Mitt Romney - Caricature

Mitt Romney - Caricature by DonkeyHotey

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker caught Mitt Romney explaining how to think about economic policy when the labor market is depressed, housing has tanked, households are broke and the Fed is limited by near-zero interest rates:

Romney criticized Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, saying it did not create long-lasting jobs. He said he would have lowered tax rates, instituted fair trade policies and boosted energy independence to help create sustainable private-sector jobs.

“The challenge with so-called stimulus is it tends to be throwing a little gasoline on the fire,” Romney said. “It causes some heat. . . . It just doesn’t cause permanent heat. It’s not like putting a log on the fire.”

Translation from Chameleon-speak: Romney is hinting that the economy — the fire — needed not just more stimulus, but longer-lasting stimulus. Instead of pouring on a little gasoline to kick start the fire, we’d needed a slow-burning log that would provide fuel for a longer period. Except for the implied nonsense that spending on workers and goods/services by the private sector creates jobs but the same spending by government doesn’t, he almost sounds like all those liberal economists — Krugman, Thoma, Stiglitz, Galbraith, Baker, et al.

But didn’t Obama’s 2009 and late 2010 stimulus packages contain a large percentage of tax cuts, some that have been extended? Are there no trade agreements with Columbia or Korea, or programs to promote domestic energy production?

I don’t follow what Mitt Romney says everyday, because sooner or later a policy chameleon will say everything once, mimic all positions, and then switch back in case you missed something. So I probably missed that other time, back in early 2009, when Mitt insisted the stimulus needed to be big enough to produce some real effect on the economy, and it needed to avoid the “shovel ready” trap and last longer because the economy would take a long time to recover from a finance and credit shock the size we suffered. He surely wouldn’t be making this up now, saying “I told you so,” to prove what a prescient leader he’d make.

But he’s right about the failed leadership in Washington, D.C. From the NYT’s reliable stenographer on the deficit hysteria debate, here’s the White House’ Press Secretary, Jay Carney:

. . . Jay Carney, said Republicans must be willing to consider tax changes, including the elimination of “loopholes” that benefit corporations.

“It’s the only way to get it done if you want to do it right and you want to do it in a way that is fair and balanced and ensures that the economy continues to grow and continues to create jobs,” Mr. Carney told reporters.

What is Carney talking about? Whatever you think about long-run deficits, it doesn’t make sense to be slashing spending for deficit reasons now, and that conclusion doesn’t change if you couple the spending cuts with eliminating tax breaks for oil companies. There are valid reasons for ending needless subsidies for rich people and hugely wealthy industries, but doing that doesn’t make it okay to slash programs to help the elderly, poor women and children, now or later.

Here’s the Times reporting Mitch McConnell’s nonsense:

“My message to the president is simple,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It’s time for Washington to focus on fixing itself. It’s time Washington take the hit, not the taxpayers.”

What? The current Tea-GOP, nominally led by Mssrs. McConnell and Boehner, has made Washington dysfunctional after their party (with Dem’s help) championed a business ethic and deregulated free market theory that crushed the economy. Their relentless siege of government has brought Congress to a standstill and they’re now threatening to tank the economy for the second time in four years. So how is it this man is allowed to tells us, without pushback from the Times, “it’s time for Washington to focus on fixing itself”??? That would require putting the entire Tea-GOP and half or more of the complicit Democrats on a boat and setting them adrift.

Next, the Times brings us the Democratic Senate Leader, Harry Reid:

After his own meeting with the president, Mr. Reid called on Republicans to “put the economy ahead of politics.” “Neither party should confront this crisis alone,” he said. “And no one will be successful unless we confront it together.”

What crisis, Harry? Deficit hysteria is not an economic crisis; it’s a mental delusion. The real crisis is that the foundations of a government that serves the public interest are under attack from ignorant barbarians, and the party that’s supposed to defend it is offering to help in sacking the city. You’re making a horrendous mistake, Harry, and it doesn’t become okay if Mitch McConnell joins you.

And Bernie Sanders doesn’t get this either.