate was much higher than it is now.”

As far as Republicans are concerned, this reality should be impossible.

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.