Ignoring experts, Matthews accuses Obama of misrepresentation in characterizing "relief" provisions as stimulus

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On Morning Joe, Chris Matthews accused the Obama administration of not "honestly marketing" the recovery bill, in part because "unemployment extensions" included in the package are "relief," he said, not "recovery." But Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf has testified that transfers to persons, such as unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance, are effective tools to stimulate GDP growth and that the stimulative effect on GDP leads to job creation.

During the February 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Hardball host Chris Matthews accused the Obama administration of not "honestly marketing" the economic recovery legislation President Obama supports, in part because, according to Matthews, "unemployment extensions" included in the package are "relief," not "recovery." Matthews stated of Obama: "I think he's got to explain why each big chunk of this will get the economy moving again, and admit honestly that some of it is just relief; it is not recovery or reconstruction. Some of it is simply paying off people with real problems, like unemployment extension and health care for the unemployed. He ought to just say, this part is relief. This part is recovery. And this part is reconstruction. But he hasn't honestly marketed it and that's the problem, I think." In fact, as Media Matters for America documented, Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf stated in January 27 congressional testimony: "Transfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would also have a significant impact on GDP. Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010." Additionally, in 2008 congressional testimony, Mark Zandi -- chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com, who was a McCain campaign economic adviser -- stated that "extending food stamps are [sic] the most effective ways to prime the economy's pump" and cited extending food stamps and unemployment insurance payments as having a greater "Fiscal Economic Bank for the Buck" than any other potential stimulus provision he analyzed, including temporary and permanent tax cuts.

From the February 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (host): Why did they let Nancy Pelosi and the group on the Hill draw up this bill? And they voted.

MATTHEWS: I don't know. Because Hillary Clinton made the opposite mistake. She tried to design it completely in a micromanaging sense, her health care bill, and everybody said, "No, you should have set some broad designs up and let [Rep. John] Dingell [D-MI] and [Rep. Jim] Cooper [D-TN] and those guys put it together -- and [former Rep. Dan] Rostenkowski [D-IL]." This time around, they said, "Do what you want, kids. Talk among yourselves, come up with something, and we'll sign it." I think that's -- and call anything you want stimulus.

SCARBOROUGH: Was that a bad mistake?

MATTHEWS: Oh, yeah, because everything is not stimulus. If everything is stimulus, then the guy rehabbing his office up at Merrill Lynch --

SCARBOROUGH: [former Merrill Lynch CEO John] Thain.

MATTHEWS: -- that's stimulus. Buying -- going out there buying jet streams, or those airplanes, Gulfstreams --

PAT BUCHANAN (MSNBC political analyst): Gulfstreams.

MATTHEWS: -- that's stimulus. If every dollar spent is good -- what you got to do is package it honestly. And part of it's relief, and part of it's recovery, and part of it's reconstruction.

SCARBOROUGH: But -- but --

MATTHEWS: They haven't honestly defined it.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's pass it up to Mika. Mika?

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Well, two questions -- one from me and then one from [New York Magazine contributing editor] John Heilemann: What's the rush? Why can't -- why -- why must this be done now? Heilemann, throw one in.

HEILEMANN: Chris, I want to know, you know, the -- Obama's going to go -- he's going to do a news conference next week on Monday. They're talking about an Oval Office address. Why has he not been out there earlier? Why has he not been taking this case in this way directly to the American people earlier on? It seems like they've let this debate kind of get way in front of them and now they're trying to catch up.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: I think he's failed as a communicator, John. And I think the -- it's such an irony for one of the great communicators since Reagan and Kennedy. If you -- if somebody came up to me and said, I want to sell you this car, and you couldn't see the wheels on the car, and you couldn't see the engine, you'd say, how does this thing work?

The trouble with the stimulus package is they keep calling it a stimulus package, but you can't see the stimulus. How does this work again? And he's never really explained how any big chunk of this thing is going to get the economy moving again. He's got to say, this part of it's going to get this thing going. This part is going to get that thing going. The tax cuts are going to get consumers buying stuff; the stores are going to be filled again. People are going to buy cars again, blah blah blah; this other part is going to have cops put on the street again, so they'll be safe shopping again, and neighborhoods will not empty out again.

I think he's got to explain why each big chunk of this will get the economy moving again, and admit honestly that some of it is just relief; it is not recovery or reconstruction. Some of it is simply paying off people with real problems, like unemployment extension and health care for the unemployed. He ought to just say, this part is relief.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: This part is recovery. And this part is reconstruction. But he hasn't honestly marketed it and that's the problem, I think.

BRZEZINSKI: OK. That's fair. [MSNBC political analyst Mike] Barnicle? Barnicle?

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment, Health Care
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
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