The WSJ is Dismayed By the Tone

The Wall Street Journal is dismayed that several Republicans used the occasion of a debate that the Journal cosponsored to bash the Fed and the financial sector. And they’re not alone:

“A nasty—and ignorant—anti-Wall Street climate prevails in both parties, and it’s something our industry has to worry about,” said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, in a client note Wednesday.

I’ve noticed that these big investor types have a remarkably thin skin for a class of people that is supposed to be pretty sophisticated and not a little cynical. I mean, the investor class got in bed with the “antediluvians” in the conservative base way back in 1964 when Prescott Bush decided to get on his moral high horse and tear down Nelson Rockefeller for his scandalous personal life:

“Have we come to the point in our life as a nation where the governor of a great state—one who perhaps aspires to the nomination for president of the United States—can desert a good wife, mother of his grown children, divorce her, then persuade a young mother of four youngsters to abandon her husband and their four children and marry the governor?”

That was over fifty years ago now, and it’s a little late for the Northeast Establishment to seek a divorce of their own. They’ve been fine with aligning themselves politically with religious stone-agers and anti-science zealots. But they sound less like the one seeking a divorce than the one trying to discover when and how they started to grow so far apart. Maybe they’re hoping a little counseling can patch things up. It’s just that the conservatives seem so angry.

The fourth GOP debate, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal and Fox Business Network, illustrated how Republicans are competing to bridge their populist message with the party’s traditional support for lower taxes and less regulation. Candidates castigated crony capitalism, questioned the value of a Pacific trade pact and bashed the Fed as a cause of the financial crisis and a tool of the Obama administration.

The Goldwater brigades did favor lower taxes and less regulation and when they fully wed themselves to the social conservatives in the Nixon coalition, the Wall Street folks decided they could live and prosper with this new Republican Party just as well as they had lived with the old one.

But now they seem to have lost their last bit of control over the process and they not only have hurt feelings; they’re getting genuinely alarmed.

Candidates voiced concerns about the power of big banks, even as they promised to sweep away new regulations, including the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that requires the biggest banks to raise more capital to withstand financial crises. They also heaped criticism on the Federal Reserve, which has taken unprecedented steps to spur growth in the seven years following the financial crisis—but has also consistently overestimated growth rates in its forecasts.

It’s cute to see the Journal sound concerned about the fate of Dodd-Frank. After all, reviling the banks and bank bailouts while simultaneously demonizing the law that seeks to regulate them is exactly how this marriage is supposed to work. That’s precisely the kind of wink-and-a-nod politics that has defined the Bush-Goldwater-Wallace coalition from the beginning.

Still, it’s hard to take having to listen to Donald Trump bash free trade, Ted Cruz advocate the Gold Standard and Rand Paul blame the Fed for inflation that doesn’t exist.

But, most of all, it’s hard to listen to candidates who are supposed to be your friends talk about the ““cozy little game between regulators and health-insurance companies” or complain that “giant corporations with armies of accountants regularly are paying little to no taxes while small businesses are getting hammered.” When even Chris Christie is saying “the Fed should stop playing politics with our money supply,” you know the beast has slipped the chain.

The biggest tell in this piece, though, is in how they concluded it- by quoting conservative hypercritic Norm Ornstein:

“The most dismaying element” of Tuesday’s debate was that “none of the candidates appear to have read, much less absorbed, the innovative ideas” of “reform-minded conservative economists,” said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has advocated many of those policies. “Instead, they all promoted ideas that appealed to the antediluvian base.”

It’s been 50 years since Prescott used the “family values” card on Nelson Rockefeller. Now his grandson Jeb is finding out that this wasn’t a marriage made in heaven.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.