Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 19, 2010

IT'S ABOUT FAR MORE THAN HYPOCRISY.... If it were up to me, reports like these would have been near the top of the Democratic Party's talking points for the last year.

Rep. Pete Sessions, the firebrand conservative from Texas, has relentlessly assailed the Democratic stimulus efforts as a package of wasteful "trillion-dollar spending sprees" that was "more about stimulating the government and rewarding political allies than growing the economy and creating jobs."

But that didn't stop the Republican lawmaker from seeking stimulus money behind the scenes for the Dallas suburb of Carrollton after the GOP campaign against the 2009 stimulus law quieted down.

Sessions wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in February urging him to give "full and fair consideration" to the affluent city's request for $81 million for a rail project, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. His letter suggested that the project would create jobs, undercutting his public arguments against the stimulus.

Obviously, this isn't just about Sessions. Literally the same exact conservative lawmakers who voted against the stimulus, and continue to rail against it, also urged the administration to spend stimulus money in their states and districts. And we're not just talking about random backbenchers -- we're talking about high-profile Republicans, including several members of the GOP leadership in both chambers.

The key angle to this isn't the hypocrisy, though that's certainly amusing. The point to remember here is what this tells us about the Republicans' economic agenda and the coherence of these members' ideologies.

GOP lawmakers, all of whom rejected and tried to kill the Recovery Act, continue to tell the media and Tea Party zealots that government spending is a disaster. The Republican line is (a) stimulus spending didn't work; and (b) stimulus spending is literally incapable of working.

But when several dozen congressional Republicans plead for additional government spending -- in order to help the economy -- the whole argument falls apart.

I'm well aware of the standard Republican reply to all of this -- the funds were going to be spent anyway, so these members figured they might as well seek some resources for their own constituents.

But that's not only wrong; it misses the point. The correspondence these Republicans sent to the Obama administration makes the entire GOP talking point look demonstrably ridiculous precisely because they explicitly argue that the requested stimulus funds would create jobs.

In other words, Republicans have argued that the Recovery Act can't create jobs, won't create jobs, hasn't created jobs, will create jobs, and has created jobs -- all at the same time.

If these GOP officials believed their own rhetoric, this would be impossible, suggesting they couldn't possibly mean what they say. Indeed, we have the written requests for stimulus funds to prove that even Republicans think the stimulus is good policy.

Here's a letter from Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) saying that government spending in his district would "create jobs." And here's a letter from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) saying that government spending in his district would "create jobs." And here's a letter from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that government spending in his state would "create jobs." And here's a letter from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) saying that government spending in his state would help with "job creation." And here's a letter from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) saying that government spending in his district would help "put people back to work."

Despite the deep partisan divides, we're all Keynesians now.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

I don't think this is all that mysterious, and I don't think it's hypocritical. Claiming stimulus money for these guys is really just tax cuts by another name: they're getting *their* money back.

The common denominator of all Republican politics is to keep tax dollars from going to "other" people (poor, minorities, the unemployed, the rentier classes, the working class, etc.).

Posted by: Jordan on October 19, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

The purest hypocrisy, on the one hand, and a flair for the Big Lie on the other. I am hoping people will not be their dupes.

Posted by: jjm on October 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think this is all that mysterious, and I don't think it's hypocritical. Claiming stimulus money for these guys is really just tax cuts by another name: they're getting *their* money back.

The common denominator of all Republican politics is to keep tax dollars from going to "other" people (poor, minorities, the unemployed, the rentier classes, the working class, etc.).

The optics are bad from a national standpoint, but their constituents (especially corporate constituents) understand perfectly well how to follow the money here.

Posted by: Jordan on October 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

The stimulus might have been more effective if it didn't contain so many tax cuts, which most people apparently fail to realize they received anyway.

Posted by: qwerty on October 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

If it were up to me, reports like these would have been near the top of the Democratic Party's talking points for the last year.

I can see why you'd think that, what with the "TEA party" movement driving the discourse and political winds. You know though, TEA partiers just don't care. They're REPUBLICANS. Not libertarians. Not deficit hawks. Not anything but 8-year-long Bush supporting dyed in the wool REPUBLICANS. One need look no further than here in Missouri to see what I'm talking about. Roy Blunt of the Good Ol' Boy party has been easily leading his democratic opponent despite Blunt's being the poster child for TARP.

Posted by: Oh my on October 19, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the money quote, from Pete Sessions:

"What I have not done is allow my strong, principled objection to the bill to prevent me from asking federal agencies for their full consideration of critical infrastructure and competitive grant projects for North Texas when asked to do so by my constituents."

In much the same way, David Vitter did not allow his strong principled opposition to prostitution to prevent him from screwing hookers.

Posted by: Rob M on October 19, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Jordan, it *is* hypocritical, or LYING, if you will, when Rs shout from the rooftops that the stimulus created NO NEW JOBS but know darned well better.

And that's only one subject where they know better, but lie on camera, or on the floor of their chamber, just to continue the "party of no" mantra.

These letters are a "pants on fire" moment.

Posted by: Hannah on October 19, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

If it were up to me, reports like these would have been near the top of the Democratic Party's talking points for the last year.

Unfortunately its not up to you. Its up to a Democratic party utterly incapable of putting together a strong party wide narrative to compete with Republicans. When a sizable number of Democratic congressional canidates echo Republican talking points verbatim it kind of undercuts any effort to go on the offensive.


Posted by: thorin-1 on October 19, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

WHERE ARE THE DEMOCRATS ON THIS? OBAMA??? WHERE IS HE???

Why doesn't he 'visit' the ribbon cutting at say, Eric Cantor's district as he brags about the new 'train station' he got....

Why isn't Obama coming out with his budget director at his side and simply calling these hypocrites OUT!
Hell, he's got Fox News in the front seat. Make that guy ask about it..... hmmm. Mr Fox News Correspondent, can you ask me about why YOUR congressman is asking us for this money????????!

Posted by: Mike Reilly on October 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

THE WHITE BOARD RETURNS.... and IT'S ABOUT FAR MORE THAN HYPOCRISY.... just beg for the questions to be asked...

If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound?

If a democrat makes valid points about political reality and the corporate media repeats rethug talking points instead of covering the democrat, did the democrat really make a sound?

Posted by: SadOldVet on October 19, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hannah, I agree it is hypocritical, from a national perspective. Their rhetoric is all about how bad public spending is for the country as a whole, then they turn around and grab spending for their own states. That's what I meant by "bad optics": their rhetoric doesn't match their actions. They should be called on it; sorry if I wasn't clear.

But my point was more specific. While calling them on their rhetoric might make them look like ridiculous lying a-holes to most of the country, their actual *constituents* know these guys are doing exactly what they were sent to Washington to do. Which is to bring the tax dollars home.

That's why calling out their hypocrisy won't hurt their election chances in their own districts. Their wealthy backers know where the money's going.

Posted by: Jordan on October 19, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

The stimulus package did work. It was far too small, and most of it was swallowed up by state budgets, but unemployment went from something like 9.6% to 9.4% nationally. Now the money's running out and unemployment is rising once more.

I laugh, ruefully, at neoliberals who complain that Republicans are running on stimulus projects they opposed. (That's obviously hypocritical.) Where are the Democrats running on the stimulus projects they supported? Where are the Democrats running on the need for far larger stimulus projects?

Posted by: Tom Allen on October 19, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Movement conservatives and hardcore Republicans just don't care about hypocrisy, ignorance or flat-out lies as presented by Republican candidates and officeholders.

That they're on the right team is all that matters, and the fact that they recite the chartechism of faith-based conservatism -- regardless of their actions or the disconnect between that chatechism and objective reality -- shows they're on the right team.

Posted by: Gregory on October 19, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a little misleading to call Carrollton affluent. Living in Dallas, I know that Carrollton is far from what people might think of when they hear, "affluent Dallas suburb."

Roads and traffic there are a mess - probably could use some light rail. But that's neither here nor there.

Posted by: ifpt999 on October 19, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my I am going to defend Sessions. I will explain how Krugman would have defended that claim if it had been made any time between 1945 and 2007. Increased government spending usually has two effects -- a direct positive effect on demand and an indirect effect via interest rates. In partricular, if the Fed targets unemployment at the rate it considers non inflation accelerating, then employment is not increased by government spending. The increased government spending crowds out investment (including house building which is counted as investment in the national income and product accounts). This is very definitely a Keynesian argument.

However, local employment is increased by local government spending. Interest rates increase nation wide and crowd out investment nation wide.

Krugman has not abandoned the view implicitly states by Sessions. The only issue is that interest rates controlled by the Fed are effectively zero -- that is we are in a liquidity trap. Aside from that, the claim that spending helps locally and has no effect nationally (so it hurts somewhere else) makes perfect sense.

A separate issue is that Sessions lied with the claim "Trillion dollar spending SpreeS." First there was only one huge stimulus bill. Second it was about 40% tax cuts. Third most of the rest was, in one way or another, aid to states (and school districts) which diminished but didn't completely prevent spending reduction due to reduced revenue and limited authority to borrow.

The ARRA added about 150 billion to government consumption. There have also been increased transfers (food stamps in ARRA unemployment insurance extended aid to small businesses) but, even if you count all outlays (and not just government consumption) as spending the total sum so far is far below a trillion, let alone plural trillions.

He's lying.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on October 19, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry (not really), but it's nothing but partisan hypocrisy.
By admitting that spending Federal dollars in their districts/states DOES create jobs, they have destroyed the only support for their objection the stimulus.
Had they simply been on record as being against deficit spending and THEN lobbied for their districts/states once the legislation had passed, they would have bee seen as "wise" representatives, determined to ensure that their constituents benefit, even if they opposed the stimulus.
As to the Republicans' ability simultaneously oppose and support a policy so shamelessly; since when has logic been a requirement for a Republican politician?

Posted by: Doug on October 19, 2010 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly