JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 17, 2010
In response to David Leonhardt's outstanding New York Times article on the success of the stimulus, Reihan Salam at National Review objects that Leonhardt is refuting a notion that no serious person actually holds:
If Leonhardt intends to knock down a straw-man argument — ARRA has had no impact and the economy would be in the same shape without any fiscal stimulus program — he succeeds. ... I don't thing that anyone doubts that ARRA helped perk up growth.
It's bizarre that Reihan portrays this as as a straw man argument, since it's indisputably a very-widely held opinion among Republicans and conservatives, and I'd argue represents the consensus GOP view. When new party poster boy Scott Brown asserted that the stimulus "didn't create one new job," he was simply parroting a line that has been circulating among his party for a year. Which other conservatives have said this, you ask? Which ones haven't?
There's John Boehner ("the stimulus isn’t creating jobs for American workers.") The Washington Times editorial page ("Mr. Obama's policies delayed the recovery.") Andrew Wilson at the American Spectator ("It is a $787 billion shell game -- taking money out of the private sector and putting it to less productive use in the public sector or passing it around as hand-outs to politically favored Democratic Party constituents. In doing so, the "stimulus" has actually destroyed jobs.")
How about some examples closer to home? Here's National Review's Mark Steyn: ("It didn’t just fail to stimulate, it actively deterred stimulation, because it was the first explicit signal to America and the world that the Democrats’ political priorities overrode everything else.") Here's Brian Riedl, also in National Review. ("The stimulus is not failing because it is too small or because too much of it is being saved. It’s failing because Congress can only redistribute existing demand, not create new demand.") With more time I could go on and on.
Reihan, a former TNR Reporter-Researcher, is a bright and terrific guy, but he has an unfortunate tendency to imagine that the Republican Party is filled with people who think like he does. It isn't.