John McCain is an irresponsible, immature clown, and because he’s a clown, he tends to associate with other clowns, such as Tom Coburn. McCain and Coburn gave what they hope is a gullible media a list of the 100 worst projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the "stimulus" Act. But every project on that list is likely better than what these clowns want to do with the same money.

To it’s credit, CNN at least took the trouble to check on several items on the clowns’ list. CNN discovered (no surprise) the clowns had misrepresented the facts; as CNN points out, the projects’ public purpose could have been discovered with a clarifying phone call or Google search. But clarity is not the clowns’ goal.

To be sure, as long as Congress allows itself to be bribed as the means to getting elected, there will always be programs funded by government that are foolish or less worthy than other projects that should have been funded under some concept of the public interest. So it’s appropriate for government watchdogs and the media to point that out how to improve government spending and avoid waste.

But that’s not what the McCain and Coburn clowns are doing here. They’re trying to muddy the waters about what stimulus spending is about so as to obscure the Republicans’ wholesale failure to do anything to help the economy recover — to obscure that they’ve done everything they can to wreck the economy. If they were to come up with a list of the 100 most worthwhile projects/programs that should have been funded to create jobs or economic growth, but were not funded under ARRA, then perhaps the media should take them seriously. But these men are not serious; they’re irresponsible clowns.

What’s really happening here is the Coburn/McCain clowns are implicitly conceding that if a project is worth doing, then stimulus spending for that project would have been worth doing as a boost to the economy. If that’s true, then the next question becomes, "notwithstanding the 100 questionable projects (many of which turned out to be worthwhile), was the bulk of the stimulus spending okay?" The clowns can’t tell us, because they haven’t asked the question.

Further, neither of these clowns provides us with a list of the 100 most deserving projects that should have been funded but which were left out. Where is that list? And why haven’t McCain and Coburn and friends offered legislation to fund those worthwhile projects?

But this is all diversion. The stimulus concept was worth pursuing even if the "projects" had little or no value beyond the spending itself. Increasing spending, getting that money into the economy, was the point. The selected projects merely tell us how much more value (or increase in GDP) could be "bought" from that spending.

So what would John McCain’s economic adviser, Mark Zandi, tell us? To be consistent with what he’s said for the last year or so, he’d have to explain that if you give a worker $100 to dig a ditch and another worker $100 to fill it up, that’s two jobs and $200 that will become stimulus spending that would not otherwise occur. If you funnel that $200 through a private contractor who pays the diggers/fillers, it’s the same thing.

So if you dig a million such ditches, and lay new sewer or water pipes to replace our failing infrastructure, that’s at least $200 million in stimulative spending. With a likely multiplier factor of 1.5 (Zandi and many economists agree here) that’s like $300 million in total effect on GDP that would not otherwise occur. Does America have $300 million, or $300 billion in projects that need doing? Try $3 trillion. Do we have enough unemployed or underused workers willing and able to do all those projects? Of course we do. So where’s your plan, McCain? Republicans? Obama?

And the question still stands: what would the GOP spend money on to stimulate the economy, if not what it was spent on? So far, the only "program" all Republicans have endorsed so far is a straight-up gift (via tax cuts) of borrowed money to the wealthy. The rich would no doubt appreciate such a generous gift, but Mr. Zandi would be obliged to tell his Senator that gifts to the rich have less (about 1/5 as much) of a stimulative effect than paying the otherwise unemployed to dig/fill in ditches, even without new water pipes.

Paying the ditch diggers has about five times the effect on GDP as gifts to the rich, because as Mark Zandi and every responsible economist agrees, the rich don’t spend as much proportionally as the otherwise unemployed workers. The multiplier for wealthy tax cuts (about 0.3) means that that proposal belongs on the clowns’ list of things you shouldn’t waste money on, when there are so many other better ways to use the same money.

If McCain and Coburn weren’t clowns, they’d have to agree with their economic advisers that to help the economy, we need more ditches, and other infrastructure spending, and more aid to states to pay teachers and firemen and police and renovated parks and restored waterways . . . and zero gifts to the rich. And recall that the total effective ARRA stimulus was only about $600 billion (over two plus years), while the increased deficit over a decade of extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would be over $600 billion. Now there’s a choice even clowns should get right.

John McCain could have been President; the Republicans want to take over Congress. But their economic/jobs policy is to withhold money from workers and teachers doing public works projects that need to be done and would help the economy now and in the future, and give the same money — as an outright gift — to rich people.

This is why America would have made a terrible mistake by making John McCain President, and why electing Republicans (or conservaDems who mimick them) in November would be equally foolish. We have enough clowns, and they’ve already wrecked the economy.

John Chandley