Republicans Challenge Obama in Baltimore
House Republicans are following up President Obama’s speech to their annual retreat with strikingly combative questions, with phrasing and numbers very familiar to those of us who have been covering Republicans since the start of 2009. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the party’s conference chairman, led off questions by attacking the 2009 stimulus package as a “piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts,” saying that Republicans had a plan that would have “created twice as many jobs at half the cost” — a claim based on an inversion of Christina Romer’s research on depression economics that Romer herself knocked down.
Obama’s answer was a long, point-by-point defense of the stimulus package and dismissal of Pence’s argument. The stimulus, he argued, didn’t deserve blame for unemployment numbers that surged before it was passed. “I am not an ideologue,” Obama said. He couldn’t find a “credible economist” who bought into the GOP plan. When Pence asked whether Obama would support “broad, across-the-board tax cuts,” Obama smiled at him — those tax cuts would mean breaks for people who didn’t need it. In answering that way, he both accepted some GOP frames (an angry liberal economist might have pointed out that the 1981 tax cuts demanded by Ronald Reagan preceded a year of surging unemployment numbers) and dismissed arguments that hadn’t really been dealt with at this level.