This week, out on the broad wastes of cable news drekdom and the uplands of Beltway journalistic drivel, a simple fact has gone almost entirely unreported: virtually everything congressional Republicans are saying about the Stimulus Bill wouldn’t cut it in remedial economics. Not that there aren’t legitimate policy differences and criticisms to be made of the outline plan before Congress. But to call the Republican complaints ‘policy differences’ would be to engage in what that old president used to call the soft bigotry of low expectations, as though a political party with as legitimately proud a history as the GOP could not be expected to produce more than economic illiterates.
The ground under our feet might feel firmer if this were just standard order rhetorical abuse. But the truth of it is genuinely frightening, especially since these fellows are planted in Congress rather than on one of the sidewalk corners in Union Square ranting about Socialism and Fluoride or Lyndon LaRouche.
But now there are some flickering signs that the tide may be turning, perhaps in response to just how nonsensical the conversation got earlier this week. For instance, in tomorrow’s Post, business columnist Steven Pearlstein devotes an entire column to the fact most of Republicans on Capitol Hill don’t even seem to grasp how a Stimulus Bill is supposed to work or even more basic stuff about demand, recession economics or even how jobs come into existence. As in, it’s not a Stimulus Bill, it’s a spending bill.
Tactfully, Pearlstein doesn’t say explicitly for most of the article that it’s Republicans he’s talking about. You have to infer that from the names of the members he dings. But toward the end of the piece he can’t seem to help cutting to the chase …
what’s striking is that supposedly intelligent people are horrified at the thought that, during a deep recession, government might try to help the economy by buying up-to-date equipment for the people who protect us from epidemics and infectious diseases, by hiring people to repair environmental damage on federal lands and by contracting with private companies to make federal buildings more energy-efficient.
What really irks so many Republicans, of course, is that all the stimulus money isn’t being used to cut individual and business taxes, their cure-all for economic ailments, even though all the credible evidence is that tax cuts are only about half as stimulative as direct government spending.
It really does approach flat earth territory.
When you step back from the immediacy of the moment and consider just what nonsense these guys are spouting and what games they’re playing while the country is legitimately in danger, it’s breathtaking. All the reporters have fallen down on the job. But maybe we can hope for more tide-turning tomorrow.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.