Monday, September 17, 2012

Meet the New GOP Economic Plan, Same as the Old Plan

One of the things I frequently think about when I hear the GOP's economic policies is, "Hmm, this looks familiar." As a result, I've always thought that the GOP's current economic platform, rather than being a product of our current economic circumstance, actually reflects the same generic platitudes that they have been advocating for since 2004. I've never specifically looked into how well their talking points lined up over the years, but thanks to Mike Konczal, I don't have to dig too deeply. He's written a post that includes economic talking points from 2004, 2008, and 2012 Republican Conventions. Here are the five big points in Romney's economic platform, as heard during his speech at the RNC this past month:
  • First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.
  • Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.
  • Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.
  • Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
  • And fifth, we will champion SMALL businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
So, to sum these five points up, energy independence, better education through school choice, free trade, cutting spending/balancing the budget, and reducing taxes and regulations on businesses. Let's compare these points to  quotes in McCain's speech in 2008, given on the eve of the financial crisis, when unemployment stood at 6.1%:
  • I will open new markets to our goods and services. My opponent will close them.
  • I will cut government spending. He [Obama] will increase it.
  • We all know that keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs.
  • Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend, and invest as you see fit.
  • We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice.
  • We'll produce more energy at home.. Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that.
So in 2008 the GOP's platform is free trade, cutting government spending, cutting taxes on businesses, school choice, and energy independence. This platform looks pretty familiar, but maybe it changes if we go back another four years, to when the economy isn't right on the cusp of a major recession. Perhaps the platforms were similar because both elections took place in or around a recession. Maybe Bush's speech in 2004 will show an economic platform that changes based on the state of the economy? As a reminder, when Bush gave his speech in 2004, unemployment was at 5.4%, which is basically "full employment." Anyway, here are some excerpts:
  • To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending, reducing regulation and making the tax relief permanent.
  • To create jobs, we will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
  • To create jobs, we will expand trade and level the playing field to sell American goods and services across the globe.
  • And we must protect small-business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that threaten jobs across our country. Another drag on our economy is the current tax code, which is a complicated mess.
  • He's [John Kerry] proposed more than $2 trillion in new federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts.
So, cutting regulations, expanding free trade, cutting taxes, and cutting federal spending. The only thing that was left out of the 2004 economic platform was school choice, presumably because Bush's signature education policy was No Child Left Behind, which was geared more towards public schools. In any case, I'm assuming that many of you picked up on a pattern here: the GOP's economic platform has been virtually the same since 2004, regardless of economic conditions. That is, rain or shine, recession or full employment, the GOP's economic platform has remained some iteration of the same few talking points for the past 8 years. Regardless of what you think about the performance of the so-called Bush economy, the idea that economic conditions in 2004 are comparable to those of today is utterly insane. 

This quote by Stephen Colbert sums things up nicely: "He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will."