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“Voodoo, Jeb! Style”: Mr. Bush Imagines That He Is Privy To Secrets That Have Evaded Everyone Else

On Monday Jeb Bush — or I guess that’s Jeb!, since he seems to have decided to replace his family name with a punctuation mark — finally made his campaign for the White House official, and gave us a first view of his policy goals. First, he says that if elected he would double America’s rate of economic growth to 4 percent. Second, he would make it possible for every American to lose as much weight as he or she wants, without any need for dieting or exercise.

O.K., he didn’t actually make that second promise. But he might as well have. It would have been just as realistic as promising 4 percent growth, and considerably less irresponsible.

I’ll get to Jeb!onomics in a minute, but first let me tell you about a dirty little secret of economics — namely, that we don’t know very much about how to raise the long-run rate of economic growth. Economists do know how to promote recovery from temporary slumps, even if politicians usually refuse to take their advice. But once the economy is near full employment, further growth depends on raising output per worker. And while there are things that might help make that happen, the truth is that nobody knows how to conjure up rapid productivity gains.

Why, then, would Mr. Bush imagine that he is privy to secrets that have evaded everyone else?

One answer, which is actually kind of funny, is that he believes that the growth in Florida’s economy during his time as governor offers a role model for the nation as a whole. Why is that funny? Because everyone except Mr. Bush knows that, during those years, Florida was booming thanks to the mother of all housing bubbles. When the bubble burst, the state plunged into a deep slump, much worse than that in the nation as a whole. Taking the boom and the slump together, Florida’s longer-term economic performance has, if anything, been slightly worse than the national average.

The key to Mr. Bush’s record of success, then, was good political timing: He managed to leave office before the unsustainable nature of the boom he now invokes became obvious.

But Mr. Bush’s economic promises reflect more than self-aggrandizement. They also reflect his party’s habit of boasting about its ability to deliver rapid economic growth, even though there’s no evidence at all to justify such boasts. It’s as if a bunch of relatively short men made a regular practice of swaggering around, telling everyone they see that they’re 6 feet 2 inches tall.

To be more specific, the next time you encounter some conservative going on about growth, you might want to bring up the following list of names and numbers: Bill Clinton, 3.7; Ronald Reagan, 3.4; Barack Obama, 2.1; George H.W. Bush, 2.0; George W. Bush, 1.6. Yes, that’s the last five presidents — and the average rate of growth of the U.S. economy during their time in office (so far, in Mr. Obama’s case). Obviously, the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, but surely there’s nothing in that list to suggest that conservatives possess some kind of miracle cure for economic sluggishness. And, as many have pointed out, if Jeb! knows the secret to 4 percent growth, why didn’t he tell his father and brother?

Or consider the experience of Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through radical tax cuts that were supposed to drive rapid economic growth. “We’ll see how it works. We’ll have a real live experiment,” he declared. And the results of the experiment are now in: The promised boom never arrived, big deficits did, and, despite savage cuts to schools and other public services, Kansas eventually had to raise taxes again (with the pain concentrated on lower-income residents).

Why, then, all the boasting about growth? The short answer, surely, is that it’s mainly about finding ways to sell tax cuts for the wealthy. Such cuts are unpopular in and of themselves, and even more so if, like the Kansas tax cuts for businesses and the affluent, they must be paid for with higher taxes on working families and/or cuts in popular government programs. Yet low taxes on the rich are an overriding policy priority on the right — and promises of growth miracles let conservatives claim that everyone will benefit from trickle-down, and maybe even that tax cuts will pay for themselves.

There is, of course, a term for basing a national program on this kind of self-serving (and plutocrat-serving) wishful thinking. Way back in 1980, George H.W. Bush, running against Reagan for the presidential nomination, famously called it “voodoo economic policy.” And while Reaganolatry is now obligatory in the G.O.P., the truth is that he was right.

So what does it say about the state of the party that Mr. Bush’s son — often portrayed as the moderate, reasonable member of the family — has chosen to make himself a high priest of voodoo economics? Nothing good.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 19, 2015

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Economic Growth, Economic Recovery, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loose Lips: Romney Miscasts Economy In GOP Debut

In rhetorical excesses marking his entry in the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney said the economy worsened under President Barack Obama, when it actually improved, and criticized the president for issuing apologies to the world that were never made.

A look at some of the statements by Romney on Thursday in announcing his bid for the Republican nomination and how they compare with the facts:

ROMNEY: “When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer.”

THE FACTS: The gross domestic product, the prime measure of economic strength, shrank by a severe 6.8 percent annual rate before Obama became president. The declines eased after he took office and economic growth, however modest, resumed. The recession officially ended six months into his presidency. Unemployment, however, has worsened under Obama, going from 7.8 percent in January 2009 to 9.1 percent last month. It hit 10.1 percent in October 2009.

A case can be made for and against the idea that Obama’s policies made the economy worse than it needed to be and that the recession lasted longer than it might have under another president. Such arguments are at the core of political debate. But Obama did not, as Romney alleged, make the economy worse than it was when he took office.

ROMNEY: “A few months into office, he traveled around the globe to apologize for America.”

THE FACTS: Obama has not apologized for America. What he has done, in travels early in his presidency and since, is to make clear his belief that the U.S. is not beyond reproach. He has told foreigners that the U.S. at times acted “contrary to our traditions and ideals” in its treatment of terrorist suspects, that “America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy,” that the U.S. “certainly shares blame” for international economic turmoil and has sometimes shown arrogance toward allies. Obama, whose criticisms of America’s past were typically balanced by praise, was in most cases taking issue with policies or the record of the previous administration, not an unusual approach for a new president — or a presidential candidate. Romney’s actual point seems to be that Obama has been too critical of his country.

But there has been no formal — or informal — apology. No saying “sorry” on behalf of America.

ROMNEY: “Three years later, foreclosures are still at record levels. Three years later the prices of homes continue to fall.”

THE FACTS: Although foreclosures remain high, the number of U.S. homes that were repossessed by lenders fell in April, compared with March and a year ago, according to the foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. Romney’s claim about home prices, though, is supported by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city monthly index. It found home prices in big metro areas have sunk to their lowest since 2002. Since the bubble burst in 2006, prices have fallen more than they did during the Great Depression.

ROMNEY: “Instead of encouraging entrepreneurs and employers, he raises their taxes, piles on record-breaking mounds of regulation and bureaucracy and gives more power to union bosses.”

THE FACTS: Romney ignores ambitious tax-cutting pushed by Obama. The stimulus plan early in his presidency cut taxes broadly for the middle class and business. He more recently won a one-year tax cut for 2011 that reduced most workers’ Social Security payroll taxes by nearly a third. He also campaigned in support of extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all except the wealthy, whose taxes he wanted to raise. In office, he accepted a deal from Republicans extending the tax cuts for all. As for tax increases, Obama won congressional approval to raise them on tobacco and tanning salons. The penalty for those who don’t buy health insurance, once coverage is mandatory, is a form of taxation. Several large tax increases in the health care law have not yet taken effect.

ROMNEY: “The expectation was that we’d have to raise taxes but I refused. I ordered a review of all state spending, made tough choices and balanced the budget without raising taxes.”

THE FACTS: Romney largely held the line on tax increases when he was Massachusetts governor but that’s only part of the revenue story. The state raised business taxes by $140 million in one year with measures branded “loophole closings,” the vast majority recommended by Romney. Moreover, the Republican governor and Democratic lawmakers raised hundreds of millions of dollars from higher fees and fines, taxation by another name. Romney himself proposed creating 33 new fees and increasing 57 others — enough to raise $59 million. Anti-tax groups were split on his performance. The Club for Growth called the fee increases and business taxes troubling. Citizens for Limited Taxation praised him for being steadfast in supporting an income tax rollback.

 

By: Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press, Yahoo News, June 3, 2011

June 4, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Foreclosures, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Mitt Romney, Politics, President Obama, Regulations, Republicans, Tax Increases, Taxes, Unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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