Thursday, February 18, 2010


Rachel continues to hit it out of the park.
Republicans unwilling to put money where their rhetoric is Feb. 17: The Nation's Chris Hayes talks with Rachel Maddow about the growing awareness by Americans of a significant number of Republicans who speak out against the stimulus bill despite having solicited stiumulus funds and celebrated its effectiveness in their home district.

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Think Progress makes lists. Check it out:
Stimulating Hypocrisy: 111 Lawmakers Block Recovery While Taking Credit For Its Success
It's now impossible for serious observers to claim the stimulus didn't create new jobs. The leading economic research firms -- IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers, and Moody's -- estimate that the effort has already created as many as 1.8 million jobs, and will create about 2.5 million jobs when all is said and done. As far as the independent Congressional Budget Office is concerned, those are conservative estimates -- the CBO believes the stimulus is already responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs.

It leaves the right looking for alternate rhetorical strategies. Today, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) tried a new tack in a press release. Notice the addition of one key word to the GOP talking points:

One year [after the stimulus bill became law], not one net job has been created as unemployment rose from 7.6 percent to nearly 10 percent nationwide. [emphasis added]

Matt Finkelstein explained why this rhetorical shift matters: "The distinction here is important. By shifting the focus to 'net jobs,' Pence is effectively conceding that the Recovery Act did create jobs -- that, while unemployment rose more than expected, we would be even worse off if the program hadn't passed."

This also suggests that Republican officials are starting to worry, at least a little, that the economy might be improving far more than they'd like. If job creation starts picking up in a meaningful way in the Spring, as the Obama administration expects, the good news for the country may be bad news for the GOP's midterm election strategy. They'll need something negative to say, and pointing to net job growth may fool a few people.

But probably not many. It's really very foolish -- the recession began in December 2007, and the economy fell off a cliff in September 2008. The month the president took office, thanks to conditions Obama inherited, the economy lost 741,000 jobs. A month later, it was 681,000. A month after that, it was 652,000. Of course there's going to be a net job loss. The net loss will exist for quite a long while. When a nation experiences a downturn of this severity -- easily the worst since the Great Depression -- it takes a very long time to make up the lost ground.

The goal is to see improvements and growth. Maybe Pence understands this, maybe not -- he is a few threads short of a sweater, if you know what I mean -- but either way, this "net job" talk is absurd.

Democrats are pushing the stimulus hypocrisy line pretty hard this week -- Republicans say they hate the stimulus, but that hasn't stopped them from trying to secure recovery funds for their states/districts. Republicans, perhaps worried about the effectiveness of the criticism, have embraced a straightforward response.

Conservative economist Greg Mankiw summarized the GOP argument, calling the Democratic cries of hypocrisy "baffling." (thanks to reader C.L. for the tip)

It seems perfectly reasonable to believe (1) that increasing government spending is not the best way to promote economic growth in a depressed economy, and (2) that if the government is going to spend gobs of money, those on whom it is spent will benefit. In this case, the right thing for a congressman to do is to oppose the spending plans, but once the spending is inevitable, to try to ensure that the constituents he represents get their share. So what exactly is the problem?

Let me offer an analogy. Many Democratic congressmen opposed the Bush tax cuts. That was based, I presume, on their honest assessment of the policy. But once these tax cuts were passed, I bet these congressmen paid lower taxes. I bet they did not offer to hand the Treasury the extra taxes they would have owed at the previous tax rates. Would it make sense for the GOP to suggest that these Democrats were disingenuous or hypocritical? I don't think so. Many times, we as individuals benefit from policies we opposed. There is nothing wrong about that.

This is no doubt the official Republican line. Indeed, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) made the identical argument, with the exact same analogy, on "Meet the Press" over the weekend.

But the response is deeply flawed. The hypocrisy charge may sting, but it's also entirely legitimate.

It's not complicated -- Republicans have claimed, forcefully and repeatedly, that the stimulus effort was a mistake. The recovery spending couldn't generate economic growth and was simply incapable of creating jobs. The entire endeavor, the GOP said, was a wasteful boondoggle, and they're proud to have voted against it. Republicans rejected the very idea on ideological and policy grounds.

Now, we know the substance of these claims is demonstrably ridiculous, but the key to the hypocrisy charge is appreciating what else these same Republicans have said. When it comes to their states/districts/constituents, the identical GOP lawmakers have said the stimulus can generate economic growth, can create jobs, and can make an important and positive difference. In some cases, Republicans have even taken credit for stimulus projects they opposed -- projects that wouldn't even exist if they had their way.

GOP officials can take one position or the other, but when they embrace one side in D.C. while talking to the media, and then the opposite side when dealing with their constituents, it's more than just stupid -- it's hypocrisy.

As for Mankiw's analogy to the Bush tax cuts, this also doesn't stand up well to scrutiny. The only way this would make sense is if Democrats opposed and voted against Bush's policy in D.C., and then went back to their states/districts to take credit for the tax cuts and boast about how effective they were.

The fact that the hypocrisy charge seems to make Republicans nervous is itself encouraging. That the GOP has not yet come up with a coherent response should encourage Dems to keep it up.

Aravosis: Beck cites CBO to show stimulus was more expensive than first thought, leaves out fact that CBO said stimulus created/saved 2m jobs

I'm watching a new video of FOX News' Glenn Beck that's going around, and as usual he acts like a bit of a nut. But what's so disturbing is that this video is a perfect example of how Beck, and FOX generally, lie to their audience. Let me walk you through it.

1. Beck cites CBO (the Congressional Budget Office, an independent non-partisan congressional agency that is not tainted by politics) numbers to show that the stimulus cost more than the President Obama thought it would. On the order of 800 and some billion instead of 780 billion or so. Okay, fair enough.

2. Beck goes on to mock the President for mentioning examples of jobs saved by the stimulus. Beck clearly implies that the stimulus has helped, at most, a handful of people, but otherwise it's been pretty useless.

Beck's proof? A recent CBS poll showing that only 6% of Americans believe that the stimulus created any jobs. Beck goes on to compare this to the number of people who think Elvis is alive, or that we never really landed on the moon.

Now, note what Beck did. He took a survey showing that people didn't BELIEVE the stimulus created jobs, and used that as proof that the stimulus actually did NOT create any jobs. In fact, 6% of the American people may not believe the stimulus created any jobs because they're not away of the truth. It's possible. And in fact, if you look at the independent studies of the stimulus, done by folks like CBO - the folks Glenn Beck quotes a responsible source - you'll find that the stimulus has done wonders for employment over the past year. In fact:

Among people who know what they're talking about, the fact that the stimulus has been successful isn't even controversial anymore. The leading economic research firms -- IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers, and Moody's -- estimate that the effort has already created as many as 1.8 million jobs, and will create about 2.5 million jobs when all is said and done. As far as the independent Congressional Budget Office is concerned, those are conservative estimates -- the CBO believes the stimulus is already responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs.
Or just check out the Wall Street Journal, they reported on the CBO study too.

Watch the video. Beck is certainly a great entertainer. But he's also one hell of a liar. He clearly suggests that the fact that the American people don't realize the stimulus has worked means that is has NOT worked. And now we know, from the very people Glenn Beck cites as his money experts, that this is a flat out lie. The man just lies, so long as it permits him to take a cheap shot at Democrats. Do your own research on the topic. He lied.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether to expand nuclear power in the United States. The Monthly has been more than a little skeptical about the idea, but support for and opposition to the idea do not necessarily fall along clear ideological or partisan lines.

President Obama, for example, has long expressed a willingness to consider domestic nuclear expansion, and yesterday took a big step in that direction.

President Obama seized a key Republican energy initiative as his own Tuesday, promising $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees for a pair of Georgia reactors that he said would give new life to the U.S. nuclear power industry and create a surge of high-skill jobs.

By helping to finance the construction of the reactors -- the first new U.S. nuclear power units in more than 30 years -- Obama is hoping to jump-start his efforts to pass comprehensive climate-change legislation, which has stalled in Congress in the face of GOP opposition.

I'm happy to let energy policy experts weigh the merits of the loan guarantees. What I found interesting, though, was the reaction from Georgia's right-wing Republican senators, who are thrilled to see their state benefit -- the Obama administration's proposal is likely help create thousands of jobs in Georgia -- but can't quite bring themselves to even use the president's name.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman noted yesterday, for example, that Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) issued a seven-paragraph, 392-word joint statement, lauding the new nuclear initiative. Number of times Isakson and Chambliss used the words "president," "Obama," and/or "White House"? Zero. Even though the senators were delighted to hear the president's announcement, as Bookman concluded, the two "just couldn't bring themselves" to agree with Obama by name.

The president suggested yesterday that an initiative like this one could help bolster bipartisanship, with a Democratic administration finding common ground with GOP policymakers. But the fact that Republican senators don't even want to mention the president, even when they're thrilled with one of his decisions, only reinforces the fact that Republicans just aren't interested.

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