Political Animal


May 27, 2011 8:35 AM When a party declares intellectual bankruptcy

By Steve Benen

The good news is, House Republicans unveiled a plan yesterday that’s intended to create jobs. The bad news is, the plan can charitably be described as a bad joke.

As we discussed yesterday, the jobs agenda, such as it is, is practically a conservative cliche: the GOP wants massive tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, more coastal oil drilling, and huge cuts to public investment. Republicans are confident this will work wonders, just as they were equally confident about the identical agenda in the last decade, and the decade before that, and the decade before that.

Indeed, the most glaring problem with the GOP jobs agenda is that it won’t work, but nearly as painful is the realization that it’s already been tried, over and over again, to no avail. They either don’t care or can’t understand the famous axiom: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The agenda is the agenda: tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, cut public investments. Good times and bad, deficit or surplus, war or peace, it just doesn’t matter.

It’s as if someone bought an iPod, uploaded one song, and hit “shuffle.”

I especially liked Paul Krugman’s take on this.

[T]he new “jobs plan” illustrates, once again, the foolishness of believing that we can reach any real bipartisan agreement on economic policy. The GOP stopped thinking a long time ago; all it knows how to do is parrot Reaganite rhetoric over and over. And there’s so little there there that the document — look at it! — has to rely on extra-large type and lots of pointless pictures to bulk it out even to 10 pages.

That last part isn’t a joke, by the way. Here’s the pdf version of the new Republican “plan.” Notice that the font size is enormous, as are the pictures that dominate every page.

Ezra Klein explained yesterday, “Academic books pack about 600 words to a page. Normal books clock in around 400. Large-print books — you know, the ones for kids or the visually impaired — fit about 250. The House GOP’s jobs plan, however, gets about 200 words to a page. The typeface is fit for giants, and the document’s 10 pages are mostly taken up by pictures. It looks like the staffer in charge forgot the assignment was due on Thursday rather than Friday, and so cranked the font up to 24 and began dumping clip art to pad out the plan.”

Just for fun, I went and did a word count of the entire “plan.” The total: 2,053 words. If that sounds like a lot, it isn’t. This blog post that you’re reading now, for example, put together over the course of about 15 minutes, is about 550 words. The House Republican leadership put together a 10-page document ostensibly explaining how the GOP intends to address the unemployment crisis, and they could barely put together 2,000 words.

And why is that? Because the Republican Party is intellectually bankrupt. It has no new ideas, no constructive solutions, no creativity, no depth of thought, no recollection of how and why this same foolish agenda didn’t work before. The GOP just has warmed-over nonsense, to be brought out year after year, with the hopes that the public has short enough memories that we won’t notice or mind.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • jTh on May 27, 2011 8:41 AM:

    They have jumped the shark.

  • FRP on May 27, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Just this once , without meaning to be unduly flattering , I would like to have Eric Cantor or someone , or thing , as serious as he , it , to respond amiably to a straightforward posit . The Republican Party , has it reached intellectual bankruptcy ?
    Thank you .

  • T2 on May 27, 2011 8:49 AM:

    in a nice change of pace, I've already seen and heard several Media outlets point out that this "new jobs plan" is simply warmed over GOP talking points, not an actual, real Plan. And further, these stories point out the obvious: the unfurling of these tired points are really more to distract from the GOP Medicare fiasco than any kind of serious attempt to address the unemployment problem.
    I guess to be "fair and balanced" the Media might also point out that the Dems, so far, have no jobs plan either (unless I've missed it somehow).

  • Alli on May 27, 2011 8:52 AM:

    America's Job Creators? the title alone shows you who they are most committed to - corporations.

    Empowering Families, Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs?

    bull. by "Families" they mean the Kochs, to them GE is a small business and entrepreneurs? right back to the Kochs.

  • SteveT on May 27, 2011 8:53 AM:

    . . . the GOP wants massive tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, more coastal oil drilling, and huge cuts to public investment.

    This part will create jobs:

    - a small jump in the funeral industry to take care the workers who are killed on the platforms

    - a big spike as temporary workers are hired to clean up the oil spill

    - another spike as more health care workers are hired to take care of the former cleanup workers who are permanently disabled by exposure to toxic chemicals

    Wash. Rinse. Repeat

  • berttheclock on May 27, 2011 8:53 AM:

    David Horsey, the outstanding liberal political cartoonist for the Seattle P-I has a cartoon up, this AM, depicting a very stern CEO saying:

    "American corporations are creating thousands of jobs.

    Of course, they are in China and India, but, still......"

  • berttheclock on May 27, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Recently, the erudite Ron Byers, possibly, made a small error in using a k, instead of a h, at the end of the word Koch. Amazing, but, that k is far more apt for them than any h.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on May 27, 2011 8:59 AM:

    This job creation plan goes overboard.

    Eliminating social spending is budget balancing and good, but not jobs creating.

    Drill, baby, drill is good, but not a major contributor to jobs creation.

    I've been telling you for ages that all we need for a jobs creation bill is:

    - eliminate taxes on those making more than $5 million a year
    - eliminate all regulations

    The rest of this plan is not relevant to job creation.

  • KurtRex1453 on May 27, 2011 9:02 AM:

    Standing by and doing nothing is the coward's way out of a crisis. It is the easiest thing in the world the stand by cut budgets and do nothing while people get sick, lose their houses, and remain unemployed. Empathy is not a substitute for action. It is harder and more courageous to heal the sick, save housing, and hire the willing. Solving problems is always more difficult than standing by and saying "someone else will do it."

  • Grumpy on May 27, 2011 9:05 AM:

    This blog post that youíre reading now, for example, put together over the course of about 15 minutes, is about 550 words.

    Well, yeah, but you're a machine.

  • Bernard Gilroy on May 27, 2011 9:08 AM:

    My favorite part is

    Maximize Domestic Energy Production to Ensure An Energy Policy for the Twenty-First Century

    Note that they aren't ensuring energy security or energy independence. They're just ensuring the existence of an energy policy. It would be OK if that were a bad policy, so long as it exists. :)

    On the other hand, in recent years, the Republicans have been notably averse to enunciating any policy whatsoever. So a commitment to having one -- though they don't know what it is and wouldn't tell us anyway -- could be seen as progress.

    Also, ob complaint about CAPTCHA: It still stinks.

  • hells littlest angel on May 27, 2011 9:11 AM:

    They should have had the plan illustrated by Steve Ditko. There's a guy with crossover appeal to all kinds of nut-jobs. In fact, Herman Cain should have him as a running mate.

  • Ron Byers on May 27, 2011 9:16 AM:

    I have blogged full time so I know what it takes to put out a post. My hat is off to Benen. Five hundred fifty words in 15 minutes and the damn post hangs together. Steve you are amazing.

    I misspelled "Koch" by using a "k" at the end instead of an "h." That sure puts the "F" in "Freudian."

  • berttheclock on May 27, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Steve Ditko?

    Interesting that such a disciple of Ayn Rand's Objectivism could have reaped so much from his cartoon studies under the very Socialistic GI Bill.

  • neil b on May 27, 2011 9:25 AM:

    Yeah, and the conservative/villager obsession with debt is a factor in pushing such rubbish. For an ironic take, see

  • Joan on May 27, 2011 9:26 AM:

    I hear former governors eg Pawlenty knocking the stimulus and saying it did not create jobs, it was my understanding that the governor's of each state were responsible for the handling of the stimulus for job creation. I have also heard that Pawlenty used stimulus money for his regular state expenditures.

  • skeptonomist on May 27, 2011 9:33 AM:

    Republican policies are not intellectually bankrupt nor have they been unsuccessful. The Republican party has certain objectives, especially maximizing the income of the people who contribute to the campaigns of politicians and reducing labor costs. They have been very successful at achieving these objectives, although there is always more to be done. Why should they change and advocate policies which are counter to their real objectives? Republicans are not actually strongly in favor of high unemployment (although it does tend to reduce wage costs), but since banks and corporations and the stock market are doing very well now there is no urgency in expanding the economy. Of course the deficit is not of real concern to Republicans, it's just an excuse for cutting parts of government which do not put money in the pockets of the big players.

    The problem is not that politicians are stupid and lack imagination, it is that the media (including liberal bloggers) are not facing up to the fact that there is an ongoing class conflict, and rich people are winning. Why accept the dishonest framing of the conflict by the rightist class warriors as a debate between ideologies which are supposedly intended to benefit the nation as a whole?

    Liberal bloggers also have a bad habit of characterizing as stupid those Democratic politicians who go along with big-money interests, rather than actually trying to implement the will of the people. Those politicians probably have a more accurate idea of what actually influences votes in most elections (money) than bloggers. It may be that Republicans have miscalculated about the influence of the Tea Party and will suffer in the 2012 election, but we can also expect a much greater influence of money in that election.

  • Another Steve on May 27, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Yeah, sure the big type, inane pictures and lack of content is the inevitable result of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy that's been the Republican norm for the last decade, but it's also the result of a party in which the majority of its base, and a significant minority of its office holders, move their lips when they read.

  • Lisbeth Echeandia on May 27, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Alternatively it could be that the problems we face just aren't really that big and awful and 2,000 words is just plenty. And really who has time to read more than that. They've written it. Printed it. Now they will try to sell it. And the brilliance will shine through because of the simplicity. Seems not so much that the Republicans are intellectually and morally bankrupt, but rather that they think America in general is and will be pleased with the simple and fast solution offered.

  • Redshift on May 27, 2011 9:54 AM:

    "Tax cuts are the answer. What was the question?"

    This has been the GOP going back to Reagan. I recall reading an op-ed way back when that, in response to deficits resulting from tax cuts and increased military spending, insisted the only solution was tax cuts and increased military spending. (It didn't acknowledge the actual cause of the deficits, but everyone else did.)

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on May 27, 2011 10:07 AM:

    I'm sure the GOP plan is unspeakably stupid -- the parts i skimmed were -- but i don't think word count is a particularly good indicator of academic seriousness.

  • Texas Aggie on May 27, 2011 10:14 AM:

    After reading the .pdf in question, it occurred to me that the person who wrote the headlines for each page (job creation and variants) and the person who wrote the copy are not the same and have no idea what the other has written. In practically every case, the proposals in large type are contradictory to the headlines in gigantic type.

    No one in power at the Washington Monthly seems to be paying attention to the comments on captcha. I wish they would.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on May 27, 2011 10:19 AM:

    If I had personally taken 1 hour and created The House Republican Plan for America's Job Creators, I would find it quite humorous.

    As it is, it is just a continuation of the scratched record which keeps repeating only the wealthy create jobs and we need to cut their taxes.

    While I know a number of wealthy republicans who actually believe this, it requires denying 30+ years of economic history.

    Not humorous.

  • kevo on May 27, 2011 10:21 AM:

    David Stockwell needs to be every Sunday morning Gasbag's guest for the next two months (move over John McCain)!

    Stockwell's initial vision of trickle down has been given holy grail status by a party ossified around the notion our nation needs to transfer wealth upward so all will prosper as the wealthy sprinkle their good fortune upon all the lesser of us!

    Stockwell's thesis has been tested time and again, and the ballyhooed trickle down theory of economics, in practice (1980-1992 and 2000-2009 {the economic meltdown year}), has cause economic and financial damage upon us as a people and a nation!

    Reaganomics is actually based on the "tinkle on" theory!

    And that is why these Republicans, today, got nothing!

    (We've decided we're tired of being pissed on; as all this time Republicans have been telling us it's just raining!) -Kevo

  • Gandalf on May 27, 2011 10:22 AM:

    The thing sort of puts me inmind of a pwer point presentation that big companies put on yo get their employees to sell shit sandwiches to the public an dfeel good about it.


  • Rick B on May 27, 2011 10:39 AM:

    I really think that declaring that the Republican Party is bankrupt severely understates the case. The Republican Party simply no longer exists as an independent political institution.

    Instead it's people have been replaced by representatives - agents - of a loose but very well-financed group that wants to take control of American politics and turn this nation into a corporate aristocracy.

    The politicians have no power left to determine the agenda they are fighting to achieve. That function belongs to their wealthy masters. Those masters are described in Kim Phillips-Fein's book Invisible Hands: The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal. Coors, The Walton Family, Eric Prince, and top executives in the Wall Street Banks and the big businesses are largely all in this together. The Republican politicians you are describing as "bankrupt" are the agents of these people and they are given very little leeway to make judgements on their own.

    Don't believe it? Who would make such a really big deal over the inheritance tax?

  • jjm on May 27, 2011 10:41 AM:

    What Republicans have is not ideas but dogma.

    Because they can only think from the 'top down' they themselves follow the dogma as laid out by the Koch Brothers, the Fellowship/Family (of C Street infamy) etc. And they then impose that dogma over their followers and voters.

    Well, time's up on that.

    The dogma has gone stale and almost no one believes a word of it any more, except those at the top of the Republican hierarchy who remain loyal to that dogma.

    The rest of us are BORED TO DEATH with their passť, out-of-date and never very good anyway 'ideas'--and I don't mean only 'liberals'. Nothing they say ought to grab headlines because it is no more than yesterday's news...

  • AndThenThere'sThat on May 27, 2011 10:44 AM:

    Lisbeth Echeandia is right. Americans love them some short and fast solutions. So I'll make the GOP Plan even shorter-r, even if only barely.


    Problem: Not enough oil in all the Earth for the world's needs.

    GOP Solution: Because $90-120 per barrel isn't incentive enough, we propose giving oil companies $20 Billion. Maybe they can figure a way to pull oil from their ass.


    Problem: We Republicans spend like drunken sailors whenever we're in power.

    GOP Solution: Democrats need to cut all spending to $0 when they are in power. Except of course, for military spending, farm subsidies, and corporate handouts which must continue increasing at their annual rates of inflation.


    Problem: 30 years of transferring wealth upwards has decimated America's middle class.

    GOP Solution: Trust us. Continue transferring wealth upwards for another 30 years or so, and things will get better. We promise.

  • berttheclock on May 27, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Place the blame on Shrub - Didn't he mandate no RepuG plan should ever be longer than "My Pet Goat"?

  • Jon on May 27, 2011 11:01 AM:

    To be fair, really big type and lots of pictures are probably useful aids in communicating to their target audience -- perhaps even necessary. It might be a feature, not a bug.

  • Floyd Miller on May 27, 2011 11:04 AM:

    It's more like a sales brochure when it should have been either a proposal or, at least, a white paper. The "kiddie" format is perfect for the relative intelligence of the wingnut audience, though.

  • Vicente Fox on May 27, 2011 11:31 AM:

    ...with the hopes that the public has short enough memories that we wonít notice or mind.

    At least they are right about one thing.

  • Stephen Stralka on May 27, 2011 11:37 AM:

    I always think of that old Far Side cartoon that shows a woman looking at a manual of equine medicine. The remedy for everything is "Shoot." I think that's sort of what the Republican economic policy manual looks like, except the remedy for every conceivable condition is "Cut taxes and regulations."

  • bdop4 on May 27, 2011 11:47 AM:

    As usual, there is no causal connection between what is proposed and the creation of new jobs.

    For example, how does lowering taxes on a company's overseas profits incentivize them to hire more people at home? Anyone care to connect the dots?

  • John Weiss on May 27, 2011 11:49 AM:

    I read the PDF you so kindly posted.

    Is this a joke?

  • TCinLA on May 27, 2011 12:16 PM:

    Notice that the font size is enormous, as are the pictures that dominate every page.

    That's so it's understandable by the old and the illiterate - i.e., the GOP base.

  • A Conservative Teacher on May 27, 2011 2:10 PM:

    You do understand that bankruptcy means 'having nothing', which is different than 'I disagree with it.' I read this article about intellectual bankruptcy expecting to see a discussion of the fact that the Democrats in the Senate have not even bothered to submit a budget for over two years now, much less tackle important intellectual issues of the day, which is clear evidence of 'having nothing' to say on major issues. Instead I read an article about how you personally want to give away other people's property and how original that thought is.

  • DougN Ca on May 27, 2011 2:20 PM:

    The only thing that motivates the greedy wealthy to do anything is grow their own bottom lines or defend their own bank accounts. Now that they have fixed those problems they can resume pushing Grannie and others over the cliff.

    This suggests that the only way to help the unfortunate is with another financial panic.

    Get to it Wall Street!

  • Terry Ott on May 27, 2011 3:07 PM:

    I won't criticize (or praise) the GOP "plan" for job creation, just as I have never criticized (or praised) that of the Democrats.

    Experience shows, and my own experience as a business owner supports the notion, that government programs/initiatives/policies/strategies have virtually nothing to with the creation of jobs in the private sector.

    Why we waste so much time trying to find a connection baffles me. If the role of government were acted out (and financed) in an impartial and sensible way, employment will take care of itself as the economy expands and contracts (yes, contraction is part of it, too).

    The notion that a candidate for elected office would run a "job creation platform" is laughable and the notion that legislation can or will have a meaningful impact on Jobs is fraudulent. So many factors are in play, poorly understood by political figures and the general public, that the "jobs" connection to politics is tangential at best.

    What IS sure to create jobs is innovation and entrepreneurship. It's been many years since there has been an increase in jobs in any sector other than start-ups. Check out the data; it's well established. Now, if you can describe a political agenda that has a salutary effect on innovation and entrepreneurial behavior ... I'm all ears. But other than that, it's like Don Quixote to the rescue. Let's save Don's time and his horse's energy.

  • toowearyforoutrage on May 27, 2011 3:22 PM:

    Will the hardcopy be a pop-up book?

    It would help get their base energized.

    Maybe have Steve Doocy can produce a book on tape for those Tea Partiers that are literacy-challenged. Big money to be made there.


  • Al B on May 27, 2011 3:25 PM:

    The GOP has become the party of those who are not only foolishly ignorant, but are proud of being foolishly ignorant. From budgetary matters, to climate science, evolution, assault weapon regulation, legalized torture, educational standards and health care, it's stunning how completely the leaders of this once proud party have surrendered to the extremists. Once upon a time, the Democrats embraced the pseudo science of eugenics and their hero, William Jennings Bryan, was the angry prophet of Creationism--mostly so they could secure the votes of my native South. Now the Republicans are openly pandering to the worst impulses in our population. Sad.

  • Pope Bandar bin Turtle on May 27, 2011 3:55 PM:

    It is as if someone bought an iPod, uploaded one song, and hit shuffle.

    Brilliant & Funny, Funny, Funny!!

  • rt on May 27, 2011 6:48 PM:

    And why is that? Because the Republican Party is intellectually bankrupt.

    Lets not ignore a key detail here. The GOP loyal machinery (think tanks, PAC`s, FOX and party) got rid of its intellectuals and policy wonks intentionally. It sacrificed them at the altar of "message discipline". Thats why it fired all the actual economists at AEI and the actual libertarians at CATO. They had to make room for people who could be relied upon to regurgitate last centuries talking points instead of you know, discovering emerging issues, coming up with policy plans and deciding on a coherent course.

    The GOP loyalist establishment thinks that since lobbying outfits focus group their policy ideas that it can just have outsource its policy work to various disagreeing lobbies, call in Luntz to give it a quick language shine an pretend it has vision.

    If you do that you just end up with incoherent focus groupies, which is super annoying for those of us who are fooled time and time again into actually reading their powerpoint slide turned policy brief "plans".

    And since 90% of pundits lives inside an upper class bubble they feel fine watching politics as drama or elections as horse races. They dont even notice when they gloss over the policy bit.

    For example by now someone somewhere should have noticed that budget policies in the GOP are coordinated by Grover Norquist and... Someone ought to have noticed that Grover Norquist doesn`t actually care about the deficit. In fact he doesn`t even really care about taxes.

    What he cares about is bending the long term curve on government spending, since he sees anything the government does inherently limiting peoples freedom.

    He believes he cant limit popular governments powers directly, but he can cut of the funding that fuels government power. Over the long term, Norquist thinks, Deficits don't actually increase government spending. They just create a nice black hole of interest payments which are tax money that isn`t going to actually running the government.

    If deficits had made the government more powerful Norquist would have thrown a bigger hissyfit over the previous deficit spending. In fact the only reason someone would be okay with borrowing money to spend on tax breaks is if that someone wants interest payments.

    The bigger the deficit, the sooner Norquist can strangle the government in a bathtub.

    The bad thing is, that with the CAP, the blue dogs and the dem attempt at a k-street project the democrats are hoping to out-GOP the GOP.

  • Inez on May 27, 2011 10:35 PM:

    I have suggested that the GRAND OLD PARTY be changed to GET OUR PROFITS...................seems that the octupus(Koch brothers) has used the suckers on it's tentacle to get a strangle hold on laborand the middle class.