The New York Times had a terrific editorial today, taking a big-picture view of the race for the Republican presidential nomination and the “journey into the dingy, cramped quarters of the right wing’s economic policies.” The piece is well worth reading.

The Republicans ritually denounced President Obama as hostile to capitalism, disdainful of individual enterprise and lacking in ideas for reviving the economy. All they had to offer were economic ideas that not only are inadequate for that purpose but were instrumental in creating the nation’s current economic problems. […]

Economic growth and rising productivity are needed for broadly shared prosperity, but rising living standards require policies that ensure regular increases in the minimum wage, which peaked in 1968; greater investment in the social safety net; full employment as a government priority; progressive taxation; and effective financial regulation to avoid overgrowth followed by collapse.

These kinds of policies dominated from the late-1940s to the 1970s, a time of broadly shared prosperity and a strong middle class. Those policies were then systematically reversed, income inequality began to explode and productivity growth slowed. Tax cuts for the rich and assaults on programs for the poor and middle class worsened inequality during the years of George W. Bush.

The answer is not more of the same failed policies. The solution is to revive the successful ones, along with policies to stimulate the economy and stop foreclosures. Mr. Obama understands this. The Republican hopefuls are deluding themselves and trying to delude the voters.

I realize this isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but it’s a good and well-timed summary.

From time to time, prominent Republican voices will reflect longingly for the America of their youth. Putting aside important questions about diversity and discrimination — the good ol’ days were anything but good for millions of Americans seeking equal opportunities — these memories are not entirely wrong, at least insofar as the economy is concerned.

Joe Scarborough wrote last summer about his upbringing and his desire to see America return to the can-do spirit in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2010, John Boehner complained about the loss of the “America I grew up in.”

But whether Republicans want to admit it or not, progressive economic policies, embraced and implemented by government, created the national conditions they now miss. They’re unsatisfied with the status quo, but don’t want to acknowledge that it’s been a generation-long departure from these progressive policies that changed the America they “grew up in” in ways they don’t like.

Worse, they now insist on sticking with what doesn’t work, and moving even further to the right. There’s no reason for the public to find their demands credible.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.