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Tilting at Windmills

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September 6, 2010

GOP ATTACKS ON INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT ALREADY UNDERWAY.... I really wish I could understand the way John Boehner's mind works.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio Monday criticized President Barack Obama's proposal to boost infrastructure investment as more stimulus spending doomed to fail. "As the American people, facing near double-digit unemployment, mark Labor Day by asking, where are the jobs, the White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed 'stimulus' spending," Boehner said in a prepared statement.

Republicans have targeted an unemployment rate that continues to hover above 9 percent despite last year's economic stimulus plan. "If we've learned anything from the past 18 months, it's that we can't spend our way to prosperity," Boehner said.

Now, I realize that Boehner's depth of policy knowledge is frighteningly limited, and that the poll-tested buzz words of his press releases might resonate, even if the conservative Ohioan doesn't understand what he's saying.

But it'd be fascinating to see Boehner think this through. Indeed, he's already shown some inkling of thought on the subject -- a year ago, when the stimulus boosted construction projects in Ohio, Boehner said the money was responsible for creating "much-needed jobs."

Is it really so hard for him to comprehend the notion of creating a lot more "much-needed jobs"?

Even GOP leaders should be able to get this. By investing in infrastructure -- roads, rail, airports -- it pumps money into the economy, spurs a variety of industries, and does work Americans need to have done anyway. Infrastructure spending not only hires people to do the work, it helps with manufacturing, materials, and transport, and once the projects are done, the rebuilt and improved transportation networks help improve commerce.

The problem with Boehner's response isn't just that it's dumb -- though it is -- the problem is its transparent superficiality. Spending is bad ... because it's spending ... which is bad.

There's just no thought here. It's knee-jerk conservatism, opposing effective ideas because the guy recommending them has a "D" after his name.

I'm well aware of the fact that Boehner is likely to be the House Speaker next year, but the last time I saw an adult this incapable of a leadership role was Jan. 21, 2001.

Steve Benen 3:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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"It's knee-jerk conservatism . . ."

Well, true conservatism would go with what has worked before (stimulus funding). A radical suggestion would be to cut spending. Boehner isn't a conservative. He's a radical.

Posted by: Joel on September 6, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I say bring it to the American people. Would you rather Rebuild America or Tax cuts for millionaires.

What is Boehner's proposal to improve our infrastructure.

Posted by: Maritza on September 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

This is really not a fight that Boehner should be taking on, given the economic performance of the Republicans under President Bush.

http://www.winningprogressive.org/?p=227

Posted by: Winning Progressive on September 6, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Uhm, "thinking"?

The Republican mind's response right now is "Barack Obama's recent move to ______ is a tragic mistake because it's _______ and if I said the opposite a year ago that's taking me out of context because the librul media garble glabal glok glak."

It's a political tactic: oppose everything. For political gain. Logic plays literally no part in it, and they don't pretend to themselves that it does.

Posted by: Timelagged on September 6, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I really wish I could understand the way John Boehner's mind works.

That's easy. The rationale is:

Just lie. Its easier. The Democrats will be so busy correcting the lies that they won't have time to go on offense. The press is so afraid of the right wing that it will not challenge blatant lies. And its so greedy that its willing to equivocate. Half of the electorate is so partisan, stupid, or racist, that it will believe anything we tell them. The religious right is so hungry for power that it will condone it or at least be silent about it.

Unfortunately, for us, its working. He excels at misleading.

Posted by: John Henry on September 6, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

"I really wish I could understand the way John Boehner's mind works."

I understand it perfectly - it's called winning!

If you have NO morals, NO values, and NO integrity (i.e. Republican), then there are no limits. Lying works - especially if you have Fox & co. to back up every lie.

Lindsay Graham was on today saying the estate tax will devastate small business - 100% lie. And why shouldn't he. It's a winning hand.

Posted by: Mark-NC on September 6, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

"I say bring it to the American people. Would you rather Rebuild America or Tax cuts for millionaire"

You know, you might not want to ask that question because the american people have a very odd way of protecting the millionaires at their own expense. I think it has something to do with americans burning infatuation with wealth.

Posted by: SaintZak on September 6, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Prediction: The Republican Presidential nominee in 2012 will campaign on massive infrastructure investment (along with more tax cuts, natch!) to get America moving again.
There's no ideology here but power.

Posted by: JMG on September 6, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously? You don't get this?

Wait, did you suddenly wake up this morning thinking that Boehner had an interest in taking serious policy positions, instead of merely advancing a political objective? You may need to see a doctor. Could be a stroke.

Maybe you could read that guy who was blogging yesterday about a bogus narrative becoming ubiquitous...who was that again?

Boehner's job is to make any Obama initiative look bad, on the way to taking credit for any good effects it will have in his own district. Yes, this is rank hypocrisy. So? Boehner's "thinking" is that Republicans need to win in November. Nuff said.

Come on, Steve. You know this. Pretending to be surprised isn't fooling anybody.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 6, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think infrastructure is a no lose policy, unless we want more bridges collapsing, more roads converted to gravel, more power cuts every time we have a storm because our electric grid is older and more useless than anyone will admit.In the meantime China is building modern airports, fast rail and roads of the future as well as solar panels.In America corporate profits are more important than investment.

Posted by: joan on September 6, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think this program is a great idea and one that even the older people can understand. They remember how FDR started the public works programs in the 30s and 40s to put people to work. A number of people have asked me why we haven't done this with our current crisis. This is also great because Republicans will have to fight off accusations that they don't want to put people back to work. It can be a rallying cry toward the election.

Posted by: pol on September 6, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

"we can't spend our way to prosperity"?
Then how?

Oh, yeah--by giving money to those guys and letting them spend it.
See, they're magical rich people and whatever they do will save us.

They scream about deficits and turn around and make stimulus arguments for the wealthy.

And the teevee people nod sagely.

Posted by: pbg on September 6, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Benen: you continually make the mistake of attributing good faith to Republicans. Please knock it off. While I have no doubt plenty of GOP officials really are dim-witted, in general, especially when we're discussing top dogs, the safe assumption is that it's not a matter of lack of insight or intelligence, rather it's that they don't care how much the country is harmed by their positions as long as the words translate into votes.

Boehner, unlike, say, Mike Pence or that Cantor fellow, doesn't strike me as especially dull. He just utters the talking points that his consultants (remember Bruno from the West Wing?) tell him help to maximize GOP vote share.

Sheesh!

Posted by: Jasper on September 6, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

By investing in infrastructure -- roads, rail, airports -- it pumps money into the economy, spurs a variety of industries, and does work Americans need to have done anyway. Infrastructure spending not only hires people to do the work, it helps with manufacturing, materials, and transport, and once the projects are done, the rebuilt and improved transportation networks help improve commerce.

Are you sure? Because Obama told me that government can't create jobs.

The danger of a two-party system is that both parties will become repositories of misinformation.

Posted by: square1 on September 6, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

First off, I agree with everyone on one point;
-Stop being surprised at the pathological lying of republicans

Second, you defined the issue yourself. You wrote, "It's knee-jerk conservatism," Isn't that what "conservatism" perhaps more appropriately called "republicanism" is, by definition, reflexive and thoughtless reaction to an event? Doesn't that describe most of the republican's positions on things for, oh, say the last twenty or thirty years?

The really sad part of this are the tens of millions of rubes out there who buy into this even though we have volumes of evidence of it failing when it's tried.

And I don't mean sad for the rubes. They get what they deserve (and probably less) it's the rest of the us that have to live in a world guided by their leaders lack of principals.

I won't go into how I feel about the dems who enable this kind of rhetoric.

Posted by: ice weasel on September 6, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Give the guy a break. He's saying what he's paid to say.

Posted by: davidp on September 6, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Judging by the way Obama looked just now, the GOP are no match.

Posted by: impik on September 6, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I won't go into how I feel about the dems who enable this kind of rhetoric.

Why not? For me, the only really interesting political questions revolve around the dynamic between liberal Democrats and Third Way Democrats.

Republicans are boring. A bunch or corrupt narcissists fooling ignorant rubes by tailoring their moronic "arguments" for the reptilian brains of the masses? This may surprise Steve Benen on daily basis-- in Groundhog Day-like fashion -- but to me, it is as boring as it is predictable.

What I do find interesting are the questions of how a minority of elitist Third-Way Democrats hijacked the party, what can be done to reverse the dynamic, and the likelihood of such a reversal occurring.

Posted by: square1 on September 6, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, what do you expect? Boehner is as dumb as the day is long. He's a complete post turtle.

I was happy to see Obama call him out by name today - let's make the election a referendum on the orange freak.


Posted by: fourlegsgood on September 6, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

That is the GOP gameplan in a nutshell: Unemployment is still at 9% Stimulus didn't work. Government spending never creates jobs. A solution is available -- give tax revenues to investors and small businesses. They will put it into the economy to create jobs. But ideologically rigid leftists won't do it because it will mean not spending money on unions and minorities who don't deserve it.

None of this may be connected to reality in the slightest or make any real economic sense. But that does not matter. Republicans think it is a winning "story" and they are sticking with it, no matter what. And Fox lets them do it. Simple as that.

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 6, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Americans flock to the polls to defend the rights of millionaires because too many of them still believe that "American dream" stuff where their own lives will change like that Amway guy who supposedly went from collecting beer bottles for return to collecting Rolls-Royces. The path of their lives as a schematic will go into a black square with "a miracle happens here" written on it, and it will be followed by an "equals" sign and the word "rich".

The media doesn't like Obama; his efforts are consistently labeled "tentative" and "indecisive" while Republican foolishness is bold and aggressive. It's fairly easy to be bold and aggressive when you don't have to explain how you're going to Make America Great Again; it's just understood that it's going to happen somehow. The media is OK with that, so after the Republicans sweep back into power, Americans won't know how America is really doing because of the glowing narrative of how great things are now that Republicans are running things again. Many Americans may never know. You'll just be told that everything's great, and the national debt is so big because Obama was a crazy spender.

People stupid enough to believe that deserve that kind of leadership. You had your chance, and you blew it.

Posted by: Mark on September 6, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

"The White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed 'stimulus' spending," Boehner said in a prepared statement.

-Earlier (December, 1944) Boner said, in a prepared statement, "The White House has chosen to double-down the number of troops sent into the failed Ardennes Offensive."

Citing losses approaching 10%-89,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed, in the President's so-called "Battle of the Bulge"- Boner said that "the President's stubborn continuation of this course will only result in more losses. It is time to replace the generals who designed this program, perhaps even the Commander in Chief himself."

Posted by: DAY on September 6, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Stimulus spending didn't fail. We got a good bump in employment this spring. But we didn't get enough stimulus to actually start the engine, just enough to turn it over and sputter for a few months.
Even $50B is not enough to restart it - we need 10 to 20 times that much, maybe more.

Repubs blocked further stimulus spending last year knowing it would leave Obama looking foolish right about now.

Posted by: dustbunny44 on September 6, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

I have never been wrong predicting that conservatives hate this country and its citizens and will always choose any policy to make us poorer.

Posted by: PunditusMaximus on September 6, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

it's not only knee jerk conservatism, it's also knee jerk jerkism.

Posted by: mdh on September 6, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Rebuild america vs tax cuts for millionaires is a false choice. Individuals, using their own money, can and do build america. To think government is the only entity that can build america is just false thinking.

When a conservative says 'don't raise taxes' he doesn't mean 'spend money and don't pay for it (by raising taxes)'. He means 'don't spend money and you won't have to raise taxes.'

A left hears 'don't spend money and you won't have to raise taxes' and thinks no building of america will occur. It is because a lefty has the false notion that nothing gets done without the state being involved.

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Maritza: "What is Boehner's proposal to improve our infrastructure."

Didn't we already have a zillion dollar stimulus with the purpose of rebuilding infrastructure? American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, jeffrey, for that moment of childish levity. Run along, now. Grown-ups are speaking.

Posted by: Joel on September 6, 2010 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

well, if bloody Ohio does not want the jobs or the infrastructure Southern Arizona does. God knows our roads are crumbling, our electricity goes out when there is a strong wind, and construction unemployment is 20%. Even the vaulted I-10 is in poor condition.

The tracks on the railroads are so poor, trains running through our state have go slower than those in places with good trains.

Also, if you listen to our governor we are filled with illegal aliens who committ crimes and kidnap respected citizens.

So if Ohio wants to become the North Korea of Americs, dark because they have no electric infrastructure, poor because nobody can get there due to crumbling roads, LET them.

We want federal money, we need federal money. Any building in Southern Arizona stays in Southern Arizona.

Meanwhile,

Boycott the Wall Street Journal. It's dated and biased.

Let

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on September 6, 2010 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Joel was apparently unable to address my argument so he attacked me personally.

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Joel is still unable to address my argument. Does anyone else want to have a go?

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, little jeffrey. You're confused. Paraphrasing tired GOP bafflegab is not an "argument." It is just trolling.

OK, you've proved you're out of your depth here, jeffy. Run along. Adults are talking here.

Posted by: Joel on September 6, 2010 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

He doesn't have a mind.

Posted by: mimi on September 6, 2010 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's very simple. If Repig politicians insist that stimulus/public works projects create no jobs, their state can opt out of getting any of these projects.

The White House pulled this on Arizona after McStain and Kyl bitched about the uselessness of the stimulus and they sputtered outrage and shut up - for a while.

Posted by: Mike G on September 6, 2010 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

When the smoke of this article clears we are left with the question of what is the most cost effective way to build infrastructure. On the one hand the government could tax and spend. On the other hand private individuals could use their own money to build it. Which is better?

Joel, this is a real question.

In my personal experience, the government tax and spend route costs twice as much. I build, own and operate apartments with private financing. My current project includes 20% of units for very-low income households. Each unit costs me about $200k to build. A low income unit earns rent which is sufficient to service only about $100k in debt. At the end of the day a low-income unit ends up costing me $100k from my own pocket.

Across town there is another project being built by a not-for-profit developer. It is costing $385k per unit which is financed by an amalgam of public sources: fed, state, town, redevelopment, tax credits, etc.

My units are better: they are larger, have garages, storage rooms, and are in a better part of town.

There is absolutely no good reason why the government should pay $385k per unit to build those units when they should cost $200k. In fact, if you look at all single family home sales in Town over the last 6 months, the average price was $322k. The government would've made better use of their money (ahem, money they took from taxpayers) if they had just bought used houses on the open market and converted them to low-income housing. They would've gotten garages and yards to boot.

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

When a conservative says 'don't raise taxes' he doesn't mean 'spend money and don't pay for it (by raising taxes)'. He means 'don't spend money and you won't have to raise taxes.'

Let me guess, you're either eight years old or you've been in a coma for the last 30 years.

When a conservative says 'don't raise taxes' he means 'borrow money from China and spend it on Republican Big Government projects like the domestic surveillance-police-drug war-prison Security State, or trillion-dollar invading countries that didn't attack us because a juvenile arrogant dumbshit Repub president has a pissy grudge against their leader' and and 'cutting taxes will magically raise more revenue'.

Posted by: Kyle on September 6, 2010 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Mike G: "It's very simple. If Repig politicians insist that stimulus/public works projects create no jobs, their state can opt out of getting any of these projects."

But can they opt out of both ends of the bargain? Arz keeps it's share of the related taxes and gets no share of the related projects. The answer is no. The feds won't allow it. And Mike tries to hold it up as a valid example.

"I'll take your money and you can have nothing in return or you can have this cookie. Which is it? You choose."

"I don't want a cookie. I want my money."

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Which is better?"

It depends, jeffy. Do you believe apartments are the only form of infrastructure there is? Ever heard of bridges, highways, airports, dams? Many of these cost infinitely more than the private sector--the private sector wasn't building them, and would never have built them.

Your false dichotomies and solipsistic arguments are typical of the faux libertarian right. They are boring and irrelevant.

Posted by: Joel on September 6, 2010 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

I do not believe that apartments are the only form of infrastructure.

I build the roads, bridges, sewers, storm drains, gas and electrical infrastructure in my project. I improve those same infrastructure items outside of my project to the extent that they need upgrading to serve my project. Finally, I pay something on the order of $40,000 per unit to the local jurisdiction to finance schools, parks, fire improvements, sewer treatment facilities, etc.

You seem anxious to dismiss private and local construction spending. But federal spending on construction is only about 4% of all construction spending. I think you are getting excited about a very small piece of the pie.

Posted by: jeffrey meyer on September 6, 2010 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

The 9/11 attacks were a MAJOR infrastructure failure on the part of the Republicans and the Bush/Cheney administration, an infrastructure failure that caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens.

The ENRON disaster was another MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

The Iraq War was another MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

The Hurricane Katrina tragedy was another MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

The near collapse of world financial markets in 2008 was another MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

The outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson was another MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

Letting Osama bin Laden escape capture at Tora Bora while planning for diverting resources from Afghanistan to prepare for starting war in Iraq was another MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

Using torture against and denying habeas corpus to detainees was a MAJOR infrastructure failure caused by Republicans.

Democrats running for political office in November could have had PLENTY of "talking points" to use against the Republicans if only the Obama administration upon entering the White House in early 2001 had immediately launched full-scale investigations into the infrastructure failures caused by the Republicans over the past eight years.

President Obama and his advisers chose not to. They had a chance to call into question the integrity and credibility of all the culture of corruption Republicans, but let the opportunity pass. Now the Obama-crats (versus true-blue liberal Democrats) are wondering why the upcoming elections in November aren't projected to be a cakewalk for Democratic Party candidates? Duuuuh.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 6, 2010 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, is there any evidence that your efforts to concern-troll Republicans into not running their most effective, damaging campaigns is paying off, or is likely to?

Because the more you claim to be unable to understand people like John Boehner, the less it sounds like you understand politics. Boehner and Republicans are trying to increase their political power. If they were to work with Obama, that would not increase their political power. If they were to acknowledge Democratic policies are superior, that would not increase their political power. If they were to acknowledge that government can do much of anything competently, that would not increase their political power.

I seriously hope you're not actually as clueless about why Republicans attack Democrats as your concern-trolling makes you sound.

On the other hand, you'd be in great company if you were; our president and most of our Democratic party leaders are just as optimistic that Republicans will help get Democratic policies enacted.

Posted by: Chris on September 6, 2010 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think Boehner's response is exactly what Obama's people where hoping for. The Republicans are on the wrong side of this politically. Every Republican candidate for Congress and the Senate must be forced to take a stand on this before the election. The choice is to alienate independents or alienate the base.

We need more of this.

Posted by: david1234 on September 6, 2010 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Repubs faced a much more toxic environment in 2006 than the Dems do now, and yet the Dems only had a net gain of about thirty seats I believe. The Repubs will probably need around 40 to flip the house. In addition almost every poll I've seen has Dems + Repubs just about tied on a generic ballot. Pollster.com and other sites if I'm not mistaken average in Tracking Polls which really shouldn't be. If you look at just regular polls, almost all have about a dead heat, which of course could, but probably wouldn't equal a 40 seat gain for one side.

I

Posted by: ESM on September 6, 2010 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

But federal spending on construction is only about 4% of all construction spending. I think you are getting excited about a very small piece of the pie.

While direct federal spending is only 4%, state and local governments account for another 33% of construction spending.

In case you haven’t noticed, state and local budgets are in pretty bad shape. Getting the feds to increase the size of their slice of the construction pie might help states use their money to shore up other needs; maybe cops and firemen to protect those beautiful subdivisions you’re building, Jeffrey, or maintaining school budgets, so that the buyers of the wonderful units you’re selling don’t have to give their kids toilet paper to take to school.

Posted by: Dwight on September 6, 2010 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's about 140 bucks a person spread over 6 years. Yawn

Posted by: btenney on September 6, 2010 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

If you think Boehner's knowledge is "limited" ask any of your Repub friends:
1. Who is the Republican you would like to vote for and why?
2. What have the Repubs done to deserve your vote?
3. What do they plan to do to benefit you?
4. Why aren't the Dems a better choice?

If you truly want to identify "limited" thinking-just ask.

Posted by: fillphil on September 6, 2010 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

We can only hope and pray that the GOP opposes infrastructure spending. That would be a gift from heaven.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 7, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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