In tough economic times, in-parties routinely accuse out-parties of hoping for bad economic times. But this time there’s a little noticed tell that puts the question in much sharper relief. Having run last year on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs, congressional Republicans are now more or less openly saying that they’re not interested in doing anything to boost jobs or economic growth in the short or even medium term.
Don’t believe me? Look at what they’re actually saying.
We know that congressional Republicans are saying they won’t allow any more stimulus spending. That’s been more or less clear since last November’s election. And that doesn’t surprise anyone much since, while it prevents any real action to boost the economy, it’s also in line with Republican economic doctrines. The tell came when the White House pushed for a tax cut — something which likely would not boost jobs as efficiently as direct spending but would pass Republican economic orthodoxy. That was rejected too.
At the time, Democrats seized on this refusal as evidence that Republicans were so intent on keeping the economy stalled through the 2012 election that they were even willing to forego tax cuts which their ideology favors. Which was a fair criticism. But more revealing were the statements from Boehner and others.
In resisting the move for a payroll tax holiday Boehner didn’t dispute that it would help the economy. How could he? Boehner said “The uncertainty that’s out there is not going to be overcome by, you know, another little short-term gimmick.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander expanded on the point: “We don’t need short-term gestures, we need long-term strategies that build into our system simpler taxes, lower taxes, fewer mandates, lower costs, more certainty, any changes in the debt structure of tax reform ought to come out of the Vice President’s talks or part of a major tax reform. If short-term government programs work, we wouldn’t have 9% unemployment today because the government has tried it. So we’ve proved that doesn’t work, unforutnately.”
Boil these statements down and they amount to: we’re interested in long term structural changes to the economy not short term measures to boost jobs or growth. Nothing wrong with wanting long-term structural changes. Democrats want those too, just different ones. But I don’t think anyone could get elected today in anything close to a competitive state or district writing off any kind of immediate effort to create jobs and economic growth. But that’s what they’re saying.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.