Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 7, 2009

THEY'RE NOT EVEN TRYING.... I argued yesterday that congressional Republicans are guilty of a "pre-recession mindset." Evidence to bolster the argument is hard to miss.

The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in unemployment to call for a freeze on government spending and to urge President Barack Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the jump in unemployment to 8.1 percent and the loss of 651,000 jobs in February is a sign of a worsening recession that demands better solutions from both parties.

Boehner criticized the spending bill as chocked full of wasteful, pork-barrel projects.... Boehner said he hoped Obama would veto the bill. He urged the president to work with House Republicans to impose a spending freeze until the end of this fiscal year.

This is, of course, completely insane. As Pat Garofalo recently explained: "The economic stimulus package's main purpose is to close the GDP gap and jumpstart the economy by spurring spending by households, government and the private sector. A spending freeze would act as an 'anti-stimulus,' cutting spending precisely when it's too low and the economy is moving too slowly."

But stepping back and considering the larger context, that the top House Republican is seriously and publicly advocating such an idea is genuinely scary. As Paul Krugman noted, "I'm shocked by the total intellectual collapse of the Republican Party in the face of this economic crisis.... I'd really like to see some genuine bipartisanship in America. But that can't happen until we start having at least somewhat sane partisans."

Josh Marshall added, "When the crisis is a rapid and catastrophic drop off in demand, you handcuff the one force that can create demand (i.e., the federal government) in the throes of the contraction. That's insane. Levels of stimulus are a decent question. Intensifying the contraction is just insane and frankly a joke. It's time to recognize that the only debate here is happening among Democrats and sundry non-affiliated sane people. The leaders of the GOP are simply not part of the conversation."

Well, at least they shouldn't be. Given the truly bizarre ideas coming from congressional Republicans, there's really no reason to engage them in good-faith discussion. A group of people are working diligently to put out a raging fire, and the failed minority party, which helped set the blaze, can't imagine why no one is taking their more-lighter-fluid agenda seriously.

I know President Obama likes bipartisanship. I know voters love the idea of well-intentioned patriots from across the spectrum getting together to work out meaningful solutions. It somehow seems unfair to block elected officials out of the governing process, just because they've created a crisis and are determined to make it worse.

But Republicans, at this point, just aren't trying anymore. They deserve a lot of things -- ridicule, scorn, derision -- but at a place at the policy negotiating table isn't one of them.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

Posted by: Phil Philiben on March 7, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Think about it from the point of view of the out of power Republicans. If the things turn around, and the economy is doing great in two years, then the Democrats are pretty much assured of maintaining or increasing their majority in 2010. On the other hand, if things are still bad in 2010, then the Republicans want to be in position to say "If only we had been in power, things would have been much better". To be able to say that, they have to make a point of disagreeing with the Democrats on policy. It doesn't really matter what the disagreement is.

Republicans are betting that things will not improve significantly in the next two years. They really do hope the Democrats fail, because that's their only hope for making a comeback.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 7, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

It simply is not possible to take the Republicans seriously anymore.

When I read this "spending freeze" nonsense yesterday, I thought I must be misreading it. Surely this couldn't really be what the House Minority Leader was suggesting. But, it was.

I still hardly know what to say about Boehner's "idea." To me, he might as well advocate blowing up the moon in response to the February unemployment numbers. It would make about as much economic sense, and would only be slightly more destructive.

But what really drives me crazy is seeing the news media continue to solicit the opinions of these people as though they have anything of value to contribute. A couple of hours after the "spending freeze" story appeared online, I saw Rep. Mike Pence on MSNBC promoting the idea. So, this was clearly a coordinated rollout (rather than the rambling of some random right-wing nutcase), and it found an eager audience among the news media. I don't get it. Don't these journalists recognize complete nonsense when they hear it? Why does complete nonsense have to be treated as though it is a valid, competing viewpoint?

I cannot figure out what the GOP's strategy is here. Could they really be hoping for the complete collapse of our economy, which might allow them to sweep in and pick up the pieces?

Or, are they just morons?

Posted by: UncommonSense on March 7, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

The thing is these guys evidently aren't paying attention to any polling either where the American people are CALLING for the government to intervene. They might have been successful if they stuck to trying to focus on their lie about the budget raising taxes, but calling for a spending freeze is without a doubt about to be the EPIC FAIL of all EPIC FAILS. The American people are beginning to see that Boehner et all simply aren't serious people and are instead buffoons. The smart play now is to link them to Hooover in addition to Limbaugh. Basically the Democrats should point to them wanting to cut spending just like Hoover so we can enter a Depression and their motivation is they want the President to fail like Limbaugh. At this point in history I think they are using 1980 politics to try to influence a 2009 audience. With blogs and progressive media sources they just aren't going to be able to snow the majority of people they way they once did.

BTW did anybody else see KO last night where he had the guy from Variety on to say Rush Limbaugh has like 2 million listeners instead of the 25 million they keep trying to say he has? The Republicans are stupidly trying to appeal to those 2 million thinking they number 25 million while the rest of America is getting ready to gut them next year.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on March 7, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

The sad thing is that I don't know if Team Obama is doing that much better.

They don't seem to have a plan to deal with the banks or AIG. It's obvious now that the first stimulus package is far too small to have much of an impact. The economy is tanking very fast, and Obama has a health care meeting. As much as I care about that issue, the economy is so bad it should be the only topic of discussion.

Obama doesn't have the luxury of being in the opposition. If he doesn't act quickly, this summer we will be talking about the Obama Depression.

Posted by: g. powell on March 7, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

It is not only insane, but it is also quite a bit sad that these Republican leaders can only apply a political paradigm to every woe we face as a nation, be it the depression-bound economy or the need to further our science and medical know-how.

I'm in agreement with those who suggest these Republican "leaders" are irrelevant to the national dialog until they have something to say that makes sense! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 7, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

In undergrad, this was simple to explain. Micro-economics was ECON101. Macro-economics was ECON102. Apparently, these people didn't go back for the second semester.

Posted by: MarcDavid on March 7, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't see K(Hillarymustbedrawnandquarted)O, but, did see the ever wind shifting Chris M using that 25 mill figure for his "Number of the Day" Wee Chrissie was still in awe.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 7, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

With all due respect, g. powell, putting off healthcare is not an option. Sure, the economy is the biggest issue at the moment - but healthcare is a huge part of that economy, and we're in line to see a 10% or greater increase in the number of uninsured within the next year if things don't turn around by then. And there are real-world consequences to being unemployed, even IF you manage to hang on to your insurance. Case in point, during my 3 months of unemployment, when as an independent contractor I was ineligible for unemployment (read: things were tight), I suffered my first ever (and let's hope it's the last) gall bladder attack. Having the insurance didn't allow me to seek medical care, thanks to a number of factors (co-pays, co-insurance, etc etc etc) but the biggest being a $5000 deductible. Where is an unemployed person going to come up with the scratch to cover something like that? Charge it to a credit card when all the companies are jumping their interest rates to 15% and more thanks to the financial mess they helped to create? Because I already knew from researching it that the one and only solution the medical establishment proposes for gall bladder issues is to "yank it out" at a cost of $20K plus, I decided my best option was to stop eating for a few days and see if it didn't just get better. Which, thankfully, it did.

If it hadn't, my choices would have been to add $5000 in debt at very high interest rates, and/or suffer through months of collection calls. Like I WANTED the illness and it came about due to my own bad actions.

Some things are simply incompatible with a "for profit" model, and health care is one of them. Even if the economy is the biggest issue right now, we can't afford to put off healthcare reform - we have to tackle it while the momentum and events on the ground are all working in our favor.

Posted by: Jennifer on March 7, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in unemployment to call for a freeze on government spending and to urge President Barack Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill.

The above makes about as much sense as this:

The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in forest fires to call for a freeze on using water and chemical fire retardants and to urge President Barack Obama to veto money spent on firefighting.....

Posted by: Stefan on March 7, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Jennifer -- I totally agree that health care reform is a long overdue issue that has to be addressed very soon.

But the house is on fire, the ship is sinking, the barbarians are at the gates -- use any analogy you want, we are in a very bad economic situation.

Obama has to first fix the banking problem. Otherwise he will be dealing with a country in economic ruins that will require health care reform be put off for years.

I don't think Obama has any business talking about anything else right now except a national program to deal with failed banks.

Posted by: g. powell on March 7, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Why does the Democratic leadership allow Republicans and Bluedogs to insert earmarks for their projects, and then vote against the bill? The leadership should tell them that their earmarks will be stripped from the bill in the reconciliation conference, since their votes aren't necessary for passage. Let them know that their "No" votes have a price.

Posted by: bigbob on March 7, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Someone really needs to do a smackdown on Boehner, explaining to him (between loving strokes from a folded metal chair) that the GDP gap, when it reflects a 10% overall contraction, defines the moment when America crosses the threshold between "recession" and "depression."

When that happens, our currency will deflate like a ruptured appendix, the economy will collapse---and all those things we take for granted today won't be coming off the boat tomorrow.

Posted by: Steve W. on March 7, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are betting that things will not improve significantly in the next two years. They really do hope the Democrats fail, because that's their only hope for making a comeback.

The above should more accurately read:

Republicans are betting that things will not improve significantly in the next two years. They really do hope America fails, because that's their only hope for making a comeback.

Posted by: Stefan on March 7, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm.... multiple choice logic test here.

Business and consumers have stopped spending money. This caused the economy to tank.

If the government stops spending money too, the economy will:

a) Tank even further.
b) Take off for the sky!

Obviously b!

The mind reels.

Posted by: Buford on March 7, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner proves whenever he opens his mouth his quest for continued greed and power is related to the destruction of America and Americans. How un patrioitic and un constitutional.

Posted by: mljohnston on March 7, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, they are trying. They are a minority with no power so they know nothing they do will have any effect on the economy. It is going to get much worse before it gets better so they are proposing the opposite of Obama's solution in order to get maximum traction in the 2010 mid-terms. Their solution to the crisis is political rather than any attempt to deal with the economy itself since they have no power to do the latter anyway. Of course, they could actually implement their strategy in 2011 and prove how insane they really are. I guess we won't know if they're serious until they have power again.

Posted by: Shalimar on March 7, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

While it might be a sad, albeit not unexpected, sight to see the minority leasder spout such economic nonsense with every appearance of seriousness, the truly scary thing is that no major media—and few subsidiary ones—will call him on it. It doesn't matter how foolish the GOP's ideas become, the rules of the modern media establishment prevent them from calling them idiotic.

Posted by: jhm on March 7, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Three things:

Is there any basis by which we can assume spending cuts WOULD produce success? I mean, do they have ANYTHING going for them other than a hail mary What-the-Hell guess?

Given the massive spending Bush did with the Iraq war and Medicare part D, why wasn't that stimulus helpful?

I'm wondering whether the tax increases mentioned previously aren't important towards applying spurs to teh flanks of the welathy. They must reinvest in teh economy if they are to increase their wealth sufficiently and maintain their comfy lifestyles.

Maybe more stimulus alone isn't enough? The tax increases may be enough, but is 40% high enough to get them out of their Brookstone heated, shiatsu massage leather recliners?

Not class warfare so much as calling for all hands on deck including those of the leisure class. INVEST, you sunzabitches! Make that money you claim to be so good at making!
Any possibility this is plausible?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 7, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans should state clearly what they believe: less regulation would have spared us the loss of 16 trillion in assets. What we need now is less regulation.

And more Hoover Do-Nothingism.

Posted by: duBois on March 7, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

"But the house is on fire, the ship is sinking, the barbarians are at the gates -- use any analogy you want, we are in a very bad economic situation.

Obama has to first fix the banking problem. Otherwise he will be dealing with a country in economic ruins that will require health care reform be put off for years.

I don't think Obama has any business talking about anything else right now except a national program to deal with failed banks.
g.powell

G. The problem with your point is that the seriatum solution ONLY works when there is a causal relation between A & B. In the moulti-pronged, multi-dimensional world, the most effective way to solve multiple problems is doing things in parallel. Waiting for one problem to be solved may negate the possibility of ever addressing another problem.

Posted by: goalkeeper on March 7, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

toowearyforoutrage, the answer to your 2nd question is a no-brainer, no accountability. People stuffed cash in their pockets, Bush wouldn't ask for receipts, and when the money was sent, well, we just go the bank and get more! That's where the money lives! Any 4 year old knows that!

Here's the deal, Republicans got nothing and haven't had any real solutions to our nation's ills for decades beyond tax cuts for wealthy & blowing up brown people. They'll complain about O's policies unless/until they start to work, at which point thay'll complaind that THEY couldv'e done it faster & cheaper with more tax cute & fewer assaults on our "values." At which point we, as a country, start giving them atomic wedgies & never stop.

Posted by: slappy magoo on March 7, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

A group of people are working diligently to put out a raging fire, and the failed minority party, which helped set the blaze, can't imagine why no one is taking their more-lighter-fluid agenda seriously.

More like turning off the water supply to the hydrant.

Posted by: qwerty on March 7, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

" ... but at a place at the policy negotiating table isn't one of them."

Why worry about "policy" when bribery is lots more effective?

http://pubrecord.org/nationworld/734-two-uk-citizens-indicted-in-cheney-era-halliburton-bribery-scheme.html

Posted by: Otolaryx on March 7, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

In 1937, FDR listened to someone like Boehner, who in advocating balancing the federal budget, called for cutting back/freezing federal spending, spending that between 1933 and 1937 dropped unemployment rates from 25 percent to close to 10 percent, federal spending that stimulated the U.S. economy, created millions of jobs both in the public and private sectors, putting food on the tables of millions of U.S. families.

One really has to question the sanity of someone like Boehner, a hardcore conservative who obviously doesn't give a damn for working American citizens and their families, or for the economic future of our nation's children.

Hmmmm, I wonder if voodoo dolls actually work???

Posted by: The Oracle on March 7, 2009 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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