The Facts? | Tea Party Chic | Dodd Folds

The Facts?—The one-year anniversary of the $787 billion stimulus bill was an opportunity for Republicans to refine one of their big 2010 campaign narratives: The stimulus bill that passed in February 2009 is a failure. “The facts are the facts,” said Minority Whip Eric Cantor at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion. “I have gone so far as to say that it has been an utter failure.” Cantor pointed to a graph he claimed linked increasing stimulus spending to increased unemployment.

“Eric says it’s a failure. I join in that rhetoric. It’s a failure,” said Shelley Moore Capito (WV). Capito said that unemployment in West Virginia had increased from 6 percent to 9 percent since the stimulus bill passed. New Jersey Representative Scott Garrett cited the 12.4 percent unemployment rate in California and the 13 percent unemployment rate in Nevada as proof that the stimulus bill has failed. The Republican representatives answered questions submitted on Facebook. None of the reporters attending in person were allowed to ask questions. I caught up with Capito as she left the event and asked her about the consensus among economists that the bill has saved and created jobs—in particular the Moody’s Economy.com finding that the stimulus bill was responsible for the addition of 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs, and the Congressional Budget Office conclusion that stimulus spending had added 2.1 percentage points to the gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2009, and had created or saved between 800,000 and 2.4 million jobs.

“I’m not familiar with those figures,” Capito said. “I just returned from my district and what I said is based on what I heard in my district.” I asked Garrett the same question as he prepared to speak at a stimulus panel later in the day. “I don’t know where they get their figures,” Garrett said. “I don’t know anything about their methodology.” Asked if he considered the non-partisan CBO a credible source of economic information, Garrett said he accepted neither Moody’s nor the CBO’s numbers on jobs created by stimulus spending.

Tea Party Chic—A sartorial gesture of solidarity with the Tea Party movement has made Revolutionary War period-dress commonplace at gatherings of the political right. A George Washington impersonator looked on at the signing of the Mount Vernon Statement at the first president’s Alexandria, Va., estate last month. The document, which can be read in full (and signed) atwww.themountvernonstatement.com, is an anodyne reiteration of conservative principles intended, in part, to paper over differences between the Teabaggers and established conservative organizations. It also is a calculated attempt to unite the religious right (Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council) and secular conservatives (Grover Norquist of Americans For Tax Reform). Human Events political editor John Gizzi described the statement as “a declaration to which grassroots Americans—Tea Party members, Republicans, and anyone else who rejects the run-amok liberalism the Obama administration has delivered” can add their signatures.

New political manifestos are as common in Washington as tri-cornered hats and muskets. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is preparing a “Contract With America II,” modeled on the “Contract With America” he promoted as a legislative roadmap in 1994. Teabaggers are soliciting suggestions from the grassroots for their “Contract From America.” Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan has released a “Roadmap for America’s Future 2.0″—which has far more policy content than the other political documents. Ryan’s roadmap would dead-end Medicare, moving Americans under age 55 away from later enrollment in the federal health-care program. And by allowing workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in tax-free stock-market accounts, Ryan’s roadmap would gradually phase out Social Security. Ryan has produced a carefully (sometimes deceitfully) crafted policy paper that would radically alter the social contract that has been in place since the New Deal. Worth reading at: roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov.

Dodd Folds—A critical piece of the administration’s financial reform is dead in the Senate. Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) asked Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) to replace Richard Shelby (R-AL) as the Republican negotiator after negotiations deadlocked. Corker told The Hill that an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency (which passed the House) is a “non starter.” Dodd caved, accepting a consumer protection “division” within the Treasury Department—an accommodation decried by consumer advocacy groups. We reported on March 1 that Dodd was walking away from a CFPA. It appears that he has walked.