The Corner

Republican Gloom and Doom

Bob Stein’s comments below raise the question: Are Republicans and conservatives overinvesting in pessimism about the recession? Every Republican press release I have seen over the last few weeks, and almost all conservative blog posts, have discounted the possibility that we are seeing any “green shoots” and instead harping on unhappy statistics such as the rise in the unemployment rate (the subject of Stein’s comments).

If Republicans keep up this approach and the economy does begin to recover in a way that registers with voters by the 2010 elections, then Obama and the Democrats will not merely get the political credit the party in power normally gets for good conditions. They will also be able to say that their take on the economy was superior to that of the Republicans–and that claim will reinforce impressions that their stimulus was responsible for any improvement (whether or not it actually was).

Shouldn’t we have a fallback plan in case the economy recovers? I think Republicans would be better advised to say that there are some good signs, none of which seem connected to liberal policies, and that those policies threaten to increase inflation before too long.

I would hate to see a replay of the early Clinton years. In 1993 too many Republicans resisted Clinton’s tax increases by claiming that they were not merely likely to reduce long-term growth below what it would otherwise have been but that they were incompatible with economic growth at all. When the economy recovered, they were discredited and the recovery was attributed to Clinton’s policies. Let’s not make the same mistake this time around.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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