Under ideal circumstances, President Obama would come up with an economic plan and execute it. If the agenda succeeded, he’d get the credit. If it faltered, Republicans would call him on it. Voters could evaluate the results and decide whether to keep the president around or go back to GOP economic policies.
But those circumstances are nowhere to be found. Rather, we’re stuck looking in this funhouse-mirror in which Republicans block Democratic economic policies, and then condemn the policies for failing. Worse, as Adam Serwer noted, these same GOP officials are “actively pursuing policies that make the problem worse, and then attacking the president for the results.”
In every meaningful way, this is exactly the dynamic we’re dealing with. Kevin Drum had a good summary on this last night, which he conceded is so absurd, it’s “kind of hard to believe.”
2001-2008: Republicans run economy into ditch.
2008: Obama elected.
2009-2011: Republicans respond by doing everything possible to prevent him from fixing things.
2012: Republicans use lousy economy as campaign cudgel against Obama.
2012: Republican candidate wins presidency (maybe).
Arguably one of the most dramatic Democratic dilemmas of 2011 and 2012 is overcoming the realization that Republicans are getting their way on economic policy and then denying any responsibility for the results. Indeed, it’s a rather extraordinary con: GOP officials see much of their agenda implemented, then see it fail, and then blame Obama when their policies don’t work.
Especially over the last couple of days, the underlying Republican pitch in response to economic anxiety and recession fears is, “See? It’s time to try things our way.”
What goes largely overlooked is the fact that we already are trying things their way. Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, the economy is advancing exactly as they want it to. The private sector is being left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs and scrapping investments; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt reduction.
This is the script the GOP wrote.
In fairness, I realize GOP officials aren’t getting everything they want. The EPA still exists; OSHA is still looking out for worker safety; corporate tax rates have not yet been slashed, etc.
But consider the larger landscape. Bush tax breaks in effect for a decade? Check. No more stimulus? Check. Massive debt-reduction package approved? Check. States and municipalities forced to cut back and fend for themselves? Check.
What are Republicans complaining about? Why blame Dems for the performance of the GOP agenda?