Blog Entry Redirect: Over the weekend, I quoted Ben Nelson saying "I think [the stimulus] will be below 800 [billion]. For me it's not symbolism, it's an economic matter. At some point it's just too big." $800 billion, I joked, was calculated using the famed Nelson output theorem, which is not at all reliant on symbolism or a preference for achievable round numbers. Rather, it's reliant on old-fashioned Nebraska values.
The joke, it turns out, is on me. Or more precisely, all of us. Here's Ben Nelson on MSNBC, responding to Paul Krugman's accusation that "the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh — not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo."
"Well, y'know, I don't know where he's from, but I'll tell you, in Nebraska, $60 billion for education on top of $40 billion, that's a pretty big commitment to education nationwide."
And thus life imitates snark: Ben Nelson's economic theory is based on a survey that Nelson has not conducted on Nebraskan attitudes towards education funding. Meanwhile, this is, as you'll note, utterly non-responsive to the question at hand. Ben Nelson believes Nebraskans would think $100 billion a "pretty big commitment to education." And maybe they would. He does not, however, say that they would think $150 billion an excessively big commitment to education. Nor, for that matter, does he suggest that they would think $80 billion an insufficient commitment to education. Confronted with Krugman's argument that Nelson's cuts did not display "any coherent economic argument," Nelson offered no coherent argument -- economic or otherwise -- in response. And this is the guy deciding the size of the stimulus package. He's cutting 500,000 jobs from the stimulus based on some fake poll he mentally conducted of Nebraskan preferences. He doesn't even bother to justify his actions on the merits. It's appalling.
I'll also echo Brian Beutler's criticism here: Norah O'Donnell had the camera trained on Ben Nelson. She had the opportunity to ask a follow-up. She could have said, "But Senator, Krugman's argument isn't about the preferences of Nebraskans but the size of the output gap in the next few years and the number of people were going to need to put back to work. He says the stimulus is too small as compared to a recession that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will shave 14 percent off our output. Which part of his analysis do you disagree with?" But she didn't. She thanked him and sent him on his way.