Lately Democrats and other progressive commentators such as Rachel Maddow have been trying to make political hay:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is holding a conference call today with reporters to counter GOP criticism of the stimulus bill as the one-year anniversary of the legislation approaches. Democrats are steamed that Republicans, who almost unanimously opposed the bill, have also touted money for projects in their home states. “All but three Republicans in Congress voted against the ARRA, but scores of them have attended ribbon cuttings, taken credit for projects in press releases or even noted the job creating potential of projects in their districts and states in letters to federal agencies seeking funds from the Recovery Act,” said the DNC in a statement.
In the post below, our own host terms it a “perfect illustration”, and berates these “brazen”, “shameless… lying… hypocrites.”

If only.

I realize it makes a great story if you don’t stop to think about it, so I apologize for ruining the narrative, but as Greg Mankiw explains:

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.

Ah well. There’s reality—and then there’s politics.

  1. Metavirus says:

    oh jeez, what weak, weak tea. you and mancow are talking bigtime apples and oranges here. try again

    • Gherald says:

      The tax cut analogy may not hold in the respects you're interested in.

      But regardless of that analogy, one can hold the perfectly reasonable positions (1) and (2) and not be a hypocrite. I do.

      (Moreover I would prefer a proportional representation system in which (2)'s constituent service is less of a factor. But that's not the system we have, so if I were a congressman I'd try to ensure my constituents got their share)

      • @kevinista says:

        I dont remember Democrats at photo ops standing next to wealthy people celebrating the tax cuts. these GOP folks are celebrating job creation at ribbon-cuttings at 10am, then later on TV at 2pm, claiming that it didnt create a single job.

        • Gherald says:

          Sigh, an analogy that doesn't hold in the way you want it to changes nothing about the point. But I can offer a better one….

          Consider tax breaks. I'm strongly opposed to them, as I think they distort our tax code. I would much rather abolish all of them and lower marginal rates.

          Me opposing tax credits is like Republicans opposing spending.

          However, this opposition wouldn't stop me from running a business that makes use of credits that are on the books, or even "bragging" about it to shareholders in my company (constituents), or potential shareholders (voters).

          Is that hypocrisy?

          All analogies aside, and whether or not the stimulus did any net job creation, it's perfectly consistent to believe that it didn't and yet want to make sure your constituency gets a fair share of any spending. Otherwise you get all the drawbacks of debt and taxation to pay for the stimulus, but none of the benefits!

          • @kevinista says:

            well we can talk analogies all night…I think its still hypocrisy… :/

            • Gherald says:

              Well..did you miss the part where I said "all analogies aside"? They're only there to help you understand by showing a similar-yet-different situation.

              Point is, it's entirely consistent to oppose spending in general yet work for your constituents to get their share, since they're getting their share of taxes and debt.

              There's no hypocrisy here… just baseless political point scoring.

              • Metavirus says:

                perhaps you need a refresher on the definition of hypocrite, dear gherald:

                "A person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold [i.e., "the stimulus failed and didn't create one job"] in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives [i.e., "i am proud to announce the awarding of funds for this important highway project to my district that will create much-needed jobs."]"

                doesn't devil's advocacy get tiring? ;-)

      • Metavirus says:

        Just found this excellent take-down of mancow from Steve Benen, which is exactly right. time to stop with the dissembling.

        "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." [i.e., "A person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold [i.e., "the stimulus failed and didn't create one job"] in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives [i.e., "i am proud to announce the awarding of funds for this important highway project to my district that will create much-needed jobs."]"]

        • Metavirus says:

          And more:

          "For days, Republicans derided the stimulus, which they had voted against, as a flop that has achieved nothing. Independent sources, though, say that's not so. IHS Global Insight and Moody's Economy.com have estimated the stimulus has added 1.6 to 1.8 million jobs to the economy. And the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office put this number at 2.4 million. And throughout the week, the Democratic Party sent out e-mails to reporters documenting instances when leading congressional Republicans who denounced the stimulus have taken credit for stimulus-funded projects in their districts or states. This list of GOP hypocrites includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Kit Bond, and nine other senators." http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/19/on-stimul

        • Gherald says:

          Um, no. Some Republicans, like Scott Brown, have said that the stimulus spending is incapable of creating any jobs. This is wrong, but some people believe it.

          Other Republicans, such as Boehner, have said things like: "The stated intent of the so-called stimulus package was to create jobs, and certainly a $57 million slush-fund studying projects did nothing to achieve that goal. With Ohio’s unemployment rate the highest it’s been in 25 years, I’m pleased that federal officials stepped in to order Ohio to use all of its construction dollars for shovel-ready projects that will create much-needed jobs."

          This is a different statement. Steve Benen is conflating the two.

          Show me a Republican who has said both:

          (a) The situmulus did not create any jobs.
          (b) Some spending from the stimulus has created some jobs in my district.

          And you will have yourself a case of not so much hypocrisy as logically inconsistent statements.

          But very few people have said (a). Some people have said similar-sounding things, such as there being no net job creation after the stimulus, but that's a different statement, not logically inconsistent with respect to (b), and also (as a separate question) not hypocritical with respect to (b).

          There are of course other contradictory or hypocritical stances a republican might take, such as claiming both:

          (c) The entire endeavor was a wasteful boondoggle (Steve Benen's words)
          (d) Some of the spending generated economic growth, did create jobs, or did make an important and positive difference.

          But again, I know of no one who holds both positions.

          So, again, no hypocrisy has been demonstrated here. Steve Benen's characterization of Republican statements as a whole is false. They certainly don't apply to the vast majority of those Thinkprogress quotes, making a blanket charge of hypocrisy preposterous.

          If you look hard enough, maybe you can find some actual examples of a GOPer saying something hypocritical with respect to the stimulus. I'd be surprised if there isn't at least one example. There are after all a lot of people in the party. But such actual hypocrisy (as opposed to merely false statements like Scott Brown's) is in no way the norm, and Thinkprogress's list, Steve Benen's characterizations, your post below, DNC statements, etc. are baseless slander.

          I'm all for calling out actual examples of GOP lies and hypocrisy. I've done so myself often enough. But these aren't them, and I think I'm as clear-headed and neutral an arbiter as you're likely to find. Take it or go on to those "more interesting debates", i.e. ones where you and 95% of progressive commentators aren't wrong, having been mislead by your desire to score political points.

          • Metavirus says:

            well, we all think we all think that we're "clear-headed and neutral" but i'll let you in on a secret — we (and most people) hardly ever are. we can strive toward it but our proclivities hobble us time and time again. this was fun while it lasted — at least i got you to admit that mancow's example was absurd. WIN! :)

            • Gherald says:

              Eh? I never said it was absurd. It just didn't hold in one respect you decided to make an issue of (tax cuts not being something it would make sense for Democrats to have photo ops with, and such). So I tried to argue with "analogies aside" to more directly address the substance.

              So…not to be incessantly contrarian, but now that you're making me think on this more, his analogy didn't have to hold in this respect! The point of Republicans being hypocritical doesn't turn on whether they attended celebrations and such.

              So Greg Mankiw's analogy is valid in all the ways that matter.

              • Metavirus says:

                oy. i wonder what your ocd factor is, compared to mine :) (and, ps., contrary to your "The point of Republicans being hypocritical doesn't turn on whether they attended celebrations and such." — actually, it does.)

                • Gherald says:

                  I wouldn't call it ocd, more like bipolar.

                  I tend to argue a point ad nauseam or not at all.

                  • Metavirus says:

                    lol! i understand that all too well

                  • Metavirus says:

                    Here's another good example:

                    "[Eric Cantor] has had to answer a slew of questions about his obvious hypocrisy regarding the economic stimulus package, which he voted against, but still trumpets projects from. And he has continued this game, appearing on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News show last night to claim that “jobs weren’t created” by the stimulus, but he has still appeared at events to tout a high-speed rail line project funded by the stimulus that he says will “create a lot of jobs.”" http://thinkprogress.org/2010/02/19/cantor-bad-we

                    Actually, it's a great example.

                    • Gherald says:

                      This selective quotation is pathetic. Entire Cantor quote:

                      We now know there was $860 some billion spent in the stimulus bill, and it didn't work. It was a failure. Jobs weren't created. We now know over three million people lost their jobs since the passage of that bill.

                      It's clear from the context that he's talking about net job creation. I think his standard is absurd--who expected the stimulus to result in a net job increase within a year?--but it's not hypocritical.

                      More directly to the point of hypocrisy, he goes on to explain there are parts of the bill he supports:

                      The bill has projects in it that many members have worked on over the years. There's an issue of transportation in the state of Virginia. I take it very seriously. Ever since I've been in Congress, we've worked on it.

                      But it doesn't mean because there may be a page of related to transportation in Virginia that I should then go and support an $860 billion bill. I'm sure that the president is not expecting folks to buy that one.

                      I certainly don't buy it. Do you?

                    • Metavirus says:

                      off to dinner. feel free to argue with yourself while i'm out ;-)

  2. Metavirus says:

    Google can help you if you need more data. If your only quibble iswith the word hypocrisy then you are welcome to cast it in the lightof lies if you want. I wonder which is worse: rampant lying or rampanthypocrisy. Do bear in mind that hypocrisy often implicitly includesand requires lying.

    • Gherald says:

      What's that joke about telling when a politician is lying? Yeah, his mouth being open…

      I realize Republicans have been lying more than most after 9/11, and Scott Brown is no exception. But his, and Republican lies in general, do nothing to demonstrate hypocrisy on the part of people who voted against the stimulus but take credit for making sure constituents get their fair share of federal largesse.

      Directing me to Google doesn't help your case. I am in no way claiming a negative. Hypocrisy is out there.

      But the fact is that you and many on the left have been tossing around some particularly baseless hypocrisy accusations, like Thinkprogress's long list of quotes, the vast majority of which are not at all hypocritical.

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