A Neo-Hooverite consensus

A NEO-HOOVERITE CONSENSUS…. A pattern emerges.

I’m listening to one-time DC celeb Fred Thompson on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox talking about the virtues of economic retrenchment as opposed to fiscal stimulus as a way to deal with the faltering US economy. I’m hearing this here and there from a few Republicans. But I’m curious how much this is coalescing into an opposition position.

Josh’s theft of the “neo-Hooeverite” construction notwithstanding, I’m curious about the same thing. Yesterday, we talked about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) insisting that the proper response to the financial crisis is for government to “cut spending.” This came two weeks after House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) offered a nearly identical prescription. Now, apparently, Fred Thompson’s on board.

It’s hard to imagine what these Republican leaders are thinking, but there are a variety of possible explanations.

* The Moral Explanation: Ed Kilgore had a terrific item last night explaining conservative support for the benefits of a recession, most notably the idea of wringing “excess demand” out of the economy. The right, in other words, wants to see everyone taught a moral lesson about excesses. As Ed explained, “[J]ust as Republicans like Phil Gramm couldn’t stop themselves from calling economically distressed Americans ‘whiners’ a few months ago, even in today’s crisis there will be a significant group of Republicans betraying an affection for the bracing moral ‘lesson’ being taught to the afflicted.”

* The Benefactor Explanation: Matt Stoller made a compelling case yesterday that conservatives worry about economic recovery benefitting the “wrong” people, as money moves from “people who are cash poor (the poor, the middle class, entrepreneurs, risk-takers) to people who have cash (the risk-averse rich).” And because “people [who] have money would prefer that they remain on top,” these conservatives “oppose attempts to restart spending from a broad base.”

* The Illiterate Explanation: It’s at least possible that Republicans like Sanford, Boehner, and Thompson oppose economic stimulus because they have no grounding in basic economics. They may, in other words, may be sincere, but hopelessly confused, and they’re not quite sharp enough to know when to stop talking.

* The Strategic Explanation: A TPM reader noted that Republicans may oppose sensible economic policies in order to undermine Democrats now that the party is in the majority. “Given the new demographic realities of the country, Obama’s presidency must be a failure if Republicans are to ever emerge from the political wilderness,” JF writes. “The more they obstruct, the more Obama and Congessional Democrats will be forced to water down economic policy. And a watered-down policy just won’t cut it at this moment in history. This is sabotage, pure and simple.”

* The Machurian Explanation: A slightly more callous version of the Strategic Explanation, it’s possible that GOP officials secretly hate the United States and are actively trying to destroy us from within.

That last one seems unlikely, but I’m just presenting the possibilities.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.