MSNBC's Thomas Roberts: GOP Opposition to Govt. Spending an 'Act of Treason'

MSNBC's Thomas Roberts implied Tuesday that members of Congress who oppose efforts to inject more government spending into the economy, as President Barack Obama proposed recently, are committing an "act of treason."

"Why don't people look at that as an act of treason?" the daytime anchor asked the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, who shrugged off the accusation.

"I don't think what happens is Mitch McConnell and John Boehner retire to their volcano lair and plot how to doom the American economy," replied the liberal blogger.

[See video below. MP3 audio here.]

While brushing aside Roberts' smear, Klein noted that since the "reality of politics" dictates that Republicans are "in better shape if the economy's doing poorly and Obama looks weak," they have little incentive to compromise on a short-term stimulus package.

Piggybacking on Klein's argument, CNBC's Ron Insana interjected to take his own potshot at congressional Republicans:

The one thing that has been sold and believed to be true right now is the notion that deficit reduction in the short-run will somehow help this economy, which is not running on all cylinders. That is flatly untrue. If you were to throw hundreds of thousands of government workers out of their jobs, in an economy where there are 4.6 applicants for every job available, the unemployment rate will go up.

Relying on a strawman that Republicans support a plan to "throw hundreds of thousands of government workers out of their jobs," the CNBC senior analyst accepted Roberts' veiled invitation to criticize anyone who doesn't complacently go along with Obama's spending programs.

In fact, not only did Insana fail to cite any sources to support his charge, but the most-discussed Republican budget proposals don't come anywhere close to gutting discretionary spending and actually increase the deficit.

Take the debt ceiling agreement, which is expected to cut at least $2.1 trillion over the next decade but only cuts $25 billion next year. Compared to the total budget, that's peanuts.

Even the Ryan Plan, which has become the object of liberal scorn, only proposes returning discretionary spending to 2008 levels. It would be difficult to convince the American people that moderate reductions in discretionary spending would, as Insana put it, "undo the economy."

Insana did make one valid point, however, when he observed that "long-term reductions in unfunded liabilities are the key." Unfortunately, the president has yet to present a serious plan to reform entitlements. But at least he has allies like Roberts to lob incendiary accusations at his Republican "enemies."

A transcript of the relevant portions of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
News Live
August 9, 2011

11:07 a.m. Eastern

THOMAS ROBERTS: Ezra, you wrote on your blog that the worse this gets, the less likely Congress will act to stop the bleeding. Why don't people look at that as an act of treason?

EZRA KLEIN, Washington Post blogger: I should say, Suzy Khimm wrote that that; we have more writers than just me on the site. Whether it's an act of treason, it's a reality of politics right now. For Republicans, they're in better shape if the economy's doing poorly and Obama looks weak. And it isn't, I don't think, cynical. I don't think what happens is Mitch McConnell and John Boehner retire to their volcano lair and plot how to doom the American economy. I think people are very good at convincing themselves of what their self-interest required them to believe and so they convince themselves that whatever Barack Obama's offering to help the economy will not help. Barack Obama's wrong in all ways. And so they fight it. And gridlock right now is a pretty good recipe for not moving forward. We actually do need government action and the more that we paralyze and just sort of collapse into partisan bickering, the less we can actually do to move the country forward. And that is not, in the end, good for Barack Obama.

(Crosstalk)

ROBERTS: Go ahead, Ron.

RON INSANA: Can I just amplify on that point. The one thing that has been sold and believed to be true right now is the notion that deficit reduction in the short-run will somehow help this economy, which is not running on all cylinders. That is flatly untrue. If you were to throw hundreds of thousands of government workers out of their jobs, in an economy where there are 4.6 applicants for every job available, the unemployment rate will go up. Long-term reductions in unfunded liabilities are the key, not short-term reductions in discretionary spending. And I'm worried that this pressure S&P has put on the U.S. will lead our members of Congress and others to make hasty decisions that could undo the economy.

ROBERTS: Ron Insana, Ezra Klein, gentlemen thanks for joining me this morning, I appreciate it.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.