On Tuesday night’s CBS Evening News, CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson uncritically repeated Republican Talking points about the Recovery and Reinvestment Act without pointing out how absurd their anti-stimulus arguments are. In the segment (video here), the reporter also illustrated she does not have a clue about what constitutes economic stimulus.

Attkisson included critical statements from several Republicans but none from Democratic supporters. She started with the nonsensical comment from John McCain that "this is not a stimulus package, it’s a spending package," and continued with a "CBS analysis" which was nothing more than displaying the dollar totals assigned to several of the Cabinet agencies: X billions for Commerce, Y billions for Labor, Z billions for HHS. This is analysis?

It is not suprising that John McCain pretends not to know that spending creates jobs and economic activity, and that is what the stimulus is all about, but apparently CBS’ Attkissison doesn’t know this either. So here’s Dean Baker to make it simple:

Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple.

It’s clear people need jobs, but how do the Republicans and lazy reporters think the economy creates jobs, except by spending money to pay people to do things? That’s what the stimulus bill does. It pays people to do dozens of different things, from building and repairing things, to fixing up parks and facilities, to laying cable, to retrofiting buildings for energy efficiency, to providing police, fire and teaching services, to buying things from people who make them, to providing health care, and on and on. The bill contains dozens of these job-creating items, virtually all of them worthwhile. The variety is not a fault; it’s good, because there are dozens, hundreds of things we need to be paying people to do throughout the economy that won’t otherwise get done but would stimulate the economy.

Sure, there are interesting economist debates about how fast the spending takes effect, how much the spending mutiplies through the economy for different projects, and when/whether we need to worry about displacing private investment. But we’re in for a long recession, and everyone agrees we need to start the spending now and keep it going for a while. That’s what the bill does, along with providing relief for folks worst hurt in this economy (and why shouldn’t it?).

In the meantime, spending creates jobs = stimulus. That basic equation has been lost in the media discussion, allowing the Republicans to talk gibberish on national television while national reporters repeat it without question. The economy is tanking and we can’t afford to have "reporting" from such levels of ignorance.

The problem is not that we’re proposing spending, because that’s what we need and what creates the stimulus. The problem is we’re probably not spending enough to make up for how the deep this recession is now and will become by the time we finish wasting time on Republican distractions.

Reporters also have an obligation to question why Senate Republicans are knee-jerk opposed to stimulus in the form of spending. The Republicans aren’t opposed because it’s not stimulus; they’re opposed because they don’t support public spending for certain activities. They don’t want the federal government paying for more teachers and schools and they don’t want government helping laid-off workers keep their health care, which is a big part of this bill. But the public wants these things, and that disconnect needs to be reported.



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

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