Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

John Boehner, tilting at economic windmills

Exactly six years ago yesterday, President Obama signed something called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. Most folks probably know it as the Recovery Act, or even more simply, “the stimulus.”
There’s plenty of room for discussion about the president’s legacy, but if we’re creating a list of his most important accomplishments, this law, which rescued the nation from the grips of the Great Recession, has to be near the top.
And so, on its anniversary, Recovery Act proponents may have been inclined to take another victory lap yesterday, though that didn’t seem to happen much yesterday, probably because it would seem gratuitous and ungracious. At a moment of great crisis, Republicans were wrong; Obama was right; and there’s probably no real benefit to pointing and laughing at one of the GOP’s more spectacular recent failures.
What I didn’t expect was this message from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
On this day 6 years ago POTUS signed his failed $787 billion “stimulus” into law. Retweet if you agree: Washington spending isn’t the answer.
I feel like I’m listening to a Seahawks fan arguing that Seattle really did win the Super Bowl, reality be damned. Retweet if you agree: scoring more points than the other team isn’t the answer.
Look, I don’t really expect John Boehner, or any other Republican, to own up to their mistakes. It’s just too embarrassing. What’s the beleaguered Speaker going to say, “With the economy on the brink, my entire party was wrong and Obama was right”? It’s unrealistic to expect this kind of candor.
But if you’re Boehner, on the sixth anniversary of the economy-saving law, why say anything at all? Why deliberately bring up one of your more colossal failures? (In 2009, the Republican leader’s big idea was a five-year spending freeze – a remedy even David Brooks labeled “just insane.”)
Kaili Joy Gray joked, “Yes, Speaker Boehner, you are definitely correct that Obama’s “stimulus” plan has made everything worse, except for how everything’s better, but that’s kind of the same thing, except for how it’s the opposite.”
This isn’t even a close call. Remember this from 2012?
Did the stimulus work? Certainly not according to Republicans, who regularly blast President Obama’s “failed” economic policies on the campaign trail…. But on Wednesday, under questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.
In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.
Almost immediately after the Recovery Act became law, economic growth improved. Job growth improved. The stock market improved. Everything improved, setting the stage for sustained growth.
The economy was failing, then the Recovery Act started spending, then conditions quickly improved. In the Speaker’s mind, how is that possible? Was it magic? Was it a coincidence? How does he explain the fact that every relevant economic metric improved, quickly, immediately after Obama’s stimulus took effect?
The truth matters, not simply as a political exercise in which partisan players point fingers and thump their chests, but for entirely practical reasons. Republican leaders want to be taken seriously on economic policy. If they remain convinced, six years later, that the stimulus “failed,” their credibility is a sad joke.
Dear John Boehner, if you want people to forget how wrong you were at the height of the economic crisis, stop reminding us how wrong you were at the height of the economic crisis.