I've been catching some gentle pushback for writing this piece about Republicans claiming credit for an economic recovery. The gist is this: If the tax cut compromise doesn't explain economic growth projections, then why do even Barack Obama and Harry Reid say the opposite?
It's a good point. But let's be perfectly clear that it's a purely political point. The White House in particular is invested in the success -- real or perceived -- of the tax compromise. And the tax compromise itself was in large part a product of the GOP's electoral success. Thus, there's a simple line of argument: the White House says the tax compromise helped stabilize the economy, Republicans correctly point out that they were the principal drivers of that compromise, ergo Republicans deserve credit for stabilizing the economy. QED.
But that conclusion is only accurate if the White House isn't also exaggerating the impact of the deal. Dave Weigel talked to Bruce Bartlett who claimed the Republicans, "[a]s usual, they are full of shit." It's not just Bartlett, either -- you could repeat that exercise ad infinitum. There's simply no plausible way that two-weeks worth of extended tax rates are responsible for what's actually a slow job growth trend.
None of that matters insofar as the politics are concerned. What Democrats have not done, and are not doing, is claiming that the looming recovery is the result of two-years worth of their economic policies: stimulus spending, tax credits, unemployment, and the compromise. They've basically closed the door on that interpretation of events, and have instead allowed the GOP to reverse the obvious narrative of the last half-decade: that Republican policies led to inequality, then crisis, then recession and that Democratic policies (barely) righted our course after the 2008 election.
For now that means Republicans will catch a bunch of flack, and critics will mock them, because, you know, everyone gets what's up. But they'll plant these seeds nonetheless, and then three, six, nine months later, if the recovery is real, it will have a big impact on the public's understanding of events.