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Boehner Calls for Return to Bushenomics; Says Obama Should Fire Econ Team

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In an attempt to beat the "Party of No" label, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, delivered a blistering but confusing economic address today at Cleveland's iconic City Club.

In one breath, Boehner bemoaned the budget deficit. “I'm not afraid to tell you there's no money left,” Boehner said. “In fact, we're broke.” In the next, he called on Democrats to extend Bush's tax cuts across the board. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if the cuts were extended, they'd be the largest contributors to the deficit over the next ten years.

Democrats want to extend the Bush cuts for the middle class and lose those that benefit top earners, a position that's polled extremely well this year.

Boehner justified the budget-busting tax-cuts with a little sleight-of-hand, saying, “raising taxes on families and small businesses during a recession is a recipe for disaster – both for our economy and for the deficit. Period. End of story.”  Of course, that's hardly the end of the story -- as Time Magazine's Jay Newton-Small noted, "much of that revenue is concentrated in  a small number of high end companies such as hedge funds and law firms, which are taxed as small businesses."

Boehner added some boilerplate trickle-down economics to the soup, calling for an across-the-board spending freeze (that means a freeze on non-military discretionary spending -- about 15 percent of the federal budget), and the passage of several GOP-sponsored bills.

Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said of the address, "It would be great if Boehner would actually engage in a substantive debate on economic policy."

If he thinks tax cuts are the answer, then he can tell the public why he thinks President Bush's tax cuts will be more effective in creating jobs now than they were when President Bush implemented them. The job growth during the Bush administration was of course the weakest in American history apart from the beginning of the Great Depression.

He can also tell people who he thinks is going to hire people because the federal government has frozen spending. I checked with all the stores and businesses in my area and none indicated that they would hire more workers if President Obama froze spending. They said they wouldn't hire any more people if the Yankees win the World Series either. I don't know why we would expect one to have more impact on hiring than the other, but maybe Representative Boehner can tell us.

The headline news from the speech was Boehner's call for Obama to "ask for – and accept – the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council." Boehner didn't say why they should be fired at this moment. "We do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing ‘stimulus' policies," he said. "We've tried 19 months of government-as-community organizer. It hasn't worked. Our fresh start needs to begin now.”

The administration responded to Boehner's speech before he gave it, posting a "prebuttal" on the White House website. Later, vice President Joe Biden addressed Boehner's remarks with a dry quip that it was  "very constructive advice, and we thank the leader for that."

"Mr. Boehner is nostalgic for those good 'ol days but the American people are not," Biden said. "I'm still waiting for what it is they are for."

The Republicans "for eight years ran the economy and the middle class literally into the ground," Biden said in a speech this morning that's part of an orchestrated push back from the Obama White House. Biden said when President George W. Bush took office in 2001 the GOP took a $237 billion operating surplus, "and left us with a $1.3 trillion deficit and in the process quadrupled the national debt all before ... we did one single solitary thing" in the Obama administration.