Moderate No More: Sen. Collins Embraces Right-Wing Economic Talking Points

September 26, 2011 1:34 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Sen. Lindsey Graham

One of the main Republican arguments against President Obama's jobs bill is that it relies on ideas that "failed" in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Bashing the 2009 stimulus bill is a favorite GOP pastime, but people often forget that the Recovery Act was smaller than it should have been — and predictably so — thanks to the demands of "moderate" Republican senators who carried it to passage.

Nonetheless, at least some Republicans were willing to cross party lines early in the Obama administration. These days, reputedly moderate senators are too often sitting on the sidelines and, worse, embracing the rhetoric of their right-wing colleagues. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, former stimulus supporter Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called for a year-long moratorium on regulations, claiming the key to job creation is eliminating the "uncertainty" caused by government overreach that puts "a big wet blanket on our economy." Collins writes:

Business owners are reluctant to create jobs today when they're going to need to pay more tomorrow to comply with onerous new regulations. That's what employers mean when they say that uncertainty generated by Washington is a big wet blanket on our economy.

I have asked employers in my state what it would take to help them add jobs. No matter their business or the size of their work force, they tell me that Washington must stop imposing crushing new regulations.

America needs a "time-out" from the regulations that discourage job creation and hurt our economy. I have introduced legislation to impose a one-year moratorium on any "significant" new rules that would have an adverse impact on jobs, the economy, or America's international competitiveness. A one-year moratorium on such regulations is a common-sense solution that would help create jobs.

What a difference two years make. In February 2009, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) bucked her party and hailed the Recovery Act's "robust spending on infrastructure" (after she negotiated a compromise that reduced its scope by $230 billion). "This debate is not about Republicans or about Democrats," she added. Now, she's copying empty catchphrases like "big wet blanket" from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who openly admits that defeating President Obama is his top concern.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is predictably cheering Collins' contribution to the team, but economists and business owners dispute the Collins-Boehner narrative. According to a survey of economists by the Wall Street Journal, "The main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies." The paper has also reported that businesses are "hoarding cash" and waiting for "a burst in demand strong enough to propel hiring."

The next time Collins wants to write a column on job creation, she should look for inspiration in her own past statements instead of the GOP message machine.