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Tilting at Windmills

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February 6, 2009

SILLINESS.... This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told his colleagues, "If you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn't have spent $1 trillion."

This, alas, is what constitutes a policy argument from Republican lawmakers lately. It's not that the recovery package lacks merit, it's that the legislation is big. And big bills should necessarily be rejected, because they're big. (Republican John Thune highlighted this point nicely the other day.) It's all quite mind-numbing, like having a debate over economic policy with an eight-year-old.

Slowly but surely, a frustrated few are stepping up to explain how nonsensical the arguments have been over the last couple of weeks. On Wednesday, Daniel Gross took aim at the Republicans' "nutso" claims.

Contrary to Steele's assertion, in the history of mankind, the government has in fact created many, many jobs (including the one he held for a few years: lieutenant governor of Maryland).... Contra DeMint, borrowing and spending are pretty much how the government has pulled itself out of every modern recession. And contrary to what Bond argues, mass transit can be plenty stimulative. [...]

There's plenty of legitimate argument over the stimulus -- too much, too little, not fast enough, too fast, the proper mix of tax cuts and spending. Alan Blinder's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal is an excellent guide to some of the debates. But the Republicans in Washington aren't reading Blinder. And it's almost impossible for the Obama team, or anybody else, to engage them in serious discussions.

Today, Steven Pearlstein explained that opponents of the stimulus package lack "economic literacy."

[W]hat's striking is that supposedly intelligent people are horrified at the thought that, during a deep recession, government might try to help the economy by buying up-to-date equipment for the people who protect us from epidemics and infectious diseases, by hiring people to repair environmental damage on federal lands and by contracting with private companies to make federal buildings more energy-efficient.

What really irks so many Republicans, of course, is that all the stimulus money isn't being used to cut individual and business taxes, their cure-all for economic ailments, even though all the credible evidence is that tax cuts are only about half as stimulative as direct government spending.

And Paul Krugman, reminding his audience that it's "hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we're in," sizes up the political landscape.

It's time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation's future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

Josh Marshall noted last night that "virtually everything congressional Republicans are saying about the Stimulus Bill wouldn't cut it in remedial economics," before adding that pieces such as Pearlstein's might be a hint of a turning tide. Here's hoping that's the case. This debate isn't an academic exercise -- prosperity is at stake. GOP lawmakers and pundits are playing a dangerous game in the midst of a genuine crisis, reading talking points scrawled in crayon.

The more news outlets point out that conservatives haven't the foggiest idea what they're talking about, the more the nation's interests will be served.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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When these Republican leaders step up to wail about the size of the proposed remedy, it raises 1 obvious question right off the bat:

Since you were in Congress before this year, why didn't you try to solve the problem before it got so big?

I don't think we can actually survive in their alternate reality. Nature would put me in my place if I insisted that the cure defines the disease.

Posted by: Boolaboola on February 6, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the Rapture Republicans believe the End Days are upon us and they don't want to face the final trumpet with the mortal sin of raising taxes on their souls.

Faith-based economics.


Posted by: SteveT on February 6, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Obama and real Dems aren't just fighting with the GOP at this point, Ben Nelson and co. are now an even bigger danger to a real stimulus package.

Obama needs to enlist conservative economists like Martin Feldstein and GOP governors like Crist to come to his aid to sell a real stimulus package to the American people and put pressure on these so-called moderate senators.

Reid and Pelosi are useless at this point.

Posted by: g. powell on February 6, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

And can we please now get rid of Harry fucking useless Reid already. I hear Dodd is interested in the position.

Posted by: g. powell on February 6, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

"If you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn't have spent $1 trillion." - McConnell

And if everyone chipped in the amount of money they lost in the US Stock Market on September 29, 2008, you would have your trillion dollars.

The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe - Krugman

Krugman is sounding more and more like the little boy who runs around the burning house in his underwear, yelling, "I saw it first!!"

Posted by: Danp on February 6, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

In regards to the Stimulus controversy, some in the media, earning cushy salaries, unaffected by the impending crisis, asks what's the rush? But, thank God, there is a new Sherrif in town as President Obama takes his fight to the people. He understands the American people are hurting and needs help NOW, found here due to greed and neglect!

Republicans' new talking points regarding help to the people in the form of a stimulus - is that the polling shows the American people are against this Stimulus (against help)! What planet do they live on. By the day, Blue and White collar workers are losing thier jobs, homes, cars. They are resorting to food and bread lines; unemployment compensation and food stamps (by the way the GOP calls this Welfare). The American people are hurting and the GOP are playing political games -- let's damage the President, instead of putting their time and care on the crisis looming large for the American people. At least for Once!

Not unexepectedly, the GOP cry loudly, that that is not the way for Pres. Obama to win -- taking it to the airwaves, (however, he tried being diplomatic and nice)! They don't want him to fight -- to Expose their phony objections and impediment to this catastrophe. They don't want light but President Obama believes in transparency, and there is no time to lose in this situation. This patient, the U.S. economy, needs emergency care, now. Thank God, a new Sheriff is in town and President Obama is fighting for You. This country has waited long enough for a blood transfusion, and theres no time to lose!

This is not about Pork, as GOP wants you to believe -- this is about the saving of our economy, our way of life. America is crumbling all around us and the GOP wants to play political games, as usual! As custodians of the people, President Obama assumed that due to the direness of the situation, Congress would Act accordingly and pass a stimulus, not try to Revive their policical party, when the country needs to be revived, for once to act selfless and put others before themselves!

We must remember, that when the GOP were in control they held no oversight hearings on anything, they did not increase the minimum wage, their concern was not about our crumbling bridges or dirty air, water, contimanted food and Ponsy Schemes that robbed people of millions.

We will know what to do in 2010.

Posted by: Angellight on February 6, 2009 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

They did not hesitate when it was a bank bailout.

Posted by: SteveA on February 6, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Silliness? You want silliness? Those assholes are trotting out Joe the Plumber again!:
http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/02/03/joe-the-plumber-now-advising-the-gop-on-the-economy/

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on February 6, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

And yet I woke to the sight of Newt Fucking Gingrich on the Today Show talking about the "spending bill."

Posted by: Hoyt Pollard on February 6, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

If you haven't seen it, David Cay Johnston jad a good interview on DemocracyNow! Monday: More Corporate Tax Breaks Will Not Stimulate the Economy.

Posted by: jhm on February 6, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told his colleagues, "If you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn't have spent $1 trillion."

The republicant's are doing what they do best. They are defining $1 trillion dollars in the way an ordinary person will understand. What we DON'T hear is how we're are/were spending 10 billion per month on the Iraq war. When it's all said and done we will have spent $1 trillion dollars in 10 years. THAT is what needs to be coming out of every Dem's mouth every time they get in front of a camera.

Posted by: kanopsis on February 6, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Another way to find one trillion dollars: roughly, just the amount *extra* the top 10 percent or so have earned over the past decade or so, above the previous historic norms. Just the amount extra.

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on February 6, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Silliness is a Democratic President and Congressional majority fretting about what a relatively inconsequential minority says about them and their work. Maybe Obama should tell himself "I won".

If you're going to bring up examples that support your case, try to use some that are factually true. Borrowing and spending did not bring us out of every modern day recession. The 1982 recession ended when we stopped massive inflation. The recession from the early 1990's was not due to the laughable Clinton stimulus bill.

If you want a good reason not to support this stimulus, just look at the billions of dollars Japan threw down the sink hole to increase their economic output. The results were less than adequate.

Posted by: Tommer on February 6, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

'This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told his colleagues, "If you started the day Jesus Christ was born and spent $1 million every day since then, you still wouldn't have spent $1 trillion."'

And this my beloved low information voter, is why the Iraq War boondoggle was so tragic.

Posted by: SW on February 6, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

I contend that Steven Pearlstein lacks "American literacy." Why does he not understand that guns will feed us (and keep pesky banks off our property) and the bible will all cure deceases.

God damn silly liberals!

Posted by: Oscar on February 6, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The more news outlets point out that conservatives haven't the foggiest idea what they're talking about, the more the nation's interests will be served.

I hope so. People are as likely to believe economists on the economy as they are their plumber. Actually, the plumber probably has more credibility -- because he's out there every day dealing with money (and toilets) unlike economists who just sit in their ivory towers and pore over a bunch of numbers all the time.

Democracy doesn't get us the best government, just the one we deserve.

Posted by: inkadu on February 6, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

I have nothing against the spirit of bipartisanship. But maybe, juuuuust maybe, on this issue, we can do without it. Leave bipartisanship for bills like "let's applaud the troops" or "Kirk is better than Picard" items where GOP stupidity can't cripple the country.

Posted by: slappy magoo on February 6, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

And on the front page of the NYT today, we have two Republican crayon talking points articles.

Hilarious headlines:

Bipartisan Push to Trim Size of Stimulus Plan

Japan’s Big-Works Stimulus Is Lesson for U.S.

The latter would have been even better if accompanied by a picture of I35W.

Posted by: jayackroyd on February 6, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

g. powell: i'm fascinated. chris dodd makes ben nelson behave better exactly...how?

more broadly, people need to spend some time understanding how the senate works. the day this bill went to the senate, i said that snowe, collins, and nelson were the keys. they remain the keys. that's pathetic, but it's real, and simply saying that recognizing that reality means that somehow obama doesn't know he won or something...well, let's just say i've seen more sophisticated commentary....

Posted by: howard on February 6, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

If you want a good reason not to support this stimulus, just look at the billions of dollars Japan threw down the sink hole to increase their economic output. The results were less than adequate.

And if you want to engage in honest debate, don't be dishonest about what happened in previous recessions. Japan pulled back on its stimulus spending, and instead followed the course that Republicans want to take us down now--which prolonged their recession.
Get some new talking points.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on February 6, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see . . . a dollar bill is about six inches wide. If we laid 1 trillion dollar bills end to end that would be 500 billion feet of dollar bills -- about 94.6 million miles of Washingtons, or just under a million miles of Benjamins. That's about how far Republican ideology is from reality. Even if you take off some mileage for all the online transfers and paypal transactions that's still a long ways away.

Notice the Republicans are mainly objecting to spending that create middle class jobs, not spending that creates Merril Lynch bonuses. Middle class jobs means blue collar workers and blue collar workers mean UNIONS!

For the GOP only non-union, white collar jobs matter and those are best generated by tax cuts and tax shelters and Ponzi schemes protected by neutered regulators.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 6, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

howard,

Leadership matters, keeping your caucus in line matters, and I can't think of a single person who has been impressed with Reid's abilities to deliver. Is Dodd better? I really don't know, but it's worth a try. He certainly couldn't be any worse.

Posted by: g. powell on February 6, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus Wept!!!!

Posted by: Susie Bright on February 6, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Ha! No sooner do I post something about how the stimulus will generate middle class and UNION jobs then I get this unsolicited e-mail from the National Right To Work Committee --

Dear Right to Work Supporter, (note: the dumbasses can't get their mailing lists straignt)

"I owe these unions."

President Barack Obama couldn't have stated it any more clearly.

Well, today, after spending a cool BILLION dollars to put their political cronies in positions of power in Washington, D.C., the union bosses agree.

And they want PAYBACK.

After all, Barack Obama and the rest of Big Labor's allies have already promised, "What Big Labor wants, Big Labor GETS!"

That's why it's vital after reading this email you sign the petition to the U.S. Senate and House Leadership urging them to vote AGAINST the union bosses' Card Check Forced Unionism Bill -- and the rest of Big Labor's agenda -- IMMEDIATELY.

You see, passage of the so-called "Card Check" Bill is all that stands between the union bosses and total control over hundreds of thousands of America's small businesses . . .

. . . not to mention the hundreds of millions of forced-dues dollars that will immediately be seized from American workers' paychecks.

If the new union-label Congress succeeds in passing "Card Check," workers would no longer be able to vote for or against union boss representation in a secret ballot election.

blah blah blah blah blah and lots more blah . . .

Please sign the petition to the Senate and House Leadership demanding they vote AGAINST Big Labor's Card Check Forced Unionism Bill before it's too late: http://www.righttoworkcommittee.org/petition.aspx?PID=6

Please also contribute $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can afford, to the National Right to Work Committee -- IMMEDIATELY!

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 6, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Now he just has to prove Jesus Christ was EVER born!

Posted by: Pat on February 6, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"Japan pulled back on its stimulus spending..."

Right, because it didn't work. My argument still stands.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying tax cuts are a silver bullet either. I just find it disingenuous to blame the R's for the bill when the Dems have totally changed their tune with slippery arguments.

At first we were told the bill would be be timely, targeted, and temporary. Then the Dems added pork and longer term spending to it claiming it's needed for stimulus, even though those items contradict the statements made prior to the public unveiling of the House Bill.

To critiques that the longer term spending is not spent fast enough, we are told it's worthwhile. Fine, can't we separate the long term items from the true stimulus parts which allow for debating the longer term projects on their merits to ensure they are worthwhile? No, comes the answer, because we need to act quickly. A so the circular argument is complete.

I'm still amazed at the number of posts on all the lib-prog blogs about the Republicans, as if they matter at this point.

The Dems had every opportunity to launch this bill in an honest, deliberative, straight forward manner - and they blew it. How hard would it have been to come up with a clean stimulus bill containing increases in unemployment benefits, higher earned income tax credits, and targeted tax cuts? Then they could have followed up in MAR-APR with an infrastructure package. Later in the year when the middle class would be selecting their health plans for 2010, he could have come out with a health care program.

But no...'change we can believe in' turned out to be business as usual. Now they're reverting back to the same failed policies of the last eight years - blame the Republicans. No one likes a whiner.

Lucy didn't take the football away at the last second on this one. Charlie Brown tripped on his shoelaces.

Posted by: Tommer on February 6, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Some newspaper reporters/columnists are starting to realize the steady decline of print media is accelerating faster than the downward slide of the economy. Their jobs are on the line and substitute High School English teacher doesn't sound like the next career step they want to take.

Posted by: Th on February 6, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Next time one of these genius republicans try to explain how much a trillion dollars is with a Jesus story, could someone just point out that yes, it is a lot of money, and it is almost proportional to how much Bush economic policies screwed up our country.

Posted by: Jen on February 6, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I'm still amazed at the number of posts on all the lib-prog blogs about the Republicans, as if they matter at this point. -Tommer

Apparently you are unsurprisingly unfamiliar with the term cloture. Thanks for playing.

Posted by: doubtful on February 6, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

If you started the day Jesus was born teaching Republicans how to be TRUE leaders of this country, they still wouldn't have any idea how to do it today.

Posted by: iggy on February 6, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

"It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."
-- Barack Obama, 8/5/2008, referring to Republican detractors

True then, true now. You could carve it in stone.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 6, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting that, when it came to spending money to invade and occupy a foreign country just to fluff the ego of a vainglorious twit, 600 billion dollars was affordable.

When it came to giving money with no strings attached to the wealthy bankers who got us into this mess, d 3/4 of a trillion dollars wasn't too much.

Now that the issue is saving working and middle class families, suddenly Jesus says 3/4 of a trillion dollars is a whole lotta money!

Posted by: Chesire11 on February 6, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

doubtful:

Cloture isn't hard to get if you have a semi-competent bill. When you're one or two votes shy of a sixty vote majority in the Senate there are no excuses for not getting your programs passed. All you have to do is pick up a few votes from one of the Sweeney Sisters (Snowe and Collins) in Maine or the Rockefeller Republican in PA, and there's your cloture.

The R's would have no support to hold up the bill if the D's hadn't larded it up so badly. They handed a harmless minority a stick in which to beat themselves with.

You're in the majority now. It's time your party starts acting like it.

Posted by: Tommer on February 6, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's time for some hardball. Obama should pull some of these half-wit "senators" into the Oval Office and deliver a brief presentation on how much existing government spending he can redirect into or out of their states. Let's see how quickly those morons fall into line when the see their own jobs threatened!

Posted by: Chesire11 on February 6, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

If you laid 3 trillion one dollar bills end to end, how many round trips to Iraq would that make?

Posted by: bcinaz on February 6, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

If all the money that has been wasted on Iraq had been spent on true stimulus for energy independence, infrastructure repair, universal reformed health care,...We would be $2 trillion less in debt and the economy would be overheating(not a bad problem to have in winter).

Posted by: Michael7843853 on February 6, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP will do whatever the news media let them get away with. The coverage of Republican arguments should always include an informed judgment on whether they are legitimate or merely insane.

Posted by: Jon on February 6, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

A worthy précis of the arguments:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=217693


Posted by: Suzii on February 6, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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