A trip down memory lane

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE…. If a sports analyst made predictions that were consistently wrong, he or she would quickly lose credibility. If a meteorologist regularly told people the opposite of what to expect from the weather, after a while, folks would stop listening to the meteorologist.

But somehow, Republicans have consistently made faulty economic predictions for about a quarter-century, and not only do they pretend to know what they’re talking about, but the media and large swaths of the country keep listening to them.

Steve Kornacki has a fun item today, revisiting the debate over Bill Clinton’s economic agenda in 1993, which included a series of spending cuts and tax increases as a way to reduce the deficit after a difficult recession. At the time, prominent GOP leaders — who are still around, saying the same things — were quite specific in their predictions.

[T]he GOP succeeded brilliantly in driving up opposition to the Clinton plan. Fearful voters turned against it in polls as they heard about the devastating effects it would have on the economy and their own lives. The hysteria was stoked by literally every Republican on Capitol Hill; not a single GOP member of the House or Senate ended up voting for the plan.

Thanks to the magic of C-Span’s video archive, it’s easy to revisit the GOP’s fear-mongering of ’93 — all of the warnings about the terrible things that would happen if the Clinton budget were ever signed into law.

Kornacki has several entertaining clips, featuring remarks from Newt Gingrich (current presidential candidate), John Kasich (current Ohio governor), and a parade of like-minded Republican lawmakers, all of whom were certain Clinton — a president whose legitimacy they questioned from Day One — was making a drastic mistake. Gingrich went so far as to predict, “I believe this will lead to a recession next year. This is the Democrat [sic] machine’s recession. And each one of them will be held personally accountable.”

I like the idea of politicians being “held personally accountable” for the accuracy of projections. Indeed, it seems especially relevant in this case.

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know every GOP member of the House and Senate — literally, all of them — was wrong, and Clinton was right. Indeed, watching the clips Kornacki posted, it’s eerie how similar the rhetoric is to Republican talking points of the Obama era. The language has barely changed at all (and they’re still wrong).

But the larger point isn’t just that the GOP’s confident predictions in 1993 were misguided; the larger point is that Republicans have been consistently wrong at every similar juncture in modern history.

In the late ’80s, many conservative Republicans said Reagan’s plan that raised taxes would hurt the economy. They were wrong. In 1993, Republicans said Clinton’s plan that raised taxes would cause a recession. They were wrong. In 2001, Republicans said Bush’s plan that cut taxes would create an economic boom and balance the budget. They were really wrong. In 2009, Republicans said Obama’s plan would make the Great Recession worse and fail to create jobs. And again, they were wrong.

I realize the political world tends to have a short memory, but shouldn’t the pattern tell us something?