01/27/2011 12:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bipartisan Cluelessness in Republican Response to Obama State of the Union

Economic cluelessness, it seems, is now an equal-opportunity employer. There have been times in American history -- 1932, 1980 -- when there were good arguments for picking one side or the other, but having heard Rep. Paul Ryan's response to Obama's State of the Union address, I don't know who's worse.

Ryan began with a big long whine about -- quelle horreur! -- deficit spending, as if it were 1920 and the Keynesian insight that governments need to spend their way out of recession had never occurred:

Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt. The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies - an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. All of this new government spending was sold as "investment." Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.

While he's narrowly right about unemployment being stuck, the disappointment is that he's just as unaware as Obama that the reason the traditional cure hasn't worked is that America's huge deficit has caused so much of that stimulus to leak abroad, not get recycled in our own economy. Boy, did we stimulate Guandong! And this deficit is due to America (thought not China or most of Europe) practicing free trade.

As for Republican worries about the Federal debt, what about America's vast foreign debt which grows every year as we borrow abroad (and sell off existing assets) to import more than we export? Rising indebtedness is apparently OK for Republicans so long as multinational corporations profit from it.

One weeps for the republic. We need a clear partisan choice on an issue as important as free trade, not Tweedledum-Tweedledee economics.