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Stimulus Games
Citizen Zed - 8/16/2012

Everywhere we're supposed to buy the cookie cutter factoid that the economy helps Romney. That's the way it's always been. Such things always hurt the incumbent. This truism, once it percolates through the den of paint-by-numbers "political" consultancy, issues forth in a thick, steaming carafe of GOP squawking points. Obama is a failure. Everything he's done is an epic fail. The stimulus, that latest example of government trying to do what it can't, was a failure.

Just when you think it's all so incontestably obvious, perhaps even as a "leftist" bemoaning the lack of a bigger stimulus, comes an interesting long read, one which traffics in such quaint notions as rationality, empirical detail and history regarding the "failed" stimulus. In "Think Again: Obama's New Deal, The president's Republican critics are dead wrong. The Stimulus worked.", Michael Grunwald writes:

"When it comes to the Recovery Act, the facts are on Obama's side.

For starters, there is voluminous evidence that the stimulus did provide real stimulus, helping to stop a terrifying free-fall, avert a second Depression, and end a brutal recession...

Politically, it's awkward for the president to argue that without the stimulus, the bad economy would have been much worse. It sounds lame to point out that recessions caused by financial meltdowns tend to be unusually long and nasty. But it's true."  >continue<

Awkward enough, that is, to where Karl Rove likely rubs his hands, anticipating Obama coaxed into lecturing like a professor while studiously attempting to limn out the facts. "Come on Obama, quit making excuses, quit teaching - and better yet, get out of the way and let those that can do take the reins. The failure is just all so obvious as to make a mockery of tedious academic apology." So goes the predictable line in a world where the "intellectuality" of Paul Ryan amounts to the prize in a Cracker Jack box, where the dramaturgy and "substance" of politics has the flavor of professional wrestling.

If one unreflectively trades with the currency of a pre-2008 mentality, a frame harkening back to a fat, happy yet unravelling time, where entertainment might suffice for politics, all this might have better traction. Then the economy might automatically help Romney. Polls appear to show, however, that voters are wary of this game - perhaps like dogs unaccountably wary of antifreeze. They may not be ready to retroactively retire the Reagan Revolution but there appears to be a willingness to pause before reactively handing the keys back to the GOP. They may reckon, with legitimate suspicion, that even our out-sized expectations of presidents can't muster the requisite suspension of disbelief necessary to hold Obama accountable for smoothly pulling a recovery out of a hat.

Countering the dawning of adult cognition, Romney and the GOP quadruple down with talk of failure. If they can't convince by framing with labels, slight of hand proceeds to loudly repeat bare conclusions free of either tested premises or the actual structure of argument - and free of the political context whereby a "loyal opposition" has engaged in every contortion imaginable to torque Washington into abject deadlock. The party of Atwater, Rove, and Ailes cries foul at any interrogation, fingering Obama as hateful and divisive - and thus "distracted" from the real job of recovery. But it's this act that's the distraction, engaged in the worn out game of projecting and hanging its essence upon another.

The managers of this "discourse" don't worry that anyone in the target demographic will be shocked by pushing every nonsensical claim imaginable against Obama, studded with the repetition of remarks so wrenched out of context as to problematize an Onion parody. Indeed, they trade on the confidence that if you're a Tea Party dude lacking 6th grade reading skills, you didn't get that. It's an austerity eschewing science, empirical grounding or intellectual honesty. It's an austerity impoverished enough to celebrate pulling stuff out of its ass, forever stuck in the loud denial of what 2008 meant and continues to mean.

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