Republicans And The Stimulus

January 31, 2009

My patience is worn threadbare with the utterly incoherent arguments used by the GOP against the Obama stimulus bill. Josh Marshall’s with me:

“It may not be advisable for anyone to actually listen to the arguments House Republicans are actually making on the House floor. We’re just listening again to Rep. Flake (R) who appears to have outdone himself in militant statements of economic nonsense. Earlier today we heard Flake claiming that tax cuts have no stimulus effect if they go to low-income earners who pay payroll taxes and not income taxes.

Now he’s explaining how capital spending on AMTRAK is also not stimulus because AMTRAK doesn’t run a profit. Again, total non-sequitur. I think rail is something we should be spending a lot more on. But you can certainly disagree with that on policy terms. But you can’t claim that that capital spending on rail stock and rail upgrades doesn’t provide jobs. Of course it provides jobs. And whether Amtrak is profitable or not is completely beside the point.

Where did they get this guy?”

So is Steve Benen:

“Listening to House Republicans talk about the economy is not only tedious, it’s a striking reminder that these guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

I mean that, literally. They’re clueless. There are coherent arguments against the stimulus plan, even from a conservative perspective, but actual GOP policy makers apparently aren’t familiar with them. Their arguments about the CBO are wrong. Their arguments about tax credits are wrong. Their arguments about aid to states are wrong. Their arguments about the stimulative benefits of tax cuts are wrong. Their arguments about corporate tax rates are wrong. Their arguments about housing are wrong. Even their arguments about allocation are wrong.

There’s probably some entertainment value in considering the ‘stupid vs. dishonest’ dynamic — maybe Republicans know their arguments are wrong, and are repeating them anyway — but the end result is always the same. It’s hard to get through a single speech without searching frantically for the Maalox.

It reached the point today that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), a member of the leadership, said Democrats are acting like … wait for it … former Republican president Herbert Hoover. I suppose, by Ensign’s formulation, that makes Mitch McConnell FDR?”

Benen provides some great links as well. There’s the Republicans making a mockery of the CBO report. There’s Josh Marshall responding to the tax-cuts bullshit. [Also take a look at Republican Mark Zandi’s paper that takes the REPUBLICANS THEMSELVES to task on this very point.] There’s the additional bullshit on cutting corporate taxes.

But to be honest, I think you need to go beyond this relative nitpicking and get to the core argument. The Republicans are resistant to the idea that deficit spending is the appropriate response to a severe and sustained economic downturn when Fed interests rates are already virtually at zero. They believe that tax cuts are not only more effective, but are really the only appropriate response. This is their core objection, and nothing is going to overcome that unless the vast majority of the bill is tax cuts (and even then they have unspoked political reasons not to sign off on it – the economy’s going to continue to get worse no matter what, and they want the Democrats to have ownership of that). If they can portray little bits and pieces of the bill as giving condoms to kindergarteners or growing grass, that’s all the better for them of course, but the core issue is that they are against ANY spending whatsoever. Additionally, when it comes to tax cuts, they are married to the Reaganomics trickle-down view, which stipulates that cuts should only come from income tax and corprorate taxes, and never payroll taxes or as subsidies to the poor. And it’s nearly a waste of time to bother to put together well though-out economic arguments against them. The overwhelming majority of economists oppose their views, and they frankly don’t care. They are as deluded in this area as they are with climate change. And healthcare, for that matter.

Matt Yglesias, btw, has a lot of good things to say about the Republicans’ (and Blue Dog Democrats’ as well) arguments that are worth checking out. Here’s an example, but there are a number of good posts.

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