Political Animal


July 11, 2011 2:30 PM Quote of the Day

By Steve Benen

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may be struggling badly, but that certainly doesn’t interfere with his ability to make ridiculous remarks during press conferences. Consider this gem from this afternoon:

“Two of the biggest obstacles to job growth are out-of-control and entitlement spending and the current tax code. I think the fundamental questions are this: can you control spending without reforming entitlements? I think the answer is no. Do you need to raise taxes in order to get control of spending? I think the answer is no. If you want to see an increase in government revenues, let’s grow the economy and create jobs and broaden the tax base and lower rates.”

It’s not unusual for Republicans to push economic gibberish, hoping reporters and the public won’t know the difference, but Boehner’s assessment is just bizarre.

First, spending isn’t out of control. It’s not a matter of opinion; the claim is just demonstrably wrong.

Second, blaming “spending and entitlement spending” as the biggest obstacles to job growth is incoherent. It’s not only dumb because spending pumps money into the economy and creates jobs, but also because the notion that programs like Social Security and Medicare are interfering with the job market is mystifying.

Third, Boehner talking about increasing government revenues by growing the economy isn’t necessarily wrong — I’ve made a similar argument myself many times — but note that in the Speaker’s mind, the only way to “grow the economy and create jobs” is to cut taxes.

But that’s crazy. Bush’s tax cuts, which Boehner loved and supported, were a disaster and failed spectacularly to deliver on Republican promises on growth and jobs. Indeed, Bush’s tax cuts are, at the GOP’s behest, still in place and they’re still not working. Boehner’s new argument seems to be, “Well, maybe if we just lower rates even more, repeating the same mistake may lead to a different result.”

Worse, the underlying point of Boehner’s pitch is that the Tax Fairy exists, and that cutting taxes will lead to increased revenue — one of the most blisteringly dumb arguments in the Republicans’ quiver.

Why would anyone take this seriously?

In the larger context, it’s worth keeping in mind, Boehner’s under increasing pressure from his own party, which is none too pleased with his recent efforts to play a constructive role in the debt-reduction process. It’s possible, if not likely, that the Speaker is saying increasingly ridiculous things as a way to get back in his caucus’ good graces.

In other words, the poor guy is starting to crack. It’s not pretty.

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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  • ex-curm on July 11, 2011 2:40 PM:

    Obama said something nearly as ridiculous in his press conference re Medicare and Social Security. You should criticize that as well, and criticize the White House for not sticking up for the Dems who put the President into office.fhould datudi

  • Live Free or Die on July 11, 2011 2:40 PM:

    Nailed it! He looked like a hostage at the press conference. I know he is orange, but even he looked pale and run down.

  • T-Rex on July 11, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Nah, he's just parroting the same tired talking points that he knows the base wants to hear. It's an easy substitute for thinking.

  • DAY on July 11, 2011 2:45 PM:

    here- safely on the sidelines- this is getting good!

    I hope Wm Shakespeare is taking notes; I see another Hamlet, Lear, or Julius Caesar in the making.

  • T2 on July 11, 2011 2:49 PM:

    The thing is, I AM entitled to my SocSec. I paid into it all my life. I think the GOPers are walking into a problem when they send guys like Old Orangie out to tell the public that they want to cut their SocSec. Screw him.

  • CDW on July 11, 2011 2:50 PM:

    He's trying to change the subject to jobs - killing 2 birds. The press will take the jobs banner and run with it leaving the debt issue to molder.

    Obama's a bigger fool than I already think he is if he thinks jobs isn't going to be the next issue the cons push.

  • bardgal on July 11, 2011 2:51 PM:

    It's obvious the CryBaggers don't understand concept economics, only what two different words mean: Debt and Ceiling. What they don't understand , is when you put them together, it means something else entirely.

    The DEBT in question, has ALREADY been incurred. The soldiers are in the field, the tanks have been been delivered. We now have to PAY FOR THEM.

    I guess we need to rename the Debt Ceiling the Payment Ceiling.

    You can't talk about repairing the barn after the horse has already gotten out. That boat has sailed. Now we have to pay the owner because we lost their horse.

    Congress has already passed the budget in question. It's DONE. Mr Peabody has no WayBack Machine in real life. Law states Congress must pay for the us incurred debts.

    If you want something, you have to pay for it, otherwise, it's THEFT, and that is against the law. So who do you think the law will side with, Congress basically stealing things by not paying for them, or Obama paying the bill?

    A clean bill really is the only way to take care of the Debt Ceiling, and every day the GOP delays, the closer this gets to reality. I can only hope it happens, since it will be a wonderful opportunity to call them out for being the thieving, freeloading deadbeats they truly are Ė The GOP are those losers who eat a meal in a fancy restaurant they canít afford, then walk out on the check. That is THEFT. THEFT IS ILLEGAL. THEFT IS A FELONY. Felons can neither VOTE nor HOLD OFFICE.

    Any members of the US Government who sign a pledge of loyalty to a non-elected individual (Grover Norquist) and his dogma over their pledge to the US Constitution, should be removed from office immediately, and tried for treason.

  • R on July 11, 2011 2:51 PM:

    Stop the government handouts!

  • Ron Byers on July 11, 2011 2:56 PM:

    "Itís not unusual for Republicans to push economic gibberish, hoping reporters and the public wonít know the difference, but Boehnerís assessment is just bizarre." Steve Benen.

    It is the same gibberish we heard out of McConnell this morning. My guess Frank Luntz is working overtime. I don't think anybody outside the Republican base believes a word of it.

  • nemisten on July 11, 2011 2:57 PM:

    And the BS continues unchallenged. Every member of Congress getting major press regarding this issue is Republican: Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, McCain, et al. And their legitimacy of their BS grows accordingly. ("You know, it sure appears Earth is flat; I have serious doubts about this planet being round...")

    Where is Reid? Pelosi? Any Dem's out there who know how to speak into a mic? [crickets] At least Obama had a news conference, but that by itself is not nearly enough.

    Once again, the messaging goes to the GOP. If Dem's weren't so pathetic, and the results so tragic, this'd be comical...

  • John Lanier on July 11, 2011 3:01 PM:

    You've press credentials don't you? Or could get them. God, I'd love for you to attend one/some of these press conferences and ask some of the great questions you pose here every day.


  • Danp on July 11, 2011 3:05 PM:

    About 5 trillion dollars of the National Debt is owed to social security. Why does Boehner think it's OK to renegotiate that debt? That debt was raised on the shoulders of workers by Reagan. It was done with a promise to those workers. Now is the time for the wealthy who benefited from off-setting income tax relief to pony up, instead of whining that they wasted the money on pork.

  • steve duncan on July 11, 2011 3:08 PM:

    Boehner wisely perceives that saying things a plurality of the electorate can be duped into believing is a winning strategy. TARP and other stimulus programs undoubtably kept many companies from going under and saved many jobs. Yet the public believes it was a "government give away" and "corporate welfare". Stimulus programs were initiated and voted on at the end of the Bush presidency. Yet the public believes they're Obama's doing. The public believes Reagan cut taxes (he did) and any suggestion he ever raised them is met with a glare reserved for pedophiles. Yet Reagan raised taxes. Go ahead, add your own to the list. The public is grossly misinformed regarding nearly every major, important issue of our time. If Fox News blared across their program spectrum they had discovered Obama was really a woman beneath those suits 30% of the population, overnight, would be convinced he was in a lesbian marriage. Our problem isn't so much we're governed by mercenary Machiavellians as it is they're elected to office by blithering idiots.

  • Anonymous on July 11, 2011 3:09 PM:

    When will the true believers look at the data to see they are wrong? Never, that's what makes them true believers!

    The data are in, and Reaganomics (supply-side) is a crock! What has happened since Republicans have been peddling this elixir? Our economy has suffered, Americans have suffered, and our nation's financial standing is about to suffer!

    Demand is what makes a healthy capital economy! To focus on the supply-side (as Republicans have done since David Stockwell) says "in God we trust, all others pay cash," (Gene Shepard), and people have no cash if they are not employed. So, demand is two-fold: for labor to produce, and for commodities produced after they're shipped to market. (This secondary demand is what juices the economy.)

    If we're not pushing policies that promote both labor and commodity demand, no amount of spending cuts, supply-side credits, or industry incentives will help get us back to a healthy economy!

    Just look at what those three supply-side policies have done: Jobs shipped overseas, off-shore bank accounts created by the rich to hide profits from revenue collection, and a continued redistribution of wealth upward!

    No, Boehner and his Republican argument is void of all economic sense, smacks of partisan taint, and is not one commonly discernable by average to intelligent people who are not vested in wealth, and can't afford to buy their own personal militia! -Kevo

  • bdop4 on July 11, 2011 3:09 PM:

    Was there any Q&A after the press conference? If so, did any of the fucktard journalist take him to the woodshed? I doubt it.

    I'm with Nemisten. It seems like every fucking day there are 3-4 republicans holding press conferences and spouting some bullshit (which gets uncritically reported BTW). WTF are the Dems?! Is this a bug or a feature?

  • jjm on July 11, 2011 3:18 PM:

    What I don't understand are those Democrats who don't understand the president's gambit in stating he's putting SS and Medicare on the table.

    Do they think that the GOP wouldn't have snapped whatever he may have suggested up instantly if it were anything like what they dream of--ridding us of it, screwing over the people who've paid in, etc.? How blind can O's critics be? I've heard not one pundit or commentator who has asked what kind of offer O is making on these 'entitlements' that isn't tempting the GOP???

    Americans just seem to be getting dumb and dumberer.

  • mtboy on July 11, 2011 3:21 PM:

    "You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." —Dave Barry

  • Michael on July 11, 2011 3:21 PM:

    It's trying to make them sink in their own stupidity, only problem is it just makes for a stupider electorate.Its a good idea, but not for these times...

  • cmdicely on July 11, 2011 3:42 PM:

    Boehner is half-right when he says: "Two of the biggest obstacles to job growth are out-of-control and entitlement spending and the current tax code."

    The current tax code is a serious obstacle to job growth, since employment is taxed more heavily than other forms of income, which increases the cost of hiring and makes options other than hiring (in the US) more attractive than under a tax system which didn't structurally penalize work.

    the fix for this problem is to eliminate preferential taxation for capital gains and to extend taxes that are currently applied only to labor income (like SS & Medicare taxes) to all income (and, of course, use that newly-covered income in benefit calculations as well.)

    Somehow, I don't think that's what Boehner had in mind, though.

  • FRP on July 11, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Slow down you're moving too fast
    You've got to make the great recession last
    Just skipping down the facts real swift
    Doo en doo doo feelin' woozy

    Looking for fun and feelin' woozy .

    Hello poor folks
    What cha knowing?
    I've come to watch your resentment growing .
    Ain't cha got no dimes for me?
    Doot in' doo doo,
    Feelin' Woozy

    Got no deeds for Koch's
    Or promises that I'd keep
    I'm drink 'n and drowsy and ready to sleep
    Let the debt time drop all its ratings on me .
    Conservatives , I love you ,
    Wealth is groovy .

  • Bob on July 11, 2011 4:25 PM:

    How long could it be before Boehner loses it and cold-cocks Canter on national television? I mean how many times does he have to get slapped-down before he stands up for himself?

    That said, they deserve each other.

  • mmm on July 11, 2011 4:25 PM:

    FRP: Now THAT's a song I can identify with! Ha Ha!

  • Ohioan on July 11, 2011 4:32 PM:

    To fix Out-of-control spending, I have a proposal: Controlled spending. Includes starting a controlled WPA and a CCC.

    OK with you speaker Bohner?

  • j on July 11, 2011 4:35 PM:

    When the repubs whine about jobs why does no one ask them why they have about 3 Obama jobs bills sitting with no action taken. What are they debating today -
    why of course - Light Bulbs!

  • June on July 11, 2011 5:21 PM:

    I haven't had time to read all the comments, but in a room full of folks who consider themselves to be accredited, professional journalists, did anyone ask any follow up questions that challenged Boehner's f*cking nonsense in any way? I'm guessing the answer is: no.

  • Skip on July 11, 2011 7:43 PM:

    Journalists need a job in this tight economy, dontcha know...they do what their bosses tell them, they ask what their bosses let them...

    This isn't the era of free press, this is the era of getting one's own, you know, car, house, fancy cell, 62" screen TV, that kindo of getting.

    When being brave enough to ask the real questions gets you fired, and FOX News hires only documented Republicans, said "journalists" will sit on their questions while slyly glancing around the room hoping someone else will do the asking, and the sacrificing...

  • Doug on July 11, 2011 8:17 PM:

    We really should cut the Speaker some slack. After all, he's got even more important things than the debt ceiling to worry about - like keeping his job AFTER a debt ceiling vote.
    Cantor's probably salivating at the thought of having a recall vote, one SOME Republicans would love, and replacing Boehner with himself. The only reason this has dragged out as long as it has is because the Speaker still isn't certain if he has the support of a majority of his own caucus.
    This will continue until one of two things happen: either Boehner nails down sufficient support to retain the Speakership AFTER a deal including increased revenues is agreed to or, unable to get the support he needs, he lets the country default.
    Being the pessimist I am, my money would be on the second scenario...

  • Texas Aggie on July 11, 2011 8:45 PM:

    The republicans keep yammering about how lowering taxes is going to create a paradise, but so far the evidence is just the opposite. Their response is that we haven't lowered taxes far enough.

    On the other hand, the stimulus spending did create some jobs and saved a lot more while it was going, but now it has run out. Most real economists said from the very beginning that it wasn't big enough.

    So tell you what. Decreasing taxes has had several decades to prove itself and has failed. Let's try increasing the stimulus and see what happens then. If it fails, then we can go to a third option, like increasing taxes on the wealthy and shutting down the corporate welfare system.

  • Anonymous on July 11, 2011 10:41 PM:

    "Any members of the US Government who sign a pledge of loyalty to a non-elected individual (Grover Norquist) and his dogma over their pledge to the US Constitution, should be removed from office immediately, and tried for treason."

    Right on, bardgal!

    Meanwhile, Orrin Hatch is on my teevee (from earlier today) whining while a a 3x4 poster/photo of "Thurston Howell III" was sitting an an easel next to him. I think he was talking about millionaires or something. Howell was not exactly a sympathetic figure, leaving it to Gilligan, the Skipper, Professor and Mary Ann to do all of the hard work on the island. No, I don't understand his point either.

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