The Corner

Politics & Policy

Watching Our House and Economy Burn Down

What the country is experiencing “is the difference between a car crash and having your house burn down,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart tells the Wall Street Journal today. “A car crash is something that fades as the three or six months mark goes by. Your house burning down is never forgotten. It is always there and there is no half-life.”

From this, one could argue that an angry, resentful recessionary political environment is here to stay. If this is the case, it means Republicans shouldn’t run optimistic, Reaganeseque candidates; the stylistic areas where Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders overlap will be the winning tone in our politics: You’ve been cheated by powerful people. The whole system is rigged. Getting ahead in America today is more about having powerful connections and special favors instead of working hard and being innovative. Government has to punish those corrupt, selfish rich people.

Or it could simply mean that the problems of the 2008–09 Great Recession have been exacerbated by bad decisions in Washington. The Affordable Care Act created a major incentive for employers to keep workers on part-time schedules and a major disincentive to elevate them to full-time work. The Obama administration is churning out new rules and regulations at an amazing pace, diverting resources from businesses’ actual job of serving customers. Despite tons of regulations and lots of hype, “Too Big to Fail is alive and well”; only three new banks opened in a five year span. Illegal immigration ensures a steady supply of off-the-books, underpaid, unskilled labor, while minimum-wage hikes ensure hiring new workers is more expensive. A high corporate-tax rate ensures that U.S. companies keep $2 trillion in overseas earnings elsewhere instead of in the United States.

If you fixed the policy problems, and there was a broadly felt economic recovery, people would feel less pessimistic and anxiety-ridden about the future. But it’s a vicious cycle; you can’t fix the problems without winning the presidency, which will require a candidate who can harness Americans’ fear and anxiety.

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