Philip, it’s obvious that congressional Democrats and the Obama administration plan to present a two-part argument on the economy. First, as you say, no matter how bad it gets, they’ll argue that it would have been worse if not for the “emergency” action they undertook. Second — and this is the hook — it’s all the Republicans’ fault anyway.
This is one of the reasons I have urged that the proper message for opposition is, “It won’t work.” Rather than get into an argument about what caused the recession, Republicans should stick to the forward-looking theme that the Democrats’ plan is flawed and will not produce recovery. This is a “negative” message, but it has the virtue of being true.
Too many Republicans have taken a tactical, rather than a strategic, approach to opposing the stimulus. They quibble that the bill has too much of this or that, rather than questioning the underlying Keynesian rationale. It might be too much to ask that every Republican in Congress talk free-market radicalism like Ron Paul — who denounces the entire proposal as an exercise in “central economic planning” — but even if they endorse the interventionist impulse to Do Something, Republicans still have plenty of room to argue that this is not the right thing to do,
Thursday night, I talked to a friend who’s in commercial real estate development, and he said banks are now turning down loans for applicants with 780 credit ratings and 20 percent down. How is that problem going to be eased when Uncle Sam’s demand for credit (borrowing $780 billion) further drains the supply of available capital? Yet that is what the neo-Keynesians are asking Americans to believe. It would seem easy to debunk that argument — I’m picturing Ross Perot with his charts and graphs — but I’m not hearing such a rebuttal from Republicans.