The House is debating the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the floor as I write this. And the conservative minority is employing the same tactics that have led them into the minority: failed ideas wrapped in fresh lies.
The big lie/talking point being repeated on the floor is that their own alternative economic plan “will create 6.2 million new American jobs over the next two years, according to a methodology used by President Obama’s own nominee as Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, Dr. Christina Romer.”
For the past month, conservatives have been distorting and misapplying Romer’s 1994 economic paper to claim that tax cuts offer a huge “multiplier” effect for the economy, and public investment offers nothing. Of course, the conservative claims have been repeatedly debunked, most prominently this past Sunday by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman on ABC’s This Week, but also by Brad DeLong and Nate Silver
But being debunked hasn’t ever stopped conservatives before. So they released an alternative plan that is all tax cuts, no public investment, then used their fictional Romer formula to calculate it would create 6.2 million jobs.
BREAKING NEWS (RealityBurg, ObviousLand): We just spent eight years trying to create jobs and grow the economy with only tax cuts and no public investment. It was a colossal flop, no matter how you interpret one aide’s academic paper from 15 years ago.
Of course, that was only one of the lies spluttered out during the course of debate.
Conservatives continue to employ the strategy as predicted by Marc Ambinder last month: “Think back to the (Bill-Clinton/Joe Biden!) crime bill of 1994, when Republicans rallied their base against the legislation by ridiculing a tiny part of it — proposals to expand midnight basketball leagues as a way of keeping kids off the streets and out of gangs. Watch for Republicans to settle on a handful of objectionable items and create the impression that the entire enterprise is suspect.”
That’s what the attacks against tiny slivers of the package — family planning services, re-sodding the National Mall, arts funding — are all about.
And facts rarely get in the way. I am still seeing conservative congresspeople whine on TV about re-sodding the National Mall, even though that has already been stripped from the bill (and would require hiring people and buying materials to do it.)
Most importantly, McClatchy Newspapers put the criticisms in proper context: “House Republicans have lampooned some modest spending provisions in the package that have little to do with stimulating the economy, but those measures account for only a small portion of the money.”
Yet they desperately try it make it sound the entire bill is wasteful pork. GOP Rep. Paul Ryan claimed on the House floor that only “12 percent” of the bill in about creating jobs, and “the rest is spending.”
Where to begin with such idiocy?! First, it’s not relevant what percent is about creating jobs (though I certainly don’t take their number at face value), but how many jobs would be created or saved.
The Obama administration pegged it at 3 to 4 million jobs, which is in sync with the Congressional Budget Office’s high-end estimate of 3.6 million jobs by next year (though CBO notes that more skeptical economist predictions put the low-end estimate at 1.2 million jobs.)
And those jobs would be largely created by the spending, the investment in tangible projects that our crumbling neglected infrastructure is crying out for.
Second, the other large portions of the bill are not on pork, but education, unemployment benefits, other aid to state governments as well as tax cuts mostly geared to working families (apparently for conservatives, tax cuts don’t count unless they go to CEOs).
These initiatives are not necessarily designed to create jobs — a comprehensive economic strategy involves more than one thing! — but to forestall job and service cuts that would undermine federal stimulus, and give the squeezed, unemployed and impoverished funds to they can survive and keep money flowing in the overall economy.
It’s bottom-up stimulus, not more failed trickle-down nonsense.
There are fair arguments to be made against the plan. For example, there are respected economists concerned that the bill does not spend enough to move our $15 trillion economy.
But no one with any expertise and credibility is advocating another around of conservative tax cut rehash that amounts to, as my colleague Isaiah Poole put it, “used junk on eBay.”
Perhaps that’s why the past month of conservative nonsense has done nothing to move public opinion, which is strongly for President Obama and strongly for an economic recovery bill like Obama’s which is “a combination of tax cuts and transportation, education and energy projects.”
One Republican political operative worried that his party risks becoming “a talk-show party.” That’s what the conservative House minority has done to the party today.
Lies are the lubricant that keeps conservative talk radio cranking and the conservative diaspora detached from reality. But today’s reality is too stark for most to be ignored, which is why the continuation of a lie-based strategy is bound to keep conservatives mired in irrelevance.
UPDATE: And now it has passed the House, 244-188, without a single Republican vote. House conservatives have sent a clear signal to the nation: we are not renouncing our failures of the past, and we are not part of the solution you voted for. Good luck with that.