Mother of All Earmarks

As Mike Allen of Politico explains today, the Romney campaign and American Crossroads are undertaking a sustained attack (uncoordinated, of course, since coordination would be illegal) on the Obama administration’s economy policies

Mitt Romney’s campaign events and the firepower of American Crossroads will both focus this week on President Barack Obama’s jobs record as a way to fight off charges about the Republican candidate’s private-sector experience, with a Romney aide attacking the stimulus as “the mother of all earmarks….”

A senior campaign aide said Romney will argue that Obama has actually subtracted jobs: “Were these investments the best return on tax dollars, or given for ideological reasons, to donors, for political reasons? He spent $800 billion of everybody’s money. How’d it work out?”

“It was the mother of all earmarks, not a jobs plan,” the aide said. “By wasting all of this money, you had the worst of all worlds: It destroyed confidence in the economy and makes people less likely to borrow money. Dodd-Frank has been a disaster for the economy. Where are the steady hands? Who’s in charge of energy? Where’s the strong, confident voice on the economy?”

At WaPo’s Plum Line, Greg Sargent makes the point that this offensive presents an almost impenetrable pack of lies:

So Romney will now go back to claiming Obama subtracted jobs. But there’s a new twist: Romney will claim that the effect of the stimulus has been to destroy jobs. As it has in the past, the Romney camp will justify this by pointing to a bogus metric — the net jobs lost on Obama’ watch. That includes the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost before the stimulus went into effect. Really: The Romney camp’s claim is that we can calculate that the stimulus destroyed jobs overall with a metric that factors in all the jobs destroyed before the stimulus took effect. That’s not an exaggeration. It really is the Romney campaign’s position. It’s time to ask Romney himself to justify it.

The Romney camp will also begin claiming that Obama has “never created a job.” Will anyone ask Romney about the two dozen straight months of private sector job creation we’ve seen?

And that’s just the half of it, since the Romney campaign is also basing its attacks on the “confidence fairy” (Obama has killed jobs just by being a Democrat; Romney will generate them by his very aura, which makes other rich people feel like goin’ out and creatin’ them some jobs!), and on the phony premise that “the stimulus” (designed in no small part in response to Republican demands for more tax cuts and less direct public-sector spending) represented some sort of grand left-wing “industrial policy” instead of a demand-boosting effort to accelerate federal spending on projects and priorities already in the works.

It’s beginning to become apparent that Team Mitt will throw vast amounts of chum into the water to avoid the fundamental reality that its candidate’s own Economic Plan is basically deregulation plus the Ryan Budget. Perhaps if Romney is going to traipse around the country mocking individual federally-funded projects, someone should follow him around pointing out what the Ryan Budget would do to the same locales. It would not look pretty.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.