Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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election 2012:

Line of Attack: Is it fair to go after Berkley for championing the stimulus?

Editor’s note: Line of Attack is a feature that will run each week until the Nov. 6 election. In Line of Attack, we will parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous.

Attack: Nevada Senate candidate Shelley Berkley thinks the federal government helped rescue Nevada with the stimulus – but “do you feel rescued?”

Method of delivery: Packaged by a political advocacy group and brought to you via television broadcast and the online radio site Pandora. Americans for Prosperity, the force behind this ad attacking Berkley, is a familiar face at the conservative family table. The group’s widely credited with launching the Republicans to major victories in 2010.

AFP dug back into that cycle for the hook of this ad: July 2009 footage of a crop-haired Berkley on the House floor, praising the stimulus for providing “extraordinary benefits” to Nevadans and the federal government for coming “to our rescue.”

A concerned woman’s voiceover then goes on to accuse Berkley of voting for “more wasteful spending and higher taxes” and quotes stats about foreclosures and unemployment.

Strategy: For Republicans, the stimulus is like Old Faithful, the most iconic evidence there is of “big government spending.” It gets their party faithful riled up and ready to run some Democrats out of office. The ad attempts to tie Berkley to that narrative, and make the voter think her stimulus-happy ways are what has kept Nevada in the economic dumps.

Fairness meter: Berkley did vote for the stimulus and was pretty vocal about her support for it. She also never came out to partially criticize it the way she has with the Affordable Care Act, so digging up the old footage is fair play.

To get to the bottom of the rest of it, you have to wade into the most festering economic swampland of this election cycle: Did the Keynesian stimulus help, or was it just throwing good money after bad?

Did the stimulus, by paying to keep teachers, public safety officials, and construction workers working for two years, help the economy from slumping worse than it did, or not? On the flip side, would cutting government spending create the jobs AFP says Nevada needed instead of the stimulus?

The economist’s answer would be the stimulus made things “less worse” in the short term, but that in the long term, unchecked debt will hamper job growth and stabilization.

But this is politics. And since you can’t prove an economic alternative that didn’t happen, shots like this are going to come fast and cheap.

All in all, it’s Legit on the politics, but it's an Eye Roll on the math.

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